A01: LTE

Your first writing assignment is a Letter to the Editor (LTE) that responds to any article you find of interest in a recent edition of our textbook, the New York Times.

You’ll complete the assignment in two installments: a brief first draft that includes a citation for the article you’ve selected, and a more formal and complete second draft that will be graded. Here’s the schedule:

  • TUE-THU class:
    • First rough draft 11:59PM WED SEP 10
    • Completed second draft 11:59PM MON SEP 15
  • MON-WED class:
    • First rough draft 11:59PM SUN SEP 14
    • Completed second draft 11:59PM TUE SEP 16

The prompt for your Letter to the Editor will be any recent New York Times article (news, OpEd, review, or editorial) you care about enough to write about, but remember the first rule of a Letter to the Editor is to get yourself into print. To do so, you’ll need to disagree with the author, not merely echo or applaud. Your objection can be total or partial.

In class, we saw examples of letters that amplified the original argument, made it more general or more narrow, counter-argued on the basis of insufficiency or irrelevancy, or attacked the original author’s logic or credentials. But we didn’t see an example of a letter that simply reiterated the original argument.

To complete the assignment, you’ll publish a New Post, and save it to two categries (A01: LTE, and your username).

Essential Components
Most essays include the same components found in a letter to the editor although they’re not often so obvious. The brevity of letters makes their parts easier to find. Here are a few:

  • Attitude. Letters express a very clear opinion. Why else would their authors bother to write?
  • Citation. Letters refer in their first paragraph to the specific article that prompted them to write, usually coupled with a clear declaration of approval or disapproval.
  • Credentials. Letters usually identify the particulars of their authors’ background that qualify them to be heard on a particular topic.
  • Support. Depending on the author’s credentials, support can take the form of personal narrative, historical references, appeals to logic and reasoning, ethical mandates, or the published opinions of respected experts. Whatever the type, there has to be support.
  • Proposal. This isn’t essential, but the best letters do more than complain; they offer a solution, which can range from “He should shut up if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” to “Corporations should pay their fair share of taxes instead of lavishing donations on specific candidates.”
  • The Others. You remember there are 10. You remember where to find them.


  1. Select an article that appeals to you (and to which you can object, in whole or in part).
  2. Form a clear and specific opinion about the author’s point of view.
  3. Decide how your background and current academic status qualifies you to pulpetize on the topic.
  4. Read some sample Letters to the Editors for a sense of appropriate length, tone, and level of detail.
  5. Write a draft of your letter.
  6. Include a hyperlink citation guiding readers to the original article.
  7. Publish it in time for the first rough draft deadline, and ask for feedback by commenting on your own post.
  8. Revise your first draft in response to feedback before the completed second draft deadline.


  • TUE-THU class:
    • First rough draft 11:59PM WED SEP 10
    • Completed second draft 11:59PM MON SEP 15
  • MON-WED class:
    • First rough draft 11:59PM SUN SEP 14
    • Completed second draft 11:59PM TUE SEP 16
  • The first rough draft will not earn a numerical grade.
  • The completed second draft will earn a numerical grade.
  • Failure to post the assignment on time will result in a grade of 0/100.
  • Shorter Arguments grade category (20%)

Anything here you’d like to comment on? Impress me early by leaving a Reply below. I promise you, even if you reply to criticize me, I’ll be impressed. The earlier you start to use the blog as a conversation, the more you’ll get from the class and the more likely I will be to grade you favorably.

About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels. www.davidbdale.wordpress.com
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