Letter to the Editor Draft

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.

  1. Your first draft (Letter to the Editor) will be accomplished quickly and receive feedback from your professor but no letter grade.
  2. Your second draft (LTE Revised) will be posted after you’ve had time to consider and incorporate the feedback.
  3. A third draft (LTE Final) will be incorporate all the writing lessons and skills you accumulate during the course and will become part of your Portfolio along with an earlier draft to demonstrate how much your writing has improved since the course began.


First draft due 11:59PM MON SEP 09


Choose whatever moves you. 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.

Get into print. Remember, the first rule of a Letter to the Editor is to get yourself published. To do so, you’ll need to disagree with the author, not merely echo or applaud. Your objection can be total or partial.

How do I object? In class, we’ll look for examples of letters that amplify the original argument, make it more general or more narrow, counter-argue on the basis of insufficiency or irrelevancy, or attack the original author’s logic or credentials. What we won’t find is an example of a letter that simply reiterates the original argument.

Essential Components
We’re studying letters to the editor because most essays of all kinds include the same components as found in a letter to the editor although in longer essays, they’re not often so easy to find. The brevity of letters makes their parts easier to spot. Here are a few:

  • Attitude/Point of View. Letters express a very clear opinion. Why else would their authors bother to write?
  • Citation/Angle. 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 Depending on the author’s credentials, support can take the form of personal narrative, historical references, appeals to logic and reasoning, ethical mandates, or the published opinions of respected experts.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 must pay their fair share of taxes instead of lavishing donations on specific candidates,” to “We owe it to our children to pass this bill.” Proposals are easily identified by their appeal to our ethical or moral obligations.
  • The Others. You remember there are 10. You remember where to find them.


How do I submit the assignment?
Publish the first draft of your Letter to the Editor on the blog in two categories: LTE Draft and your username.


  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 qualify 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 by midnight MON SEP 09 and ask for feedback by commenting on your own post.


  • Your first draft (Letter to the Editor) will receive feedback from your professor but no letter grade.
  • Your second draft (LTE Revised) will be posted after you’ve had time to consider and incorporate the feedback.
  • If you want feedback BEFORE the Monday midnight deadline, please post a quick first draft and ask for feedback in a Reply to your own post.

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