As each day passes, formal letters are becoming more and more obsolete. The process of writing a letter, mailing it out to someone, and waiting for a response isn’t a common practice anymore now that social media exists. Open letters, on the other hand, have a much more relevant place in modern day society. They are different than a regular letter because they are meant to address a broader audience. While open letters could be addressed to a specific person, there is always an underlying message that the author wants a wider audience to understand. My relationship with open letters started freshman year in the typical English 125 classroom. For one assignment, we had to write an open letter to the author of one of the essays we had read for class. It was framed as being a wake-up call to the broader society, addressing some real-world problem and brainstorming solutions for said problem. My final product, however, looked more like a argumentative essay I would have written for AP English Language class in high school. It didn’t have a broad scope and it didn’t call anyone to action either. That’s what made me want to revisit the open format- I wanted to write something that would actually accomplish something outside the classroom.
Open letters are a bit more complicated to write than regular letters. For one thing, they’re supposed to be concise and to the point. According to several open letter authors, conviction is a key component of this genre since most people don’t have the time or patience to read through some super long letter about some problem that might not even relate to them. It’s also important to have a general understanding of your audience so that you don’t come off as aggressive or condescending. You need to find a common ground where people take you seriously enough to actually do something about the problem you’re describing. With my origin piece focusing heavily on mental health, I think that the open letter format would help me frame the issue in a way that makes people want to take action and end stigma.