To Whom It May Concern

Dear Whoever Is Thinking About Writing An Open Letter,

What’s on your mind?

I know that you’re probably confused about where to begin. This is something that is most likely new to you, so for that, I say hello and welcome! Personally, I have found that open letters are a wonderful way to express your feelings about a particular situation, most prominently ones that address a controversial or prominent issue in your life. Although they seem relatively straightforward, open letters are complex and are crafted with a great deal of thought and stylistic choices. Let me touch upon a few examples that I used to research this therapeutic genre:

An Open Letter…About Open Letters

I used this Inception-like piece to really focus on the genre content for open letters. In this open letter, Linton Weeks discusses the idea of how open letters have become, “the victim of its own success.” He says that calling something an open letter has become redundant due to the way our thoughts have become public over the years via social media. He explores this topic by hitting three main points: famous open letters, the history of open letters, and the skeptical questions on open letters. Using an open letter to discuss the topic of open letters invites the audience to truly think about the genre’s purpose and ability.

An Open Letter To Male Leaders In A #MeToo World

Henna Inam uses her open leaders to express her hopes and frustrations towards male leaders existing within our society and make a direct call to action. To get her feelings across, Inam makes direct requests to these men asking them to do specific things and to act in a specific way. She tells them to think about the women in their lives and to reach out to them to truly understand how they feel in our current day and age. This is what separates this open letter from the rest – instead of just talking to a specific person/group of people, Inam is engaging them by giving them instruction that reflects what she wants to see change. Even though I was not the direct audience she was targeting, it felt very effective and even made me want to reach out to the powerful men in my life (which really should not be my job, but seems as though it is).

An Open Letter To Harvey Weinstein

Tiffany Quay Tyson uses her open letter primarily to share the absolute disgust she feels towards Harvey Weinstein. To do this, she writes her letter with the intention of trying to get to know what Weinstein is thinking and why he did the things he did. She does this by talking through the different things that Weinstein and his team have said to try to excuse his action, addressing and attacking each point with a sense of sarcasm and rage. Tyson’s letter is unique in these two aspects – every single line is a criticism of Weinstein’s behaviors, and these criticisms shape the letter and create less of a call to action and more of a statement of what many women have been thinking and feeling.

All three of these open letters seemingly have very different intentions, which I find is one of the most values of the open letter. This leads me to my first tip on how to write one of these bad boys:

  1. Think about the impact you are trying to make. What are your intentions?

When I first wrote that rule, I originally wrote: “know what you want to say.” However, I do not think that wording is super appropriate because it’s okay to write an open letter when you are confused or conflicted about what to think or say. They’re a way to express these feelings of struggle, but the most important part is to have an idea of how it is you are trying to make people feel, what the takeaway should be. In order to accomplish this, you’re going to have to connect with your audience, which leads me to my next tip:

2. Ask questions

Is this something that you see a lot in day-to-day writing? What impact does it have on you? This was something that all of the open letters that I read had in common that I found to do the best job in pulling me in and getting me to really think about what the author was saying. An open letter is considered “open” because it is supposed to be relatable for many people and reach an audience in a public sphere.

3. Know your audience

Open letters tend to begin with “Dear (insert target audience here)” and while this oftentimes would seem like a bit of a cop-out in addressing an audience, it is important for open letters to be direct in stating who they are really trying to reach, although this does not limit who could still be impacted by the letter.

4. Play with tone

Depending on the topic, open letters can be written in a serious voice, a funny voice, both, or in between. This comes back to knowing your audience – tone can differ depending on your audience or depending on the message you are trying to get across. Tiffany Quay Tyson seemed furious in her letter to Harvey Weinstein but was able to use her sarcastic, sassy voice to emphasize her point even more. This leads me to my final tip…

5. Don’t be afraid to try something different. If you’re generally a calm person, write a letter about something that makes you angry. Write a love letter to your guilty pleasure. Step outside of your comfort zone, it will be worth it.

I hope that you have gotten something from this letter. I know that it may seem difficult, but with enough practice and patience, I know that you will be able to write a stellar and impactful open letter. You got this.


A student just trying to figure it out


2 thoughts to “To Whom It May Concern”

  1. First of all, what a fantastic opening line to your blog post! Another cool thing is your selection of open letters: the Harvey Weinstein letter, in particular, is very powerful. It also has a similar subject matter as your Aziz letter – are you writing to a similar audience? Again, really great blog post!

  2. Lucy,

    Great blog post–I loved how you posed this letter as an open letter in itself! You’re quite creative in your welcoming nature in the beginning, and humor in the end “From, A student just trying to figure it out.”

    In regards to genre and content research, your thoroughness in analyzing and utilizing the key essentials of each example exhibits your understanding of the genre–––which shows in your Experiment 2, by the way.

    Following your three examples, you still highlight several HELPFUL points and tips for those who may attempt to write an open letter.

    Great job!

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