Intro to the Open Letter

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.

3 thoughts to “Intro to the Open Letter”

  1. I think that the idea of presenting this as an open letter is really unique. It’s definitely not something I would have thought of on my own, but it will allow you to take a really great approach to your topic on a more personal level. An open letter will also allow you to better connect with your audience- like you had said. Are you going to write this from your own perspective? Or are you going to pose as someone else in society when writing this?

  2. Hey Caroline! Your idea to write an open letter is so interesting and something I also hadn’t considered. I actually have never written an open letter, now that I think about it. Mental health and the stigma attached to mental health issues and treatment sounds like a really important topic to address with your open letter. How could you provide context or a reason for your writing this letter? If you were to publish this letter, in what kind of publication would you target/who is your audience?

  3. Whoops, totally forgot to post a comment after our convo at Starbucks, sorry about that Caroline!

    I agree that an open letter is the perfect way to talk about the issues of mental health and the stigma surrounding them, I think that you next step should be identifying an audience that would mesh well with this kind of genre. Depending on how you decide to frame it, there’s so many different demographics you could hit at. Do you think this would be something you would make more personalized, and share with fellow college students, or have sweeping, broader ideas that discuss stigma on a more national level? Just things to think about 🙂

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