For Young People: How To Write A Powerful Letter

Saturday, December 10, 2011 by Anna Perera

Guantanamo BoyOn Saturday, December 10, Amnesty International will commemorate International Human Rights Day by encouraging people to write a letter to support the fight against injustice. By participating in the Write for Rights campaign, activists young and old can make their voices heard and demand that the rights of individuals are respected and protected.

Anna Perera, author of Guantanamo Boy, a story of a boy who is wrongly accused of terrorism and is tortured at Guantanamo Bay prison camp, helps mark International Human Rights Day with a post to encourage young people to write effective letters in support of their causes:

Letters make a difference because they prove certain actions have been noticed. Whether you receive a reply or not shouldn’t put you off because while emails are generally short and can be quickly deleted, each pen or pencil stroke of a handwritten page carries the personality and energy of the writer, which can’t so easily be dismissed by the reader. 

A powerful letter requires: 

  1. A bit of thinking first.
  2. The desire to communicate deep feelings in the most effective way possible.
  3. A belief that every little bit helps.

So how do you get everything down without having to stay up all night? Let’s make it easy by splitting the letter into paragraphs.

  1. Describe yourself. Begin by saying who you are and when you became concerned about: the death penalty, Guantanamo, animal welfare, or whatever the issue. Three lines should be enough. (Never give out your personal details, phone, email, school or home address if you are under eighteen years old.)
  2. List the reasons. Be direct and say what’s wrong with the way things are. Keep it short though. Don’t be rude or insulting and please don’t waffle or rant. You want changes. Not enemies.
  3. Give the information. Facts and figures support your case so first make sure they are correct. Be careful not to give too many because keeping it simple will make your words far more memorable.
  4. Ask for what you want. Don’t be embarrassed to describe your feelings here. Being timid or sentimental is a waste of time and unlikely to have the effect you desire. Again, a few lines will do. 
  5. End with something simple. “With best wishes” is a phrase that suits me. Add your name and that’s it, you’re done. Congratulations. You’re an activist.

Oh, and don’t forget to redraft the letter until you are happy with the result. Good luck.

Follow Anna Perera at www.annaperera.com or @annaperera1.

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