From sparking movements, to creating awareness, to bringing critical issues to the attention of decision makers, the open letter is no doubt an effective tool to bring attention to something you believe in. An open letter ideally meets two objectives: one, to grab the attention of the addressee from whom you want action or a reaction and two, to mobilise an existing audience across platforms to take up your cause.
A well written open letter has enormous power and influence. It’s a form of writing that can get you traction from quarters that you wouldn’t be able to reach in different circumstances. Combined with the power mass reach on the internet, its potential to influence is unquestionable. And to wield that influence, it needs to be engaging and powerful.
So, how do you go about writing an effective open letter? Here are some tips:
To begin writing an open letter on Youth Ki Awaaz, you need to log in to the platform by clicking the ‘Start Writing’ button on the top right corner on this page. Find out more about how to publish in detail here. Once you’ve logged in, you would be able to publish your story with the letter. A good open letter would follow the following format:
Be it your addressee or the good people in the online space, people are generally tuned to skimming through a piece, rather than going word for word. The shorter, simpler and more direct your letter, the better chances of it standing out and creating an impact. Focus on the issue, two or three compelling arguments you make for or against it, and your clear ask. The longer the letter, the higher the chances that it won’t be read word-to-word.
For instance, check out this open letter by student climate strikers to sound a clarion call to governments to take action on climate change. The letter served as a precursor to a movement that has drawn eyeballs across the world, with teen activist Greta Thunberg even placing these demands in the UN earlier this year.
Targeting the right decision maker is a critical part of ensuring your letter translates to some kind of action. The right decision maker is someone who first, has the power to take the action you want to see and second, is or has directly engaged with the issue before. A Sports Minister, for instance, wouldn’t be the right decision maker for an issue around quality of roads, just as workers in charge of cleaning your school premises wouldn’t be the right people to approach to get a broken washroom fixed. The decision maker should then be targeted keeping in mind whether they care about the issue or not, and/or have the power to influence the action you wish to see.
Sometimes, the issue that you want to write about might not have the same relevance for your audience as it does for you. A little research beforehand to understand your audience and figure out which aspects of the issue are most relevant to them and word it accordingly.
For instance, this open letter by Nikita Azad on Youth Ki Awaaz sparked a nationwide movement around busting the myths and taboos around menstruation. While it was addressed to the Sabarimala Temple chief, it also incorporated elements from everyday lives of the people who ended up lending massive support to Nikita’s campaign #HappyToBleed, to counter stigma against menstruation.
Focusing on the issue at hand is only one aspect of a good open letter. As much as possible it’s a good idea to incorporate solutions within the written piece, with a call to action for the change you want to see. It would give both the addressee and your audience an idea as to which direction you want them to take on the issue.
Even if the solution isn’t clear or concrete to you, the change you wish to see should be clearly expressed. For instance, this open letter on body positivity by Sonam Kapoor didn’t particularly target a decision maker, but it had a clear call for change and a message of hope, making sure it was widely read.
Now that you’re here… We’ve got an exciting writing contest opportunity for you, where you can write an open letter and win up to ₹30,000! Check out the rules and procedure and click here to participate!