Writing Project #4: Social Advocacy Revision
After spending all semester conducting research for academic purposes, we will spend some time exploring the real world effect of research in a social genre. For this unit you will isolate an issue that you have identified from an essay or project analyzed in a previous unit. You will then revise the thesis, claims and research conducted throughout the essay writing process into a letter addressed to a figure in a position of social, cultural, or economic importance. You will do this in order to reflect on your own writing and research and consider how your research and writing could genuinely impact others through what we call “pro-social action” or “advocacy”.
In brief, this assignment asks you to create a mini “grassroots” letter writing campaign. You will revise a previous project into one letter addressed to a public figure you have researched who is involved with this issue. You may choose any issue that you found in need of “advocacy” or “change” throughout your research this semester. You may wish to write to senators, house representatives, business owners, presidents of large organizations, prominent media figures, etc. In your letter, you should explain why you have decided to address this person. Note: This must be an actual person who exists in the world.
In this final unit, you will get to apply the skills in synthesis, analysis, and research you have been developing throughout the course of the entire semester to take action on a problem you have observed. Moreover, in researching an appropriate person to receive your letter, you will develop your skills in real world research.
In addition to your letter, you will also write a 1-page reflection on the experience of completing this project. You will describe briefly which assignment led you to this issue (the ethnography, the academic field paper, or the global issue paper) and how you dealt with the issue in that assignment. Then you will explore the ways you changed your stance, purpose, audience, tone, and style to fit the new genre of advocacy letter. How did you exercise your rhetorical flexibility for this unit?
- A 400-600 word letter addressed (by email or USPS) to a real person in a position of power.
- Your letter must meet the criteria for the genre of a “professional letter.” We will discuss this in class.
- Your letter must draw upon the research you have done on the issue for your previous essay in order to prove your credibility.
- A 1-page cover letter explaining your process
- Continue to develop research skills
- Practice rhetorical flexibility and adapting to genres
- Practice skills in professional correspondence
- Foster a continuing social awareness
- Build a sense of writing for real world purposes
- Change a past project into a social advocacy letter
- Directed towards a person that has interest, power, and is relevant to the issue
- Cover Letter Reflection
- Include Research in the letter
- Rhetorical tone
- keep in mind the audience
- letter and cover letter
- voice your opinion
- Cover letter
- 400-600 words
- Research person you send it to.
- professional letter
- 400-600 words
- Letter address to and from
- proper letter format
- 6 spaces at the bottom
- body of the paragraph to present your stance
- Your ideas can be incorporated
- Write as if you’re writing for more than just an English class, write with the intent to actually send it
- attention grabber
- real world
Questions to consider for the reflection – Revision Project（Cover Letter）
- What is my argument? What am I trying to achieve with my letter?
- What choices did I make on behalf of the goal(s) of my project?
What rhetorical choices did I make?
What stylistic choices did I make?
- How did my goals change from the original project to this one?
- In what ways did my choices serve my purposes, that is, allow my project to accomplish what I set out to do? How did my choices respond to my rhetorical situation (genre, audience, stance, context)?
105 Copyright © 2012 by Brad Ure
From Cordially Yours to What’s Up: Investigating Formal and Informal Letters
The main goal of this article is to investigate differences and similarities
between two genres of letters, formal and informal. Ure will review common
conventions in each genre and discuss when each type may be use
and conclude by explaining how the letter genre is changing and what it
may be like in the future.
Most people probably think they know what letters are because we
use them so often; letters are written to family members, friends, business
acquaintances, or more. Letters can be used to accomplish many tasks, such
as persuading, informing, thanking, advertising, congratulating, and so forth,
yet because they are used so often, many people may not think in depth
about the genre of letters and how they might vary. This article is thus an
investigation into genres of letter writing, including when they may be used.
For purposes of analyzing letters, I am considering two basic forms of letters:
formal letters and informal letters. Although this categorization is very general, as
there are really many genres of letters, we will look at differences between these
two extremes in order to understand the generic features of letters. There are
big differences between how these two types of letters are written, including the
content, intent, language, and format. Informal letters are used when writing a
letter to personal acquaintances of some kind, such as family or friends. Formal
letters are used in situations where professionalism is required, such as for business
purposes, government letters, letters to clients or companies, and so forth.
106 Grassroots Writing Research Journal
Formal Letter Writing
The conventions of formal letters often depend on the situation. Writers
begin by thinking about why they want to write the letter and what they want
to get out of it. Is the letter simply to share information or are is it to make
a request? Most letters have a clear purpose, so writing the letter in the most
rhetorically effective way to achieve that task is vital. Some types of formal
letters will involve research, while informal letters will not. An example of a time
that you would need to do research is if you’re writing a follow up letter to an
interview—doing research about the company and interviewer would be vital.
The language in formal letters is usually much stricter than an informal letter; a
formal letter often needs to sound professional and well thought out. Most of the
time, formal letters do not use language that makes them sound
personal or emotional, while informal letters do. This is because
formal letters are not meant to be personal, they are meant to
accomplish a task. For example, contractions are not often used in
these letters. The writer usually wants the letter to sound like he or
she put effort into it because of the nature of the situation; letters
to bosses, representatives, companies, and so forth should sound
credible so that the recipients take the letter seriously. Writers
often want formal letters to be crisp, with perfect grammar and
certain format conventions. For example, a characteristic of
formal letters is a formal salutation. In an informal letter, the
salutation would not matter much, but in a formal letter, formal
conventions like Dear with a title and family name matters more.
Content of the Letter
Formal letters contain many variations, but many contain at least a clear
and concise reason for writing the letter and a (sometimes short) description
of who the writer is. The next paragraph can expand on the purpose of the
letter and back it up with information, if needed. The concluding paragraph
often tells the person receiving the letter what the expectations are or what
action should happen next. Many times, writers will add something at the end
of a letter to catch the attention of the person receiving the letter. Once the
letter is finished, writers usually proofread the letter.
Common Conventions of Formal Letters
1. Letterhead/Return address: Most formal letters contain the sender’s
address in the header. Phone number and email address are sometimes
2. Date: The date is almost always included in formal letters. It often
appears under letterhead/return address.
• Letters dealing with an
institute or education
Ure — From Cordially Yours to What’s Up 107
3. Inside address: The address of the person receiving the letter often
4. Salutation: The salutation for formal letters is often “Dear,” followed
by the title (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss), first and last name. Sometimes only
the name (with or without the title) appears without the Dear; other
times “To whom it may concern” stands in as the entire salutation (but is
5. Body: The body of a formal letter usually contains the purpose of the
letter and any relevant information to support the goals of the letter.
Support could be statistics, lists, an invitation, an apology, and so forth.
6. Closing: The closing of this letter is often quite formulaic. A few of the
most common options are Sincerely, Cordially Yours, Best Regards, and
Yours Truly. Some closings may be more or less personal depending on
the relationship between the writer and receiver.
7. Signature: Formal letters often include a signature followed by a typed
name underneath. Titles may be included.
Inside Return address
Water Supply Co.
38 North. St.
December 12, 2011
104 W. Cherry Ave.
Dear Mr. Flannigan:
I am contacting you in regards to your water bill. My name is Larry Taber and I am the water
coordinator for Water Supply Co.
We have been noticing a trend of you not paying your water bill after multiple notices over the
mail and phone. This is a reminder that you owe $389.34 in bills for the past 6 months. If not
paid off by the end of this month we are going to start charging you with overdue fees. To pay
your bill you can contact us at (783) 343-2398.
Thank you for being a valued customer. We appreciate your business.
Water Supply Co.
Figure 1: Example of a Formal Letter
108 Grassroots Writing Research Journal
Informal Letter Writing
Informal letters are usually used between two good acquaintances,
although they can be written by many people in many different situations. The
most typical informal letters are sent back and forth between relatives, friends,
or anyone that you want to contact in a friendly way for any reason. Informal
letters are also commonly called friendly letters. Most of the time, these letters
are written back and forth on a personal level. Sometimes they are used just
to see how people are doing and make sure all is well. A great example of
informal letter usage is with college students. When at school, many students
receive and send letters between family or friends to keep in touch.
Another reason people write informal letters is to convey a message to the
reader, such as an invitation, thank you, birthday, or congratulation. After this
purpose is stated, writers often add more to the letter, asking questions about
the recipient’s life or informing them about the writer’s life. People usually
respond to the letters by another letter or another type of communication.
The next thing that differs greatly from a formal letter is the language
used. Slang terms can be used, pretty much any language you want can be
used, and this type of letter does not have very many limits when it comes
to language. One example is in the salutation and closing of
these letters. There are endless options for what writers can
put here and can involve exclamation points or anything else.
Contractions are also allowed in these letters. Also, unlike
formal letters, many times emotions are involved in the letters.
When someone writes a friendly letter and involves something
such as congratulation, emotions of pride and happiness
are involved. Something sometimes added at the end of an
informal letter is a postscript, better known as the P.S. Writers
add small personal comments here about anything. A lot of
the time it will be something like see you soon, love you, or a
reference that only the recipient would know about.
Content of the Letter
The writing of informal letters is a lot less complex than formal letters
and takes a lot less time and formatting. Writers can write informal letters
in many different ways, but here are some common conventions. The first
paragraph can show why the writer is writing the letter or at least allude to
it, and the purpose can be responding to a letter, wanting to catch up, seeing
how things are going, and so forth. If a writer has never written this person
before, an introduction is often included in this first paragraph. The next part
of the letter can consist of the details of the message. If the letter’s main focus
• Thank you letter
• Birthday letter
• Congratulating letter
• Personal letter
• Pen pals
Ure — From Cordially Yours to What’s Up 109
is an invitation, for example, the details might include the where and when of
the event. Another paragraph can be added before the closing of the letter,
and this paragraph may sum up what the writer wrote, state a closing remark,
or may not be present at all.
Genre Conventions of Informal Letters
1. Heading: The heading usually includes the date.
2. Salutation: Salutations can be a number of things such as Dear, Hi,
Greetings, What’s up, and so forth. It may or may not be followed by a
name and a comma.
3. Introduction: The first paragraph that starts the letter may give an
idea of what the letter will cover, or it may just be an opening line like a
greeting. This part of the letter is optional.
4. Body: The main part of the letter may contain the message, the reason
for the letter, and any related or even unrelated information.
5. Conclusion: Some letters may have conclusions that sum up the letter
and contain any final remarks.
6. Close/Signature: The letter closing has many options, including Love,
Talk to you later, Sincerely, and so forth. Informal letter closings are often
more personal than informal letters. A signature follows and may include
a full name, a first name, initials, or something else entirely.
7. Postscript: A postscript can be included after the signature. This is the
P.S. at the end that usually contains a last small message.
December 18, 2011
Thanks for the last letter!
How is everything going? How is the family? Everything is well here and Frank and I were just
wondering if you would be interested in attending our New Year’s party this year. It should be a
good time! If not we should figure out something to do soon.
Hope to see you soon!
P.S. Remember that one time at the New Year’s party last year? Too funny.
Figure 2: Example of an Informal Letter
110 Grassroots Writing Research Journal
After reading about the two general genres of letters and common ways
of writing them, how can you use them? Try writing a personal letter to a
friend or family member you have not talked to in a while, or, if you have had
poor customer service lately, try writing a formal complaint letter. You might
also consider how the genre of letters is changing. Currently, the number
of informal and formal letters are diminishing with the use of technology.
Email, Facebook, and other various social networking websites are being used
to communicate. People may be writing letters by hand less and less as it
is easier, faster, and cheaper to log onto the computer and type a message.
Technology is especially affecting informal letters, as friends can check on
status updates and send wall posts or private messages through Facebook.
Even formal letters are being replaced by email, as business and professional
inquiries can be done more conveniently that way. Eventually, I wonder if
hard copy letters might eventually disappear. But in the meantime, letters are
still used in many situations so this genre analysis of their conventions will
hopefully prove useful to other writers.
Ure — From Cordially Yours to What’s Up 111
Brad Ure is a 19-year old sophomore at Illinois State University studying Business
Administration. He grew up in the northern suburbs and graduated from Lakes Community
High School in 2011. In his free time, he is either socializing with friends or
doing something outdoors.