YourLetter to the Editor is not a traditional assignment. The purpose is touse a brief, and persuasive form of communication to explore a problemrelevant to the contemporary US health care system. The approach youwill use, however, requires you to stretch yourself in different waysand to become an advocate for things that matter to you. Specifically,your assignment is to write a Letter to the Editor of a recognized andreputable news source (e.g., New York Times, Baltimore Sun, etc.). Thisletter can be on any topic that interests you. The only stipulation isthe topic must relate to the US health care system. Maybe you’reconcerned about a lack of services for teenage pregnancy. Maybe you’reshocked to learn the US health care system is so nonresponsive toconsumer needs. Maybe you believe that too little attention is given toissues of gender identity and sexuality. Maybe you’re worried that toofew students receive enough education in high school to prepare them forthe health risks of college. Or maybe you’re strongly opposed to – orsupportive of – an article previously published in the newspaper. Theselection of topic is limited only by your creativity. With respect to content, the expectation is that you will offer material that has not beencovered in class. While some overlap with a presentation or articlereview is acceptable, you must go beyond whatever might have beenoffered in our class. Your letter also should be an easily digestedwork. Its style and use of sources must be consistent with the norm ofthe news source you select. You are expected to make use of appropriatedata to support your assertions, as well as to counter what you perceiveto be leading contrary points of view. For example, you might want toframe your observations in terms of well-respected documents: “Accordingto the US Report, Healthy People 2020, there will be …” Content must beaccurate and current. For many topics, if you limit yourself tomaterial published five years ago, your letter will be out of date. Andremember the importance of appropriate citations. Anyone found to have plagiarized will fail the class. Appropriatecontent for writing of this sort will start with a brief statement ofthe problem. Discuss why the problem is important/relevant to you.Review issues linked to the problem. Present your point of view.Anticipate criticisms by showing how your perspective responds to otherpoints of view. Give a concise conclusion. Papers are expected to beapproximately 250–300 words. Requests for extensions for this assignment will be issued no later than one week before the assignment’s due date. Studentswho request extensions after the stipulated date will receiveextensions only if they meet University terms for granting ofIncompletes (e.g., can document illness or other personal business thatcaused failure to complete the assignment). All assignments will besubmitted on Blackboard by the date/time listed in the syllabus. . Twentypoints will be subtracted from your earned (Letter to Editor) grade foreach day (24hours) — including weekends — that you are late insubmitting an Letter to Editor. Anyletter that includes more than three lines of direct quotation (of ANYlength — i.e., whether 3 separate quotes or one long one) will receive a10 point deduction from its earned grade. Some things to consider when crafting your letter: 1) Use statistics – but sparingly. They can get confusing and overwhelming very quickly. 2) Mention an article already printed by the paper. This dramatically increases the chances that your letter will be run. 3) Rememberyour audience. In most cases you’re trying to sway the public, not anadversary. Therefore, you should take pains to seem moderate and fair.This doesn’t mean you should be bland. But you should write with theaverage person in mind, and use phrases and arguments that resonate withthem. You don’t want John Q. Public to be turned off your rhetoric andthink, ‘Well, both sides are extremists’ 4) Acatchy first line is helpful. Instead of ‘I’m writing to respond to theStar Tribune editorial of August 3rd,’ try ‘As a gun owner, the August3rd editorial left me wondering if Star Tribune editorial writers livein the real world.’ The best content will be under-appreciated if it is not presented in an organized manner.For that reason, it is critical that you prepare a letter that hasclear and logical development to its arguments. This is not a long letter.Extraneous discussion must be kept to a minimum (if not totallyeliminated). Focus your prose on the problem which you identify, and besure that its orderly development contributes to the letter’s overallstrength. Lastly, your letter will be examined in terms of the qualityof its writing.If you do not take the time to edit your work, your letter will becompromised. Good writing is not only the provision of clear,well-crafted sentences. It also includes prose that is properly spelled;grammatically correct; and punctuated appropriately. Your letters will be graded in terms of criteria including: content, organization, and writing. How to Write Letters to the Editor by Richard Rider Short,concise letters are always more likely to be published than long,meandering ones; try to keep them under 150 words. The longer lettersare also more likely to be edited. It’s better that you do your ownediting. Evernotice how you read letters to the editor in the paper? Most peopleread the shorter letters first and then perhaps later read the longerones. Thus your shorter letter has a better chance of being read. WHATTO WRITE? Unlike single-issue or special-interest groups, libertarianscan select from an enormous range of subjects. Replying to editorials,agree or disagree, is very effective. Every day the news offers us all too many topics on which to comment. Betimely; try to respond within two or three days of the article’spublication. Pick an issue of particular importance to you – don’t beafraid to let some passion show through. Here are some stylistic considerations: 1.State the argument you’re rebutting or responding to, as briefly aspossible, in the letter’s introduction. Don’t do a lengthy rehash; it’s awaste of valuable space and boring to boot. 2. Stick to a single subject. Deal with one issue per letter. 3.Don’t be shrill or abusive. Editors tend to discard letters containingpersonal attacks. Even though you’re dying to call Jesse Jackson apreachy parasite, stifle the urge. 4.Your letter should be logically organized. First a brief recitation ofthe argument you are opposing, followed by a statement of your ownposition. Then present your evidence. Close with a short restatement ofyour position or a pithy comment (‘JimmyBreslin says possession of firearms should be limited to lawenforcement officers. I say when only the police have guns, the policestate is just around the corner.’). 5.Use facts, figures and expert testimony whenever possible. This raisesyour letters above the ‘sez you, sez me’ category. For instance:’Anthony Lewis calls for taxing the rich as a way to balance the budget.Is he aware of the fact that if we confiscated the entire income of thetop wage earners in this country (those with income above $200,000),this would run the federal government for exactly 8 days?’ Readersrespect the opinions of people with special knowledge or expertise. Useexpert testimony to bolster your case (‘George Will claims we need todraft to defend America. But General Edward C. Meyer, Army Chief ofStaff, recently stated . . .’). 6.Proofread your letter carefully for errors in spelling, punctuation andgrammar. Newspapers will usually edit to correct these mistakes, butyour piece is more likely to be published if it is ‘clean’ to beginwith. Read your letter to a friend, for objective input. Onesuggestion is that a letter shouldn’t be mailed the same day it iswritten. Write, proofread and edit the piece. Then put it aside untilthe next day. Rereading your letter in a fresh light often helps you tospot errors in reasoning, stilted language and the like. On the otherhand, don’t let the letter sit too long and lose it’s timeliness. 7.Try to view the letter from the reader’s perspective. Will thearguments make sense to someone without a special background on thisissue. Did you use technical terms not familiar to the average reader? 8.Shouldyour letter be typed? In this day and age, generally yes. Double ortriple space the letter if it is short. For faxing purposes, weappreciate it if the letter is all on one page, so single spacing mightbe the only option available. 9.Direct your missives to ‘Letters to the Editor,’ or some similar sounding title. 10.Always include your name, address, day-time phone number and signature.The papers will not publish this information, but they may use it toverify that you wrote the letter. If we are fax broadcasting yourletter, do not put a date on it. We may have to wait a day or two beforebroadcasting it out, depending on how many letters are waiting fordissemination. 11.Most important – WRITE! Do not try to do a perfect letter. Just give ita good effort and send it off. Letter writing is the one thing that anyone of us can do on our own without the need to work through a group.No committees are necessary. Just do it! Don’tbe discouraged if your letter isn’t published. The editor may havereceived more responses on that issue than he feels he can handle. Ifwe are faxing your letter, you will almost certainly be publishedsomewhere. The only drawback is that we do not have a good feedbacksystem, so you may not know which of the papers publish your letter,particularly the smaller ones. Tips on Writing Letters to the Editor Writinga letter to the editor is a great opportunity to share your opinion,educate the public about animal issues, applaud someone for doing theright thing, or criticize inhumane policies. A well written, well timedletter to the editor can shift public opinion and influence policy.Editors prefer to publish timely, concise letters that respond to anarticle, editorial, or other letter that appeared in the newspaper. Theyalso prefer to run letters about issues of local importance andinterest. Beforewriting your letter, review the newspaper’s policy on letters to theeditor. It is frequently available on the newspaper’s web site under theOpinion section.Write and submit your letter as quickly as possible, preferably the same day that the article runs.Submit letters by e-mail whenever possible. (Look for the e-mail address on the newspaper’s web site).Your letter must stand on its own—not all readers will have seen the original story.Openyour letter with a strong statement that comments on an article,editorial, or other letter that appeared in the newspaper. Your openingstatement can take issue with a comment from someone interviewed for thestory, add to the discussion by pointing out something readers wouldneed to know, disagree with an editorial position, or point out an erroror misrepresentation in an article.Be careful about accuracy and avoid personal attacks.Keepyour letter as short as possible by focusing on one, or at most two,major points. Support your position with facts, statistics, citations orother evidence. Aim for no more than 250-300 words, and be sure to stayunder the paper’s word limit.Closewith the thought you’d like readers to remember. Instead of focusingyour attention at a reporter, editor, or expert who got it wrong,consider the central point you want people reading the letter to takeaway.Ask someone to review your letter to be sure your writing is clear and you are getting your point across.Youmust include your name, street address and phone number. Editors are onguard about fake identities and will often contact you to verify thatyou wrote your letter. They will not run anonymous letters. Theeditorial pages exist to offer a cross section of community opinion.Editors are more likely to publish letters on issues that are importantto their readers. Here are some things to keep in mind when submitting a letter to the editor: Don’trespond to numerous articles in a short amount of time. Many papershave policies that limit how frequently they will publish the opinion ofone individual or organization.Keepingyour letter short will increase the likelihood that the editor willhave time to read your letter and consider it for publication.Editorswill modify your letter for clarity, and could cut parts of it entirelyif it is too long. It’s best to send a short, well written letter toavoid the chance that you disagree with the changes the editor makes.The grading Rubric is uploaded below, please take Really care of it
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