Letter writing

many times folks post letters they have drafted and ask for input. In every case, parents have written eloquently about the moving plight of their children. However, I have some suggestions about how to make these letters more effective, based on my experience as an attorney and as someone who reads many, many letters from AARP's 34 million members!

First, decide on the PURPOSE of the letter. Is it to share your feelings? Is it to get action? Is it to make a record in the file? Each puspose will result is a different letter about the same topic.

Let's assume the purpose is to get some action -- a change in a teacher's methods or in a treatment plan, etc.

The keys to being successful are to organize the thoughts going into the letter AND to keep it SHORT AND SIMPLE. Sometimes that means a stream of consciousness draft first.

Here is a sample way of organizing the letter that may help:

OPEINING PARAGRAPH: Who you are, why you are writing the letter and what you want accomplished. "I am the mother of Noah X. I am writing this letter as a follow-up to the meeting we had last week about his behavior at school. I wanted to make sure we are in agreement about the most important issues to address and the steps we will take to address them."

THE BACKGROUND OR FACTS -- USE BULLETS IF POSSIBLE. "When we spoke, you told me that Noah has been acting inappropriately. You thought the three most serious incidents were
- and
- .

ARGUMENT FOR YOUR POSITION -- "I agree that these are serious behaviors. In thinking about it, and after speaking with Noah's psychologist, I believe these behaviors result from his anxiety disorder. In particular, when you (his main teacher) are out of the room he becomes very anxious. He is therefore more at risk for losing control and more vulnerable to engaging in undesirable behaviors."

" I will continue to use the behavior plan we developed at the last school meeting, in consultation with his psychologist, including providing consequences at home.

I am also specifically requesting that the following strategies be used in the classroom to lesson the possibility of these problems in the future:

- and
- ."

EXPECTAIONS -- this includes time frames for the action steps you have requested: "Please begin using these strategies right away (or, I expect you to, or, I am counting on you, etc). If for any reason you are unable to, or have any questions, please let me know right away."

FOLLOW-UP -- this includes consequneces, if appropriate. "I will plan on having us talk about how these strategies are working at our next school meeting on XXX. I will also call you next week for a quicj "check in" (or, please call me no later than, etc.)(consequences -- not for this example, but "if these changes are not made by XXX I will ask for a fair hearing, or contact the directer or whatever").

I am not saying there is anything magical here. Just thought it would be helpful to give one possible general outline that would be helpful!


New Member
This is very good info. In my job writing training material we always learned that if the message is not clear, well organized and to the point so that the reader can go to the first sentene in each paragraph and know what you want, it is useless. People will not take the time to sift through unnecessary information to find out what the point is.

Thanks for the effort you put into this.