An opinion letter or open letter is a posting of protest or complaint usually addressed to an individual, but intentionally made for the general public. These pieces are traditionally published by magazines and newspapers.
However, due to space limitations in the design of the publication, this right is reserved to recognized personalities and specific persons acting on behalf of a public interest.
Despite the fact that the Internet is a virtually unlimited space, the same happens in the most recognized magazine and newspaper pages. Typically, the editorial board of a publication, assesses what are the important issues so that its readers know the point of view from their eyes.
There are many reasons that can motivate a person to publish an opinion letter. Mainly, it seeks to attract the attention of society to a particular problem that is not receiving sufficient attention from the authorities.
In this same sense, we want to start a dialogue between different parties that revolves around these problems that concern a large group.
Depending on the diffusion that is given to the publication, these can generate an influence on the actions and decisions of governments, corporations and in general of the people who make important decisions.
Conversely, open letters can also express sympathy or describe feelings towards a particular person or character in the public domain.
Opinion letter features
Opinion letters are generally generated within a social environment and are advanced to address a particular situation.
When a particular problem is found dominating the computing scene, it becomes what readers want to read about and what editorial boards want to publish. Newspapers usually prefer to publish authors who live in the area in question or who have experienced the problem first-hand.
In terms of length, a production of this style should be kept as short as possible. It is enough to state a specific point clearly and persuasively.
If the message you want to convey cannot be explained in one or two sentences, it can be considered that you are trying to cover a lot and you could delimit the subject a little more. The use of simple declaratory sentences is prioritized and long paragraphs are left behind.
Focuses on the main topic
Unlike an essay or other type of literary production, the opinion letter must go to the central point that you want to deal with from the beginning and not wait until the conclusion to be manifested.
The reader must be able to convince himself in the end that the problem in question concerns him and that it may affect him in one way or another.
Explain an opinion
An opinion letter should not simply describe the situation or problem as any other informational article would. This must express the author’s opinion on how to act or improve in this regard.
These arguments are best expressed through examples that illustrate to the reader what is being said and some of these come from the author’s particular experience on the subject. Certain opinions need reasons or powerful opinions to support them and to be expressed throughout the letter.
The main characteristic of a production such as an opinion letter is the use of the active voice. Using this form is natural to the reader and leaves no doubt about the intentions behind the person writing.
The use of simple language is also given, avoiding the use of technicalities as much as possible. In this way, it is possible to include readers who may not be well versed in the subject matter at hand.
Summary of the argument
In the same way that the introduction is essential to contextualize the reader in the problem, it is also important to summarize the argument in the concluding paragraph. This is because many readers only read the last paragraph carefully without paying much attention to the rest of the text.
An opinion letter usually closes with a call to action for the person or group of people to whom the letter is addressed.
Most newspapers and websites today offer some guides on how they prefer to receive these types of contributions. On some occasions it is possible to include graphics or photos that accompany the letter and illustrate in a certain way some of the points discussed.
Taking into account the characteristics, we go on to detail the parts that make up the opinion letter in its entirety.
1- Title. Every opinion letter requires a title to understand the context of it. They can be direct like “letter addressed to [add recipient]” or something more ambiguous like the one used by Émile Zola: “J’acusse!”
2- Greeting. As in any letter, whether formal or not, it is necessary to start it with a greeting. The ideal thing is to maintain the appropriate language according to the hierarchy or trust to the person to whom it is addressed.
3- Introduction. It is the staging of the subject to be addressed. In one or two paragraphs the writer must make it clear what he is going to write about and to whom it is going to be addressed.
4- Argument. Larger part of the letter. In this, the writer can expand to criticize the subject matter.
5- Conclusion. Final part in which the topic closes, reflecting the writer clearly his opinion and launching a message of action to the person who is addressed or to the general public.
6- Farewell. It is optional, but it is recommended for reasons of cordiality to use a farewell. Eg: “a cordial greeting”, “you say goodbye”, etc.
7- Date and signature. The name of the person who wrote the letter and the date it was published in the media should appear.
Below is an example.
[TITLE] Letter to the Minister of Culture
[GREETING] Dear Minister of Culture,
[INTRODUCTION] In reference to your latest statements in which you complained about the numbers in Neymar’s operation against Real Madrid, I would like to make an assessment of your words.
[ARGUMENT] There is talk of 180 million euros, 200 or even 250, surpassing Cristiano Ronaldo, figures that scandalize you and many people, even considering them “a real madness”.
Soccer is the most international sport, the most beloved and one that raises the most passions on earth. A true and justified madness. It’s only football that can counteract me, but at the end of the day it is better to feel crazy for something healthy like a sport than for other vices or businesses that also move huge amounts of money.
In any case, is a person worth 100 million euros? Obviously if it generates profits that make them profitable, yes, and the clearest case is the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo.
94 million euros are those that cost Florentino Pérez to bring it from Manchester and many who did not understand that this amount was paid for a single reinforcement. If we analyze sports, which at the end of the day is what matters in football, CR7 scored 450 goals in 438 games, thereby achieving 4 Champions, 2 Leagues, 2 King’s Cups and 3 European Super Cups among other achievements. At a collective level, it may be questioned whether Madrid has met its objectives, but what is clear is that the forward has played in an outstanding way and with this he has achieved the respect of all Madridismo and the world of football. But, is it still a sufficient reason for what was paid to be paid at the time?
Of course it was enough. According to the newspaper “A Bola” published in Cristiano Ronaldo’s first year at Real Madrid, the white club sold a million shirts in Madrid alone and managed to raise 100 million euros worldwide. At that time, Cristiano wore 9 because Raúl had 7, and the following year there were many shirts that were sold again this time with his favorite number on the back. The Adidas store with the highest profits in the world is the one it has in the Santiago Bernabéu.
Thus, they can get an idea of everything that a person like Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, David Beckham or a football fiasco like Kaka can generate. They will have a high price compared to what most football teams handle in their transfers, but without a doubt the profits they generate make the expensive in the end cheap. I myself would pay a blank check for players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi or David Beckham if I could.
[CONCLUSION] If you, Madam Minister of Culture, put your hands on your head because sport cannot be treated like a business, I hope you will also do so when you pay 250 million dollars for a Cezanne.
[FAREWELL] Kind regards,
[DATE AND SIGNATURE] March 12, 2020, Alberto Cajal
Opinion letter examples
Letter from Birmingham Jail
Written by: Martin Luther King Jr.
Addressed to: Members of the clergy
Key phrases: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”; “Anyone living within the United States can never be considered a stranger within its limits.”
A statement from a soldier
Written by: Siegfried Sassoon
Addressed to: British military leaders
Key phrases: “I believe that the First World War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.”
Written by: Émile Zola
Addressed to: Féliz Faure (President of France)
Key phrases: “How could one expect a war council to demolish what a war council has done?”
Letter to the Kansas School Board
Written by: Bobby Henderson
Addressed to: Kansas School Board
Key phrases: “I and many others around the world come across the strong belief that the universe was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”
Letter to fans
Writer: Bill Gates:
Addressed to: Computer enthusiasts
Key phrases: “The fact is, no one besides us has invested a lot of money in hobbyist software.”
- Cambridge Dictionary. Open Letter. [Online] [Cited on: April 11, 2017.] dictionary.cambridge.org.
- Opnlttr. About Opnlttr. [Online] [Cited on: April 11, 2017.] opnlttr.com.
- Derk, Peter. Lit Reactor. 7 Tips on How To Write a Better Open Letter. [Online] March 16, 2016. [Cited on: April 11, 2017.] litreactor.com.
- Duke University’s Office of News and Communications. How to write an Op-Ed Article. [Online] [Cited on: April 11, 2017.] umass.edu.
- Higgins, Chris. Mental Floss. 6 Open Letters That Changed the World. [Online] December 22, 2008. [Cited on: April 11, 2017.] mentalfloss.com.