Letter to the Reader

This activity comes directly from the essay by Sandra L. Giles entitled “Reflective Writing and the Revision Process: What were you thinking?” More information is available at the end of this document. 
This will be a sort of cover letter for your essay. It should be on a separate sheet of paper, typed, stapled to the top of the final draft. Date the letter and address it to “Dear Reader.” Then do the following in nicely developed, fat paragraphs:  

  1. Tell the reader what you intend for the essay to do for its readers. Describe its purpose(s) and the effect(s) you want it to have on the readers. Say who you think the readers are.  
    Describe your process of working on the essay. How did you narrow the assigned topic. What kind of planning did you do? What steps did you go through, what changes did you make along the way, what decisions did you face, and how did you make the decisions?  
    How did comments from your peers, in peer workshop, help you? How did any class activities on style, editing, etc., help you?

  2. Remember to sign the letter. After you’ve drafted it, think about whether your letter  and essay match up. Does the essay really do what your letter promises? If not, then use the draft of your letter as a revising tool to make a few more adjustments to your essay. Then, when the essay is polished and ready to hand in, polish the letter as well and hand  them in together. 

Following is a sample letter that shows how the act of answering these prompts can help you uncover issues in your essays that need to be addressed in further revision. This letter is a mock-up based on problems I’ve seen over the years. We discuss it thoroughly in my writing classes:  
Dear Reader,  
This essay is about how I feel about the changes in the financial aid rules. I talk about how they say you’re not eligible even if your parents aren’t supporting you anymore. I also talk a little bit about the HOPE scholarship. But my real purpose is to show how the high cost of books makes it impossible to afford college if you can’t get on financial aid. My readers will be all college students. As a result, it should make students want to make a change. My main strategy in this essay is to describe how the rules have affected me personally.  
I chose this topic because this whole situation has really bugged me. I did freewriting to get my feelings out on paper, but I don’t think that was effective because it seemed jumbled and didn’t flow. So I started over with an outline and went on from there. I’m still not sure how to start the introduction off because I want to hook the reader’s interest but I don’t know how to do that. I try to include many different arguments to appeal to different types of students to make the whole argument seem worthwhile on many levels.  
I did not include comments from students because I want everyone to think for themselves and form their own opinion. That’s my main strategy. I don’t want the paper to be too long and bore the reader. I was told in peer workshop to include information from other students at other colleges with these same financial aid problems. But I didn’t do that because I don’t know anybody at another school. I didn’t want to include any false information.  


This activity comes directly from the essay by Sandra L. Giles entitled “Reflective Writing and the Revision Process: What were you thinking?” available at this link and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.