Persuasive Letter Writing Workshop with Mike Shearer

You may remember a letter in the Observer a few months back.  Written by Mike Shearer, it was brief but excellent guide to writing more effective and persuasive Letters to the Editor.  (Note - you can read Mike’s piece at:


Last month, Mike kindly agreed to conduct a seminar to expand on the ideas he presented in his article.  If you weren’t able to attend on September 14, you missed an informative session! 


Here are some important concepts from the seminar.  Many thanks to Sharon Evoy and Jerry Sebestyen for their notes!


First, take a moment to think about your audience and your purpose.  Keep in mind that, despite our deep divisions, there are people receptive to ideas and to persuasion. 


Remember to seek out common ground.  Be open to suggesting compromises and giving concessions.  What’s in it for your audience?  How might people benefit from the views and policies you are advocating?


Mike discussed a number of things that can make for a more compelling letter:

          Stick to one topic

Use facts and data

          Share your credentials

          Respect your opposition

          Maintain a calm and reasonable tone

          Show passion and caring

          Use logic and reason


Mike also reviewed some pitfalls to avoid:

          Don’t berate or belittle your opposition

          Sarcasm is often misunderstood and ineffective

          Don’t bully or use scare tactics

          Avoid talking down or talking over your audience

          Don’t copy someone else’s style

          Weak arguments resort to illegitimate tricks such as red herrings,

Straw men, guilt by association, or false analogies


Finally, Mike reminded us not to forget the basics of good writing.  State your main topic in the first paragraph.  Keep your sentences and paragraphs short.  Proofread your work – spelling errors and poor grammar will quickly lose you audience.  Revise your writing for impact and clarity.


So take a look at the link to Mike’s original article.  Now put your new found insights on persuasive and compelling letter writing to good use.  Let your voice be heard -- see you in the Letters to the Editor section!