Monday, 21 June 2010

Critical Letters Can Be Positive ... But Not Necessarily Environmentally Friendly!

Assignment 4 asks students to produce letters for three magazine letters pages, and one student, Sarah, had success with all three of hers. One of her letters, was to the Sunday Times Travel magazine, criticising an article in a previous issue.

The article was called, "The World's 50 Best Beaches" and Sarah argued an article that included only one beach from a country as large as Australia, was misinforming its readers.

She then went on to list three more beaches in Australia, which she'd been to, and described the various sights and experiences that can be had there.

Not only was Sarah's letter published, but she's also won a prize (a rather expensive luggage set). Some of my students say they only write positive letters, in order to get published, but whilst on the face of it, Sarah's letter is critical of what the original article left out, it's also a positive one, because it demonstrates that there are more than 50 Best Beaches in the world! And now, thanks to her letter, the editor has been given the opportunity of passing this information onto his readers.

The Letters Page is frequently used as somewhere to 'update' readers. We all know from article writing, that word counts force us to make a decision between what is included and what we have to leave out. Sometimes, the letters page offers the editor an opportunity to mention something that had to be cut. Perhaps a particular point of view or angle wasn't mentioned. Perhaps a point wasn't explained clearly. Or perhaps a too much emphasis was placed on out of date information.

Sarah's letter was critical from the point that the writer's mention of only one beach in Australia was mere tokenism to this country. But she used the letter to pass on more information to readers that the writer was unable to do, thus making it informative too. Proof therefore, that it is possible to get published and be critical at the same time.

I've had a letter success this month in BBC Countryfile magazine too. But the reason I'm mentioning it is that it raises an interesting issue. My letter was chosen as the star letter in the June issue of the magazine and my prize was a picnic set. It was delivered at the end of last week, by DHL, and I was intrigued to know from where it had come. Using the DHL tracking number, I was amazed to learn that my prize left Denmark and was flown to Leipzig in Germany, from where it was flown to Birmingham International Airport. It then continued its journey by road.

I can honestly say that when I wrote my letter, it never crossed my mind that were it to win, it's carbon footprint would be quite so large!

Good luck!


  1. Well done to Sarah for getting all three letters published. That's quite impressive.

  2. Enjoy the (international) picnic set - hope the sun shines!

  3. congratulatins, to you both. It is rather thrilling to see a letter published!