How to Write a Letter.




About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author ...

In the past few years I've taken to writing letters. There is no wrong or right way to write a letter, but I am going to share with you my personal method.

For reference, a selection of my letters can be seen at Randy Writes Letters.

Step 1: Get Inspired.

Before you can write a letter you need to be inspired. After all, if you are going to invest the time to write a letter you may as well find something worth writing a letter about.

Under normal circumstances inspiration should just happen to come over the course of day to day life.

However, should you need to force this inspiration upon yourself rather quickly, I find a good way of going about it is to watch Fox News. In fact, there is no better way to strongly formulate an opinion about a subject matter that up until watching Fox News you quite frankly didn't care about. Fox News is the best opinion generating machine around... in my opinion.

Other quick methods include:
- Going for a walk
- Reading political hippie books.
- Visting
- Reading supermarket tabloids
- And many more!

Let me give you a real life example of all of the things that have inspired the formulation of the ideas posited in this letter (Yes, I have already written this letter, but now I am taking the time to explain my process). And before I forget, I was inspired to write about social privilege and power as it relates to politics, celebrity and the general public.

First, I was inspired that morning by a celebrity discussing the nature of celebrity on NPR. My next largest inspiration was a sentence on page 22 of a book I got later that day at a garage sale called "Thoughts of the Young Radicals." Other minor and/or unconscious sources of inspiration include Neil Postman's "The Disappearance of Childhood" and the song "Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror" by Jack and Jeffrey Lewis. And this is not to mention years of constant study, media bombardment and the ever so important personal experience.

Step 2: Figure Out Someone to Write To.

Once you have decided what you want to write about, the next step would be determining who you want to write to about it.

Ideally this person will be able to provide you with some valuable insight into the subject at hand, but as always, go with your gut instinct no matter how silly or off-base it may seem. Although, with that said, it helps if you write to someone you think you can later track down. Writing to Thomas Pynchon won't do you much good (trust me).

For instance, due to my interest in exploring politics, celebrity and the masses, I choose to contact someone who is currently teetering on the divide between all three domains, and felt that the waning Pop Princess, Britney Spears, may be able to give me a unique perspective from her vantage point.

Step 3: Organize Your Thoughts.

So you now should have someone to write to and something to write about.

The next step would be to define the key points and to organize your thoughts effectively so that they flow in a logical manner. So long as your argument progresses in a logical manner, you can say any ridiculous thing you want.

For example, my letter to Britney Spear will follow this format:

1. Seemingly unrelated segue into American politics
2. Introduction and definition of politicians as an elite social class
3. Seemingly unrelated segue into celebrity
4. Introduction of the idea of celebrity as having unchecked access to the elite social class
5. Discussion of the collusion between politics and celebrity
6. Comparison of the difference between politicians and celebrities
7. Request of a prompt reply from Ms. Spears

Step 4: Write, Damn You! Write!

Now is the time to start writing. As mentioned in the previous step, so long as you create a strong outline and then strictly follow it, you can phrase your argument in whatever terms you want and it will make sense.

Go sit at your computer and rapidly try to write the whole thing in one sitting. It helps to turn off auto-correction if you are using a program that has that feature (such as Word). This way your flow of writing will not be interrupted and you won't have to worry about any small punctual or spelling mistakes until it's time to revise.

Which brings me to my next point, if the letter is written in a word processor, you can always revise it later to your heart's content. Just keep editing it until you are pleased with the result.

Step 5: Track Down the Recipient.

If you know how to contact the person you wrote to then skip this step.

If you now need to figure out where to mail your letter to, you may be in for a challenge.

For instance, tracking down Britney Spears is no easy task.

However, I do have some basic guidelines I follow.

My first course of action is to go to Google and search for:
"Britney Spears contact"
"Britney Spears email"
"Britney Spears e-mail"
"Britney Spears phone"
"Britney Spears fax"
"Contact Britney Spears"
"email Britney Spears"
"e-mail Britney Spears"
"phone Britney Spears"
"fax Britney Spears"

Make note of all possible mailing and email addresses that you find.

The next step would be to confirm these addresses. Check to see when the addresses were posted to the web and how current they are. Also, find out where the person is currently living. Find out who their management/publisher/law firm/company is and where it is located. Find out if they have a fan club and where it is based out of.

With Britney Spears, after a basic extensive online background search I concluded that her current contact address is most likely:

Britney Spears
c/o ReignDeer Entertainment
394 Huntley Drive
West Hollywood, CA 90048

or you can just contact her and her management on myspace:

with all of that said....

This Google-based method of tracking down celebrities, politicians and other public figures normally works pretty well.

Step 6: Print, Package and Post.

Print it out, address the envelope, stamp it and shove the letter inside.

Drop it in a mailbox.

If you followed my method of letter writing, don't bother waiting for a response because the chances are very slim that you will actually ever get one.

Post the letter on your blog or website and make all of your friends read it.



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    24 Discussions

    You have been so thorough and informative. Thanks for sharing your time to help members of the instructables community.

    Please please can anyone help me????????

    May I please ask a grammar question for anyone out there who might be willing to help me?
    I have put all the following sentences into the spell check and grammar check . I have on my computer. None of them are marked as wrong. I don't understand how they could all be right. Please help me. I'm finishing a story I've dedicated to my mom. My mom has bone cancer and I desperately need to finish it and publish it before she passes away.
    The book is aimed at a grade three level assessed by the Fleish-Kincaid Readability test. (Typical children aged 8 and nine years old, should be able to read it without assistance.) I would like to keep it as simple as possible.

    1. Then the thunder came; and it was so loud, that it sounded just like Henry’s father’s car when the muffler fell off!

    2. Then the thunder came. It was so loud, that it sounded just like Henry’s father’s car when the muffler fell off!

    3. Then the thunder came, and it was so loud, that it sounded just like Henry's father's car when the muffler fell off!

    4. Then the thunder came; it was so loud that it sounded just like Henry's father's car when the mufflar fell off.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I would go with:

    Then the thunder came. It was so loud that it sounded just like Henry’s father’s car when the muffler fell off!

    Aburame Shino

    10 years ago on Introduction

    I first saw this and though, "Wow, the stupidity of this idea." When I read it, I felt like a complete jackass. This is really insightful and informative idea. Tell me, did you ever get a response from Britney Spears?

    2 replies
    Aburame Shinorandofo

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    They obviously do not appreciate the time and effort it goes into writing such letters for them. Pfft. Ungrateful celebrities.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    putting a cat in a box is hell of a problem. I have tried thinking too. Both are really difficult. good luck with the letters.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Randy, You have a wonderful style. The stream-of-consciousness mode is not for everyone, but you make it work. I have not seen too many people with an effective talent like yours; you combine humor with dead-seriousness! Keep it going!, Hank.


    12 years ago

    Name and town, name and town, name and town...


    12 years ago

    So I've browsed through most of the letters on your site and read several in their entirety, and in general the content is rather thought provoking. But what I would really like to know is...Have you received a reply from any of the numerous addressees? I sincerely hope so, for the sake of the greater populace. Some of the addressees are rather important figure heads and it would be nice to know they care enough to at least have a staffer fire off a quick reply to an interested party (you). Cheers, and good luck with the letter writing, more of us should probably take part in the fun.

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago

    It was only recently that I concluded that documenting my responses (or lack thereof) might be a good idea. Although, in the past I've only received about three letters from living people. Every other letter I got back was an absurd form letter that made no sense considering the nature of the initial correspondence (there weren't even too many form letters at that).


    12 years ago

    EWWWWW....A Mac...But over all a good instructable..I bet there are people that think the postal deliv service is just about packages these days.

    3 replies

    Reply 12 years ago

    Thou worm! Thou Mac-hater! Thou shalt be Darned to Heck for all of Eternity for thy speech!


    Reply 12 years ago

    That... Or cursed with the Blue Screen of Death...


    Reply 12 years ago

    One thing about his use of a Mac... No misspellings! The grammar's pretty good too.


    12 years ago on Step 4

    Breaking the text into digestible paragraphs might further enhance this project. That said, the form here is in good keeping with the stream-of-consciousness content. Either way, this was entertaining!

    2 replies

    Reply 12 years ago

    I'm sorry...I'll go sit in a corner for five minutes... But fifty points extra to whoever can figure out which author and story my vituperation was taken from! Hint hint..."Thou wretch!–thou vixen!–thou shrew!...thou whippersnapper–thou sink of iniquity!–thou fiery-faced quintessence of all that is abominable!–thou–thou-"