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The Persuasive Letter Assignment


To: UWP 104A Students
From: Dr. Andy Jones, Instructor
Date: October 6, 2010

For this assignment, you will prepare a complaint letter, request letter, or goodwill letter that persuades a specific audience to take action of some kind. This assignment will (1) familiarize you with effective rhetorical strategies for writing persuasive letters and (2) help you develop effective peer-editing skills.

Write a letter persuading a specific audience to take action of some kind. Think about recent situations at your place of work, an organization to which you belong, or in your daily life that present opportunities to write a persuasive letter. Here are some questions that you might consider:

  • Did you buy a product or service with a warranty that a company refused to validate when something went wrong? If so, you might write a complaint letter asking for justification for the refusal, requesting that the warranty policy be changed, or requesting reimbursement for the money you overpaid due to a warranty mix up.
  • Did you recently have a negative experience with a company? Would a letter of complaint to the general manager, president, or chairperson help raise awareness of the situation and prevent it from happening again?
  • Have you recently attempted to follow an organizational or departmental policy that failed to meet your needs, answer your questions, or accurately represent a situation? If so, you might write a request letter (or memo) to someone in a decision-making position (e.g., manager, government official, department chair) requesting a specific change in the policy. Consider how a new policy or a change in an existing policy may help alleviate the problem and ultimately benefit policy users as well as decision makers.
  • Is there an employee in your organization who is going up for promotion or is doing exceptional work and might benefit from a letter of recognition?
  • Is there an employee at a company who consistently gives excellent customer service and might benefit from a letter of recognition?

Please read the assigned “letter” entries in the Handbook of Technical Writing for effective strategies on writing persuasive letters. Also, please remember that effective persuasive letters make arguments backed by solid evidence. Non-verbal persuasive strategies (e.g., tone, “you” viewpoint, layout and design) and verbal persuasive strategies (e.g., indirect pattern of organization, reader benefits, clarity of purpose) are equally as important.

Letters that do not require much persuasion, such as a thank you letter, sympathy letter, order letter, confirmation letter, or request for information, are not appropriate for this assignment.

Letters making a complaint or request and goodwill letters recognizing someone for their accomplishments or recommending someone for a position or award are appropriate for this assignment. Most straightforward claims, such as the sample letter to the landlord discussed in class, do require persuasive elements, such as clarifying the case, providing solid evidence, developing an appropriate tone, and requesting action. These are also appropriate for this assignment.

Assignment Requirements
Your letter should be in full-block-style format and be about a page in length. Please see the example letters in the Handbook of Technical Writing. Your letter should be single-spaced (double-space between paragraphs), use the direct or indirect pattern of organization (depending on the situation), and use headings, lists, and other graphical elements where appropriate.

To engage in an effective writing process, you will need to think through letter development at all levels: (1) Analysis, Anticipation, Adaptation, (2) Research, Organization, Composition, (3) and Revision, Proofreading, and Evaluation.

Due Dates

Wednesday, October 13 – Rough draft of letter

  • Post to SmartSite using the Assignments tool by 8:00 a.m.
  • Bring two print copies of your letter to class for an editorial workshop
  • (Optional) Bring a copy of your letter for me to review in class

Monday, October 18 — Final draft of letter

Please submit the following in a colorful folder at the beginning of class:

  1. Your final letter
  2. The two copies of the draft that you brought to the editorial workshop

Persuasive Letter Evaluation



  • Opening, closing
  • Organization (appropriate approach?)
  • Development, support
  • Persuasiveness (explanations?)
  • Reader benefit development
  • Cooperative tone
  • Conciseness, clarity, coherence



  • Block format, appropriate visual cues such as headings and lists



  • Spelling, typos, grammar, punctuation

Total Points


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