How to Write a Letter of Dissent


Public debate and dialogue is essential to the democratic process. Sometimes it is necessary to voice your disagreement and concern about a particular policy or decision by writing a letter of dissent. Your concern may be with government at the federal, state or local level or with a corporation or private organization. The goal of the letter may be to publicly announce your disagreement and dissatisfaction, or it may be an effort to change a certain policy or decision. Whatever the reason, there are certain formalities involved in any letter of dissent.

  • Begin the letter of dissent by identifying yourself. If the letter of dissent is a joint effort, list each individual by name followed by name of the group or organization. Write the date - day, month and year - directly below the group name.

  • Address the letter to the individual or group that you are dissenting against. Include name of the individual or group followed by the address where the letter is to be sent.

  • State the purpose of your dissent. Present your reasons in clear and unambiguous terms. Describe the policy, legislation or point of view which you are in disagreement with. Summarize the primary reason for the disagreement in one to two sentences. Describe the policy you are contesting in one sentence and the reason for your dissent in the second sentence.

  • Provide a longer and more in-depth explanation for your dissent in the body of the letter. Begin with an overview of the policy or action that you are contesting. Include the specific details that led to your decision. This part of the letter may be one to two paragraphs. In the second part of the letter, present a critique of the policy or action that was taken. This may be done in a number of steps. Each step is devoted to a vital part of your argument. The purpose of the critique is to show why you think a particular policy, decision or action was wrong. Perhaps there are parts of the policy that you are in agreement with but substantial parts that you think are ill considered or grievously wrong. Conclude the letter by suggesting an alternative course of action and encouraging debate and dialogue.

  • Conclude the letter with the names and signatures of the individuals writing the letter.

  • Send the letter to the particular group or organization. Another alternative is to publish the letter in a major newspaper to raise the profile of your dissent. This makes the letter of dissent accessible to a larger public and places more pressure on the group or organization that you are in disagreement with.


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