My e-mail to our campus president: Please Critique. (AL)


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HeedJSU
August 2, 2007, 04:56 AM
Letter removed to be re-written with several changes. New draft to be posted soon.

Thanks to all.

Justin

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Jimmie
August 2, 2007, 05:00 AM
WAY too long. He'll never read it.

HeedJSU
August 2, 2007, 05:02 AM
ok, that being said, strike the paragraph/page reprinting the copycat story (leaving only the link). that cuts out a good chunk. any other thoughts?

Justin

dscottw88
August 2, 2007, 10:41 AM
Wow, i just read through it. I was extremely impressed! Submit as is, A+ buddy! Just Pray he reads and pray harder he replies! Good Luck!

Seminole
August 2, 2007, 10:48 AM
Pay more attention to grammar and style. I don't have the time to edit the entire letter right now, but for example, the word "However" is a single word and should not appear as an entire paragraph but be attached to the following one. Also, "our student handbook states that we are not allowed to carry weapons on campus, via pain of expulsion," should read "our student handbook states that we are not allowed to carry weapons on campus, on pain of expulsion.

Academics will tend to pay less attention to an argument if there are obvious errors of grammar and style, on the basis that writing flaws probably reveal a lack of attention to detail or logic. So get someone to go over this letter with a fine-tooth comb before you send it.

I would also not include Oleg's posters--attention-grabbing though they are. This is YOUR letter and should rely on YOUR arguments, not someone else's. To an academic, the posters will also seem to rely on emotion rather than logical argument and will thus lessen the impact of your letter.

As someone else mentioned, it is WAY too long. A shorter piece can often be more powerful if the writing is more condensed.

Superpsy
August 2, 2007, 10:56 AM
I think it's still way too long, even without the copycat article. I'd aim for a page in length. It might help to bullet a summary of what you want to say and then base the letter off that.

As much as I love Oleg's posters I'd nix those too. Those make the point well but are too confrontational for your letter format. I think your president may respond negatively to those images, especially the 2nd and 4th one. (NOTE: This is NOT my personal view, just how I think he might react).

Overall, a VERY good letter. Tweak it and then send. Also, don't mean to rain n your parade BUT be sure you're ready for the negative response this might create.

HeedJSU
August 2, 2007, 04:08 PM
Ok, edited with some of the suggested changes. Other than length, any other Ideas? (Thanks to all wo have pm'ed me with ideas as well)

Justin

Alakar
August 2, 2007, 04:17 PM
Not nitpicking you, but a college president may.

I only read the first paragraph and you have several run-on sentences. Here is an example of one:

I have cultivated many friendships that I hope will last me throughout my lifetime that would not have been possible if it were not for the opportunities that I have been afforded at JSU.

It should read:

I have cultivated many friendships that I hope will last me throughout my lifetime. Those friendships would not have been possible if it were not for the opportunities that I have been afforded at JSU.

Honestly, it is way too wordy. He will circular file it. Cut it down and get to the point. Get a English major to proof read it for you.

HeedJSU
August 2, 2007, 04:22 PM
My primary concern at this point is content. I composed this letter at 3 am and have not proofread it myself yet. My wife is an English major, she'll be more than happy to prove her superiority. Thanks for the input so far.

Justin

atk
August 2, 2007, 05:52 PM
HeedJSU,

Your concern may be content, but there are those of us who are not interested in reading your letter until it's short enough to read. I'm one of them. Please understand that I don't mean this rude in any way: I'd be happy to critique content, but I have no interest in reading a 2 page paper, that contains at least one paragraph that covers 1/3 of a page.



What I will do (and have done :) ) is to scan the paper, and give a few suggestions. I'm rather critical, so please don't take this personally. And I agree with your intent. I'd just like to see your letter revised to be much stronger.

And I am a little short with the way I wrote this - I'm going for speed of giving you a response, not delivering the message as nicely as I might.


Dr. Meehan,

First of all, ... I have had the opportunity to meet with you a few times, and I have enjoyed your brief company and find you to be, in my limited experience, a man of integrity and honesty. ...


What's the real point of this paragraph? Did I narrow it down, correctly? It reads like you're setting him up for a paper that's going to say, "stance X is the only true stance, everyone else must be lacking in integrity and honesty." Even if your letter isn't meant to say this, your first paragraph jsut said that it is.

Or is this paragraph meant to butter him up? If he's got integrity, and if he's smart, he won't need buttering up.

Or is it meant to introduce yourself? You say that you've met him, before. If you made a good impression, and a strong impression, just remind him of who you are. If so, just state, "You may remember me. We spoke in WhateverMonth about WhateverTopic, where you made WhatverStartlingInsight". But only do this if WhateverStartlingInsight is directly related to your topic at hand, or if you impressed the heck out of him (like meeting your hero). If it's not, don't bother.


However, I feel that enough time has passed that I can safely write this letter and hold a honest, civil conversation.


"however" doesn't fit. This whole sentence just insulted him. You imply that, if you hadn't waited this long, it wouldn't be safe, and he'd be dishonest and lacking in civility.


I attempted do to this on April 16th and managed only to express my rage.


Don't bring up your screw ups. If he remembers them, then fine. If he doesn't, it doesn't help your case, any.


I am a concealed carry weapon permit holder in the state of Alabama.


Who cares? At this point of the letter, you still haven't introduced your point. You're just rambling. Your being a CWP holder doesn't reinforce any point, at all, and it's not relevant to anything that you've said so far.


A attack...


It should be "An attack". When the next word begins with a vowel, it should always be "an". When the next word begins with a consonant, it should always be "a". The exception to the rule is local pronunciation - if the locals omit or insert a vowel or consonant, AND your intent is to carry a colloquial feeling, then it's okay to do this. But not in a formal letter, and this should be a formal letter.



...our student handbook states that we are not allowed to carry weapons on campus, on pain of expulsion. ... I feel is ... in violation of my second amendment rights.


As I read this, I think to myself: (1) Finally! the point! Now I'll look for sound reasoning, and (2) I would never have scanned this far, if I were the recipient of the letter. I would have tossed it, for lack of intent, clarity, and overall length, shortly after the first paragraph. (3) This is a very controversial way to bring up the issue, and you may have lost him already.

...the following passage in the Alabama state lawbooks: Section 13A-11-72, Subsection C, D, E, and F;
"Subject to the exceptions provided by Section 13A-11-74, no person shall knowingly with intent to do bodily harm carry or possess a deadly weapon on the premises of a public school."
"Possession of a deadly weapon with the intent to do bodily harm on the premises of a public school in violation of subsection (c) of this section is a Class C felony"
"Law Enforcement Officers are exempt from this section, and persons with pistol permits issued pursuant to section 13A-11-75, are exempt from the provisions of subsection (c) of this section."
"the term 'Public School" as used in this section applies only to a school composed of grades k-12 and shall include a school bus used for grades k-12"


Good to know the laws, bad to put them here. He's not interested in your train of thought. Don't try to carry him on a narrative of a walk from the beginning to the end. Just state your topic, then your evidence. Put your pre-rebuttals (or whatever the right word would be) toward the end of the letter, as additional sources. Just do it as a list (state the law, and where to find it), not as a full explanation of each additional source.


Alabama Weapons Law

So, that covers the legality issue. The state of Alabama allows me to carry concealed on a college campus without fear of legal recourse.


Now, let us move on.


Strike this section. I think "diatribe" when I read it. If I were him, and I got this far, I'm done, now.


Virginia Tech is a gun free campus. This is the weapons policy taken directly from VT's website.
...


Again, this is not in a good order. And too much info. Just point to the VT website, don't quote the whole thing. It would be simpler to state, "VT is a gun free campus. Lawful gun owners were not allowed to carry their firearms. They were not allowed to defend the NNN students were were murdered. Being gun free stopped the good guys, but it did nothing to hinder the bad guy."

Remember: points are much stronger when they're short. If you make things too long, then your points lose all their power. My mother (an English major, when she went to college) always said, "points should be like bullets - the should come quickly, one right after another".


JSU is a gun free campus.


Again, don't state the whole policy. Just provide the link, and proceed with your next paragraph.

(http://police.jsu.edu/firearms.html)

We are basically the same in our firearms policy.


Just splitting things up, to keep thoughts separate, which brings up another point: your paragraphs are too long. Each distinct thought should have a single paragraph. One paragraph should contain one distinct thought, identified in a single sentence, with the rest of the paragraph supporting that thought. If you take more than one sentence to explain a second thought, then that second thought should probably be in a new paragraph.

Oh, and paragraphs should be 3-5 sentences. Any longer and people don't want to read it.


The coward that claimed innocent lives at VT took NO notice of VT's weapons policy.


Name calling is for children. Adults use reason. You're an adult. Use reason.


...That covers university policy. The university (both JSU and VT) does not allow firearms on campus. Now, we come to my greatest fear.


Again, diatribe.


What if this could happen at JSU? The truth is that it could.


Insulting manner of writing. Don't write to him as though he's a child. Assume he's an adult and doesn't need hand-holding.


The assassin at VT chained the main entrances of Norris Hall and then commenced his killing spree. Taken from wikipedia.com,


1. he's not an assassin. He's a murderer. Even if he fits the definition of an assassin, use the word murderer.

2. Again, don't quote the whole darn thing.




What I want you to take away from this is that the campus police, the state/local police, the SWAT team and whatever other law enforcement agency involved had NOTHING to do with the end of the killing spree. It took a whole 5 minutes for the officers to get into the building. Now, for those who say that this was a one time incident, I submit this story from ABC news, a copycat crime.


Good point, but it's again in the wrong order. And what main point are you trying to make? The first point in the email was that you think that the policy is in violation of your 2A rights. This doesn't support that major point. Your letter is showing a huge lack of structure.


(http://abcnews.go.com/US/wirestory?id=3413386)


Again, belongs in a "references" section, at the end, and not fully copied into your letter.


The first clause in the JSU student rights document states:
"I. Students enjoy the same basic rights and are bound by the same responsibilities to respect the rights of others as are all citizens.

A. It is assumed that the student as a citizen has the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of political beliefs, and freedom from personal force and violence, threats of violence and personal abuse."

(http://www.jsu.edu/depart/handbook/page16.html)


This begins at the beginning, with the original point about 2A issues, not way back here.


President Meehan,


What - did a second person just join the conversation? Are you trying to sound sympathetic? It doesn't work. Just make your points and keep moving.


I think what I am trying to say the most is that gun control laws and rules only prohibit the law abiding citizens of our country.


So put this at the beginning, and structure the rest to follow. And make more points. There's lots more useful stuff to say, but you're getting lost in the trees, and forgetting about the forest.


My plea to you


Don't plead. It's unbecoming. Make a request. And don't say "and now I must request" or something obsequious like that. Just make the durned request.


reconsider JSU's stance on firearms and concealed weapons carry while on campus, and allow us to take some measure of our protection and safety back into our own hands.


Is this actually your point? If so, put it at the beginning. it's not much of a summary, but it could be a very good closing once the rest of the letter is revised.


There are a myriad of options available to us,


So what are they? If you state a problem, state the possible solutions. You should have identified them, by now, especially if your mentioning them in your closing.


and surely a compromise can be reached.


Don't talk about compromise. Talk about problems and solutions. Compromise is implied if you provide several solutions.


I would love very much


Strong word, "love". Avoid it. Write something like, "If you would like to discuss this over the phone, or in person, I would be very happy to do so." and be sure your contact info is in the letter. But don't state it. Letters have a normal format (write it as a business letter, even if it is an email), and he knows how to find your contact info off of it.

If you want to follow up, just state that you'd like to follow up, and will call his office, and try to set up an appointment in a week, to discuss this issue.

But, why should he discuss it with you? Are you rich, and considering a donation? Are you the head of a PAC? Do you have a big contact at a pro-2A newspaper?

Note: who are you (if you're anyone but another student) should have been addressed in the opening paragraph, and it should have taken only 1 or 2 sentences.


I have taken the time to painstakingly compose this letter, which has taken a few hours of my time.


While this is important to you, why should he care? This is extraneous information, and shouldn't be stated.


Please do me the honor of replying to my letter with at the very least a letter written yourself, not passed off to a staff member or a "canned" response.


Don't make this request. If your letter is good enough, he'll respond, himself.



I ...hope to hear from you soon.

Remove the stuff I removed.


Respectfully,


Unusual closing, where I'm from. If it's unusual where you're from, use a more standard closing (i.e. "Sincerely") instead. Consider changing it to something more unusual only after your letter is fully vetted.

HeedJSU
August 2, 2007, 10:09 PM
now THATS what I was looking for.
(slightly painful, :neener: but very useful)
Thanks.

Justin

atk
August 2, 2007, 11:44 PM
HeedJSU,

I'm glad that that meets what you wanted. I was a little worried it might turn you off the task, and I really don't want to do that.

Please post your next draft, so we can see that one, too :)

Seminole
August 3, 2007, 12:19 AM
atk,

Nice job! If you were a little closer to me I would ask if you had any interest in tutoring some of my students to help them improve their writing.

HeedJSU, atk has given you some good advice. Congratulations on taking it well. Helpful criticism is sometimes painful. I hope you do post the revised version.

HeedJSU
August 3, 2007, 02:14 AM
I mean, holy crap. he used "obsequious" correctly.
That deserves props by itself.

The revised draft is under way, but it'll take a couple days to get up (probably this weekend) I'm up to my eyeballs now doing ads for work. Again, thanks for all who have helped so far. This is my first major attempt at a RKBA issue, so I think I had diarrhea of the brain/fingers when I wrote the first draft.

Justin

VirgilCaine
August 3, 2007, 08:17 AM
VERY impressive, atk.

gunsmith
August 3, 2007, 09:06 AM
Like...wow!

Your good.

atk
August 3, 2007, 11:11 AM
*grin* Thanks :)

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