How to write a good letter

How to write a good letter

Dear writer,

This is not a prescription of a set formula or structure — creativity and originality will make your letter sing — but the Collate team has put together a series of questions to ask yourself as you are writing. Quality conversations are at the heart of Collate’s mission, and we hope these questions will be starting points that help you articulate yourself more clearly and confidently. Your letters will also be starting points - for correspondences that cut through the noisiness of the internet.

1. Are you writing too much?

Watch out for purple prose as you are writing; editing for brevity makes for a fast-paced, engaging read. If you can use a simpler word or a shorter sentence, do.  Also aim to write less, but quality letters rather than more but each being less refined. If you have many ideas to share, consider weaving several into the same letter instead of writing on them separately.  This makes for more rich, fulfilling writing.

2. Does this letter sound like you?

One of the most precious things about a letter is that you can be unreservedly yourself. Oftentimes we write as a specific role: a student writing an email to your professor, an employee drafting a text to your boss. But letters on an open platform like Collate allow us to write accounting for the entirety of our experiences, the exact way our internal dialogue runs. Take advantage of this freedom, and boldly describe the world as seen through your eyes.

3. Can you share a story?

Stories of your personal experience are the most engaging because they allow us to conjure up the situation in our imagination and relate it back to ourselves. If you can, go into details: What were your surroundings? What happened? How did you feel?  Even moments of personal weakness are not out of bounds; sharing your lessons can be of immense help to someone else. There is something beautiful about hearing a piece of someone’s past that you weren’t a part of, a stranger whose face you have never seen, and yet feel that you almost know them through words and stories of their lives.

4. Is there a reason why?

It is critical to explain the reason for your opinion or argument. No matter how intuitive the point might seem to you, every single idea is hinged on premises and assumptions which others with different backgrounds or experiences could reasonably disagree with. So provide an explanation wherever you can, to help those who hold different perspectives understand yours. This is also crucial to shaping a culture where viewpoints have to be well-reasoned to be seriously considered. This in turn creates a safe environment for even those with unconventional views to express themselves, because it signals that there is space for all ideas as long as they are well-argued. And this will make the dialogue more enriching for everyone.

We hope this helps you write a wonderful letter in the writing competition, many more letters on the Collate platform in the future and perhaps letters away from our platform.

Gracefully yours,

Jocelyn Tsang

Collate team


There is a thoughtfulness about handwritten letters that no communications software can replicate. It takes time in writing it out and waiting for it to be delivered; it is a private exchange intended only for the eyes of two people; it is a tangible piece of another person to touch and smell and reread in more difficult times. Collate may be an open platform for digital letters, but we hope that the nudge to spend time writing more words within the letter paradigm will remind you a little of the intimate, contemplative dialogues over paper.

"Letter writing is an excellent way of slowing down this lunatic helterskelter universe long enough to gather one's thoughts."

— Nick Bantock