How to Write the Perfect Piece of Hate Mail
1 year ago
If you're going to be a hater at least do it right
One of the most humbling things about being a writer is being reminded that you are not nearly as original as you like to think you are. I was reminded of this when famed super-lawyer Alan Dershowitz told New York Magazine that he’s considered publishing a book of some of the hate mail he’s received over the years.
He’s not alone.
Every time I receive a kooky piece of mail, or elicit a wacky comment via social media, I’m tempted to convince my agent that instead of working away on another book that I actually have to write on my own, we should just publish some of the reactions my writing has elicited from others. (Possible titles: “To Keli with Love, Hate, and Occasional Indifference” or “Your writing sucks, but not nearly as much as that outfit you wore on TV yesterday.”)
Thanks to my post on the brewing birth control battle engulfing the Obama administration, I now have a wealth of new material. As usual the responses ran the gamut from sane, (“I completely disagree with you for x, y, z reason,”) to insane but entertaining, (the charming individual who wanted to register his displeasure with my post as well as with my appreciation of Betty White, which he apparently finds offensive, comes to mind.)
As I explained to a friend who recently asked if I mind when people leave nasty comments about my blog posts, if you’re a writer and no one’s criticizing your work, that means very few people are actually reading it. After all, even Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway have their detractors, and I’m nowhere in their league. I don’t mind receiving unflattering feedback for my work nearly as much as I mind receiving no feedback at all. (I realize that now puts my fiercest critics in a quandary. For that my apologies.) But one thing that does get under my skin when it comes to my critics: poorly crafted criticism.
So below, a list of helpful hints to help you or the self-appointed critic in your life, draft an effective piece of hate mail (or critical mail to be more precise), blog comment, or social media response that actually provokes thought, and possibly a reply, from the intended target, as opposed to provoking chuckles from them. (Not to mention causing them to forward it to others for chuckles as well—not that I would know anything about doing that.)
1) Actually read the piece.
This one is non-negotiable. If you have time to type up an angry paragraph to someone, then you have time to read the piece you think you are angry about in its entirety. If you do not, then you are exactly like those people who don’t bother to vote then sit around complaining our ears off until the next election. I have lost count of how many times people have sent me emails, tweeted or left comments all over the web criticizing a post I wrote for not addressing a specific point—only that point could easily be found in paragraph two of my post, if only they’d bothered to read that far.