How to Write a Good Angry Letter
When I was in high school, I got an angry letter from a friend. It wasn’t just a rant and rave, though — it was full of pointed, jealous criticism of my character. I was too confident, I had too much self-esteem . . . You get the picture.
The letter continued for a few pages and concluded, “I’ve always hated you.”
It cut deep and left a lot of scars, and years later I still remember specific parts of. It doesn’t sting anymore, but it took me years to make peace with my confidence and self-esteem and see them as good, not bad.
But Can You Write a Good Angry Letter?
Right from the get-go, here’s the truth: I’m not a fan of angry letters.
The spoken word fades eventually with the softening influence of forgetfulness, but the written word can burn and last forever. An angry letter can do great damage, wreak havoc, and ruin a life. However, there are some places that it can be incredibly effective — as long as you do it right. And that’s the key.
So next time you need to write a really good angry letter, follow these steps.
Tear Up Your First Draft
That’s right. Find your best angry letter pen, grab any paper you can find, and spew vitriol to your heart’s content. Say exactly how you feel. Don’t leave anything out. Point fingers, cast blame, even throw in a few expletives if you really need to.
Explain why you’re certainly in the right and they’re absolutely in the wrong, and don’t even try to be gracious. Spit it all out.
When you’re done, your letter will probably embarrass a sailor and make your grandma weep.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, under any circumstance, send this letter. That’s the Number One way to end friendships, burn bridges, and become the subject of a restraining order. It can destroy years of respect you’ve worked to build, and it can ruin your life.
Instead, tear it up. Burn it. Flush it down the toilet. Bury it in a hole in the back yard. Wrap a raw steak in it and feed the whole mess to the dog. Don’t let anyone else in the world see that letter — destroy it at all costs.
Eat it if you have to. I’m that serious.
For Your Second Draft, Slow Down
Now that you’ve blown off some steam, find that pen and paper again, and start your second draft. But this time, go painstakingly slow. Don’t just rant and rave about your feelings — be as specific as possible. It can be helpful to make a bullet point list about exactly what happened, and why it bothers you.
Did you neighbor’s dog tear up your garden . . . Again? Make a list.
- Bruno came into my yard again, which bothers me because I told Neighbor Dave to keep Bruno locked up better.
- Bruno ate my petunias, which frustrates me because I spent money to buy them and worked hard to plant them.
- Bruno tore up my tomato plants, which makes me angry because I promised Old Lady Sue down the street that she could have tomatoes this weekend, but now they’re all ruined.
Try to figure out exactly why you’re angry. Were you the victim of injustice? Did someone hurt your feelings? Write it out.
When you’ve finished making the list, keep it on hand. You’ll need it for the next draft.
That’s Right, It’s Time for a Third Draft
Keeping your list in hand, start in on the third draft of the angry letter. Be specific about what’s upsetting you, but try not to be vindictive. Don’t use this as an opportunity to win a written shouting match. Remember that you’re not the only one with feelings, and maybe Neighbor Dave let Bruno get out of his pen because Bruno bit his hand and Neighbor Dave had to go to the hospital. Probably not, but you never know.
Write clearly and be concise. Don’t let your emotion sneak into the letter. Jot down the facts and why they upset you, and why you feel like you were mistreated. Then, suggest a possible solution, or simply ask for a conversation to work things out.
When you finish this draft, put it in a desk drawer, and go do something else. Take a walk. Go running. Swim. Get your body moving and your blood flowing. Work up a sweat, and make sure you don’t go home till you’ve spent at least 20 minutes out of breath.
Eat a good dinner. Call your mom. Host a game night. Play with your kids.
Just be sure to leave the draft in your desk drawer till the next morning. After you wake up and drink some coffee, read it to make sure you still feel the same.
Get a Second Opinion
Hopefully by now, your letter sounds mature and reflective. If it doesn’t, repeat the second and third draft as many times as it takes until it does.You don’t want to deeply offend or injure the recipient. A thoughtful angry letter is the stimulus for change, and it shouldn’t make any enemies.
Just to make sure that you’re on the right track, get a second opinion. Find someone you trust, but make sure they don’t have any emotional involvement in the situation. Have them read the letter, and press them for their opinion. Make them ask a few questions of the letter:
- Is it clear and articulate?
- Is it level-headed?
- Is it inflammatory?
- Will it start a fight or hurt feelings?
- Does it get the point across and present a possible solution?
If they have suggestions, take them. If they say it’s fine, make sure they’re being honest. Once you’ve added their changes, tuck the letter back into your desk until the next day.
Bon Voyage, Angry Letter!
After another night of sleep and another cup of coffee, read the letter one more time.
- Is it gentle? An angry letter doesn’t have to be harsh.
- Is it honest? Even though it’s from your point of view, make sure you’re not just painting yourself as the victim.
- Is it open to reconciliation? The most effective angry letters welcome a solution to the problem.
If your letter passes muster, put it in the mail or hand deliver it, and prepare for a response. Exercise a lot. Think about other things. Don’t let your anger fester. Be ready for a difficult, constructive conversation.
Blessings on Your Angry Letters
It’s really easy to jot down an unkind angry letter and send it out immediately — but usually that takes things from bad to worse. If you’re willing to be patient and thoughtful, you’ll probably find resolution much sooner.
I still don’t love angry letters, but if you’re going to write one, please make sure it’s good.