Dear Emily,

I enjoyed reading the letter you left on my coffee table. You haven’t shared your writing with me since the beginning of our relationship (was I too harsh?), and it’s a pleasure to see more of your work. This one is a much better effort, and if I wanted to flatter myself I might take some credit for your improvement. In any case, I’m always happy to give you my feedback; this particular piece has a lot of promise, and I have some suggestions for revision that I think you’ll find useful.

You make a strong start in the first paragraph. I particularly applaud your use of the dash. It’s a tricky piece of punctuation.

You say you feel “like a zombie.” It would be better to say you feel you are a zombie, rather than “like” one. The simile there takes away from the power of your metaphor.

Your mention of your neighbor Henry digresses from the topic of the second paragraph, your desire to “make things work.” If you want to mention Henry, tell your reader more about him. What is he like? Where does he live? Is he oafish and unattractive? You hint at his homosexuality when you say he “knows how to talk to” women. Expand on this. Details like these will keep your reader invested rather than threatened by the mention of another man. On the other hand, you might want to exclude Henry from the piece (and your life?) altogether. As presented here, he seems flat and irrelevant.

I like your use of “But” to start a sentence in your third paragraph. It’s OK to start a sentence with a conjunction for dramatic effect! Good work there.

Your fourth paragraph needs a topic sentence. You include many disconnected subjects: my “impotence” and “complete lack of sexual function,” your “frustration” and “anger,” my “pathological avoidance of conflict” (and can such a thing really “kill” you? Avoid hyperbole). Choose the most fundamental issue—in this case, the unreasonableness of your fantasy of “genuine intimacy”—and make that the subject. Forget the rest. Also, avoid the second-person address here—imagine a wider audience. What’s really frustrating is the human condition; our collective “impotence” is a metaphor for social stagnation and the increasing disparity between rich and poor.

The ending is a bit abrupt. The last line—"I can’t live like this"—is ambiguous and clichéd. Stronger is your postscript, “I’m sorry, for both of us,” though stronger still would be the simple “I’m sorry.” Say what you want to say with as few words as possible.

A significant revision is in order, but don’t be discouraged. If you’re not married to all of your original ideas, I can see this going in interesting directions. And, regardless of the quality of your work, I will always be

Your faithful reader,