How to Write Letters That Get Results
Writing to elected officials, legislators and other government officials can
make a difference. The format, content and style of your letters are important
-- whether you're asking someone to support or oppose a bill.
Here are some tips for effective letter writing:
- Don't write too often. Once a month is plenty.
gets to the right assistant.
Ask him or her to vote in a specific way. Be specific but courteous:
"Can I count on you to support H.R. 555?"
- Use your personal stationery. Be sure to include your return address,
since Congressional members generally only respond to people in their own
- Address your correspondence correctly.The Honorable
Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
- Be brief and to the point. Use your own words. Never use a form or
mass duplicated letter.
Write intelligently so legislators know that you know what you're talking
about ... that you're not just writing in response to a letter-writing
- Don't insult them. Don't say things like, "As a citizen and
taxpayer..." or "I'm pro-life and I vote."
- Keep your letter to one page whenever possible.
- Address only one topic or one piece of legislation. Remember that your
letters will be given to the Congressional staff person responsible for that
- Use facts and logical reasoning. Emotional rhetoric and
statements that can't be supported are counterproductive. Don't threaten or
make demands. Legislators know the power of your vote.
- Explain how this legislation or new program will impact the legislator's
district or state.Be as specific as possible.
- Cite your awareness of his or her past voting record. Especially on
this topic or similar legislation.
- Refer to the bill by name as well as by number. For example: H. R.
2369, the Reauthorization Bill for Title X of the Public Health Service Act.
This ensures that your letter
Your job is to learn how the ultimate decision-maker gets the
information upon which he or she decides. Is there a key staff aide who handles
such issues? If so, that's the person whom you want to reach. Does a particular
newspaper or television reporter seem to influence the decision-maker? Write a
letter to the editor or see about getting that reporter to cover your "story."
As always, know exactly what you want to say to the people
you are contacting. And make sure your message is a simple and repetitive one.
You don't want to give people a college education in your subject; you just want
them to know the few key facts that will convince them to see things your way.
Is your position defensible? If not, what must be done to make it
Do you have credibility? Do you come across as a reliable and
reputable source of information?
A checklist for an effective letter must answer these questions:
Have you identified the key people? Who are the people most likely to
To what extent are other people affected? What are the impacts of your
argument or proposal?
What can the opposition do? Have they answered the same basic
questions you are asking? What is their strategy and plan?
YOU WANT TO DEVELOP CLEAR "CASES FOR SUPPORT" WHICH PERSUADE
KEY DECISION-MAKERS THAT
YOUR VIEWPOINTS DESERVE SERIOUS CONSIDERATION!
Tips on Writing Your Legislator
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