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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.
  • Use your personal stationery. Be sure to include your return address, since Congressional members generally only respond to people in their own districts.

  • Address your correspondence correctly.

    The Honorable
    Senate Office Building
    Washington, D.C. 20510
    Dear Senator

    The Honorable
    House Office Building
    Washington, D.C. 20515
    Dear Congressman/Congresswoman
  • 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 campaign.
  • 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 issue.
  • 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 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?"

 

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.



A checklist for an effective letter must answer these questions:

  • Is your position defensible? If not, what must be done to make it acceptable?
  • Do you have credibility? Do you come across as a reliable and reputable source of information?

    Have you identified the key people? Who are the people most likely to influence decisions?
  • 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!

 

Ten Tips on Writing Your Legislator

More on Political Responsibility

 

Priests for Life
PO Box 141172 • Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. 888-735-3448, (718) 980-4400 • Fax 718-980-6515
mail@priestsforlife.org