How To Write Letters To Your Elected Officials
by Joreth Innkeeper © 2009
Letters are an extremely effective way of communicating with your elected officials. Many legislators believe that a letter represents not only the position of the writer but also many other constituents who did not take the time to write. So you should take care to write your letter in the manner best designed to make your message heard.
The most important thing to ask yourself when writing anything is: Who is my audience? And, what do I want to accomplish? Do you want to increase support for or opposition to a particular piece of legislation? Do you want them to help obtain services from a government agency? Do you want to inquire about where they stand on an issue?
Once you identify the purpose, you then need to find the appropriate official to write or call. There are a list of websites at the bottom to help find your elected officials at the state level or higher, but letters to regional officials are also very helpful. Write only to the official who is representing you or your geographic location if you want to address a concern, but thank you and support letters may be welcome by all officials even if they do not represent you directly.
Keep it brief: Limit your letter to one page and one issue. Legislative aides read many letters on many issues in a day, so your letter should be as concise as possible.
Identify your purpose & the issue: In the first paragraph of your letter state who you are and what issue you are writing about. If you are referring to a specific bill, identify it by number (e.g. H.R. 2372 or S. 1287).
Focus on your main point: Choose the three strongest points that will be most effective in persuading legislators to support your position and develop them clearly and fully.
Personalize your letter: Tell your elected official why this legislation matters in his community or state. Include a personal story that shows how this issue affects you and your family if applicable.
Make a connection: Have you ever voted for this elected official? Have you ever contributed time or money to his or her campaign? Are you familiar with her through any business or personal relationship? If so, tell your elected official or his staff person. The closer your legislator feels to you, the more powerful your argument is likely to be.
Include your information: Include your name, address, phone number, and email address on your letter, or your name and address on your letter and envelope if you send a paper letter via snailmail. State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have that relate to the topic.
Be polite but firm: Remember that your legislator's job is to represent you. You should be courteous and to the point, but don't be afraid to take a firm position. Thank your officials when they vote the way you want them to. Refrain from vulgarity, profainity or threats.
Address your letter correctly: Remember those old-fashioned letter-writing lessons we had in elementary school? Use those skills here. Use proper grammar and spelling. This is the 21st century, utilize your spell-checker. Use consistent margin and alignment. Either indent your paragraphs or use double-spacing between paragraphs. Do not use all caps, limit your slang, and use punctuation often and correctly. Do not use fancy colors, fonts, images or other formatting. Plain text looks most professional, especially Serif fonts like Times New Roman (the font used throughout this website is a Serif font), not Sans Serif fonts like Arial.
A Sample Letter
Return Address Line 1
Return Address Line 2
Date [Month Day, Year]
Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. Full name of recipient.
Office Title of Recipient.
Address Line 1
Address Line 2
Dear Ms./Mrs./Mr. Last Name:
Subject: Title of Subject
My name is [your full and real name] and I live in [Official's district] and I am writing to you about [Bill Number or Name of Issue]. As a polyamorous Democrat/soldier/shop owner/woman/parent/fill-in-your-label-here, I am very concerned about this issue. It will affect your constituents in these 3 ways.
Here is more detail on Point #1. This is a personal anecdote about Point #1. Here is more detail on Point #2. This is a personal anecdote about Point #2. Here is more detail on Point #3. This is a personal anecdote about Point #3.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my concerns. As one of your supporters who voted for you in the last election, I hope you will take this into consideration. Just like you, I am a [insert common interest here], so you can see how important this issue is for your voters.
[Signature if printed / handwritten]
Your Name [Printed]
Your Tag [email address or phone number or website. Do NOT insert a quote and only include your website if it is professional or relevant]
Enclosures/Attachement (#) [If you are including an attachment or additional paper documents]
Typist Initials [if someone else typed this for you, your two intitials go first in caps, then the typist's intials in lowercase, i.e. SD/mp].