There is an art to writing affective letters. Here are some tips on how to make your voice heard.
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.
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 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.