A Guide for Grassroots Advocacy - How to Write Your Legislators
Writing to a member of Congress is the most common — and most effective — means of communicating with an elected official. At times, one well written letter may influence a representative; however, a significant volume of letters on a particular issue will secure the attention of your legislators.
Writing letters to elected officials achieves several purposes. Most importantly, letters express an opinion concerning an issue and urge the member to support your views. They can also communicate your satisfaction or disapproval with a vote that has recently been cast. Whatever your intent, you should consider the dos and don'ts on this page when writing a letter.
Letter writing dos and don'ts
- Identify yourself - a letter will be given serious consideration if you are a constituent.
- Be specific - Clearly illustrate your support or opposition for the bill.
- Address the letter correctly - Address a letter to a Representative like this:
The Honorable (full name)
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
- Open your letter with the phrase "Dear Representative (last name)". Letters to Senators should be addressed to same way, but open with the phrase "dear Senator (last name)".
- Illustrate your position with local examples - legislators and staff appreciate how legislation affects local constituents; let them know.
- If you rarely write elected officials, say that.
- Offer to serve as a resource - highlight your expertise or community involvement.
- Be timely - write when the issue is current.
- Don't be argumentative or confrontational.
- Avoid jargon and complex medical terms.
- Don't make threats such as "don't count on my vote next election if you don't ..."
- Don't misrepresent your position - decisions should be based on sound data and accurate facts.