Congress really does listen to the flood of messages that are delivered to Capitol Hill every day. People who take the time to write Congress are far more likely to.
Writing a personal letter to your representatives in Congress is an effective way to let your voice be heard. When done well, a carefully crafted, concise letter is a powerful tool that can influence lawmakers and bring about change. Nonetheless, congressional leaders are incredibly busy, so take the time and put forth the effort to make your letter well-written and powerful.
1. Though it is tempting to fire off an e-mail, write a letter instead.
Letters do take more effort, both to send and to receive, than e-mail messages, and they therefore warrant more attention. It is easier to overlook an e-mail than it is to disregard a letter (particularly a handwritten letter).
2. State your purpose.
Be specific. Keep your letter focused by addressing only one issue or topic, and state your main purpose in the opening paragraph of your letter.
My name is Janet Calloway, and I am writing this letter to ask that you vote in favor of SB 2222.
3. Make your letter personal.
Keep your letter unique; don’t just copy a form letter and send it. Sending one hundred (or even one million) copies of the same letter is not an effective way to communicate the real concerns of real people.
Instead, write a personal letter, from your heart. Make sure to introduce yourself, and explain who you are. If there is a particular reason (such as professional or personal credentials or experience) that you are qualified to address the topic you are writing about, say so.
Because of the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of our neighbor, Mary Tucker, I know first-hand that this bill, if implemented, could save lives.
4. Support your stance.
Be informed when you write your letter, and as you write, be honest and accurate in the information you present. Use specific statistics, numbers, or examples. Saying generally that you don’t like a certain law or regulation won’t get you very far. Instead, mention how the problem or issue you are addressing directly affects you or those of your community. However, though it is important to write with passion, it is generally best to keep your letter factual, rather than emotional.
According to the Associated Press, in addition to the death of our neighbor Mary, last year in this country more than one hundred other people were killed in similar circumstances. That is more than 100 families whose lives will never be the same.
5. Make your request.
Indicate the specific action that you would like the representative to take, and by when (if applicable). For example, indicate whether you are writing in favor of or against a new bill or particular policy, and state what you hope that the representative will do. Be sure to identify the bill or other policy correctly. You can request, but do not demand, a response to your letter.
I urge you to join with thousands of other concerned individuals who support SB 2222. Please vote “Yes” on February 13.
6. Remain professional and courteous.
No matter how upset you might feel, be courteous and professional. Again, it is perfectly acceptable (even preferable) to show your passion for the topic in your writing, but that does not mean you should resort to mud-slinging, name calling, swearing, or similar tactics.
7. Keep you letter clear and concise.
As you write, don’t resort to waxing flowery or being long-winded. Your representatives are busy; make their lives easier by stating clearly and concisely what you want, why, and by when. Generally, you should keep your letter to one page.
8. Close your letter.
Close your letter by restating your purpose for writing the representative and repeating your request for action. Then thank the person for taking the time to read your letter.
9. Know to whom to send your letter.
Send your letter to your local representatives (your house representative and your two senators). You may think it worthwhile to really let your voice be heard by sending a letter to every member of Congress, but they will likely forward the letter on to your local officials (who in turn may get quite annoyed at receiving dozens of copies of the same letter from the same person).
You can find the name and address of your representative by going to Congress.org. When addressing your letter, use the following format:
For Your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room Number) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator (last name):
For Your House Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room Number) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative (last name):
10. Proofread your letter.
Before you sign and seal your letter, make sure to proofread it first. Ensure that you have not left out any important, pertinent information. If you’ve repeated yourself or if something isn’t as clear as it could be, revise. After making any necessary changes, read over your letter one more time to check for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and other errors.
11. Know that your vote counts.
Congressional leaders exist to serve you, a representative of the American people. Most of them truly want to represent faithfully the concerns of those they serve. And they understand that without your vote, and that of others like you, they will not remain in office. Moreover, because representatives receive relatively few personal letters, your letter may hold more sway than you think. So write with confidence!
TIPS FOR WRITING YOUR CONGRESSMAN. For letters, emails and faxes. Date. Your Name. Address. City, State Zip. Dear (Representative/Senator) (Name).
Dear Representative/Senator :
As a constituent and a graduate, I urge you to support .
This issue is important because .
The federal government role in will ensure
that America as a nation continues to prosper. Continued investment in
, ensures that we can continue to
make strides in this sector and to lead the way in innovation. If not for
, we will surely lose our competitve
advantage. Here are some specific facts to help illustrate my point.
Your support for is critical because I have
benefited from the program. (Your Story)
More to the point, the people I serve have benefited from it. There are several
constituents in (state/district) that are benefiting from (program). Please
ensure that you support and remain committed to benefiting
all of American society. Thank you for your consideration and please feel free
to contact me if you would like to discuss this issue further.
Your Title (if applicable)
Your City, State Zip
Your Phone Number
One great way to advocate for a Citizen Cabinet is to write your Representative an email or personal letter. Personal letters tend to be superior to emails or form-letters because of the time invested in writing them, so Congressional offices take them more seriously. If you feel moved to write, here are some general guidelines:
Senator/The Honorable [Full name] United States Senate/U.S. House of Representatives
[Building Name and Room Number] (Look up on-line or call your representative)
Washington, DC 20510(Senate)/20515(House)
Dear [Senator/Representative] [Last Name]:
My name is [Name], and I want to ask you to support a bold new way to give the American people a greater voice in government. It is called the Citizen Cabinet and I would like to know if this is something you will support.
Our democracy is in real trouble today, between all the special-interests, the partisan gridlock that’s tying up Congress, and the feeling many of us share that our system is broken. We need to be looking at better ways to let the people’s voice come through loud and clear, which right now isn’t happening.
A national Citizen Cabinet would give the American people a greater voice and help resolve some of the more contentious issues Congress is wrestling with today. It would also give you a more clear and accurate picture of what all of us think on key issues, not just the few of us who come to town hall meetings or have time to write. The idea of giving the people information, letting them hear the best arguments from all sides, and then make their recommendations to Congress would really help. It would raise the level of the debate, lead to more common-sense solutions and help Congress come together for the common good.
Here is a link to a website that describes this proposal in detail: www.VOP.org.
I hope you will support this common-sense idea, which I think will help us fix what’s wrong in our democracy and get back to our founding principle that government ought to be guided by the will of the people more than anything else.
CITY, STATE, ZIP
[NOTE: You must include your home address or your letter is unlikely to be read]
Templates for writing letters to Congress. How to Write a Letter to Congress you are a constituent, as well as writing as a volunteer for The Borgen Project.
Address your letter correctly — See the details on addressing your letter below.
E-mail can be an easy and effective tool for communicating with legislators. The tips outlined above for writing letters to legislators also apply to e-mails: keep them brief and to the point, with facts and anecdotes relevant to the legislator's district.
Avoid informal language — E-mail to a legislator should be treated as seriously as a written letter. Resist the temptation to use the informal language and symbols often associated with e-mail communications. Never use impolite language or make "demands."
Include your full address and zip code — Make sure the text of your e-mail includes your full name and street address, including zip code. Many legislative offices screen e-mails for address information identifying the sender as a constituent. E-mails that appear to come from outside the district are unlikely to be read and may be blocked by filtering programs.
The Honorable (full name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator (last name)
The Honorable (full name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative (last name)
Topics of Correspondence and Sample Letters Ask your Members of Congress to write to the White House to request a commutation of Leonard Peltier's.