How to write a letter to your congressman
Sep 26, 2012, 8:58 a.m.
Writing a letter to a congressman is a powerful way to have your voice heard, or to get clarification on your congressman's position on a political issue. However, that doesn't mean that simply writing a letter to congress will do either. Without following proper etiquette, your letter may not be taken seriously or even read at all. Here are some tips to help you write an impactful letter to your congressman.
- Only write to the congressman in your state or district. Writing to a congressman who doesn't represent your area will probably result in your letter not being read at all.
- Type your letter. Handwriting can be distracting and hard to read.
- Use the proper salutation. Senators and Governors should be referred to by their title and last name. For example: Dear Governor Smith. Representatives should be referred to as Mr. or Ms. followed by their last name.
- Use a business letter format. This not only looks professional, but also provides a place to put your contact information so your congressman can respond to you.
- Keep your language professional and respectful. A congressman is not going to take the time to read or respond to an abusive letter. Try to also find something he or she has done that you agree with, and commend them for their actions. This may seem a bit like insincere fawning, but it shows that you're a reasonable person. This is especially important if your letter is in regards to an issue that you're opposed to.
- Keep it short, sweet, and on topic. Writing a letter to a congressman that talks about more than one issue minimizes the importance of any point you're trying to make. Limit your letter to three paragraphs. The first paragraph should include your position on an issue. The second should state the reasons for your position. The third should ask your congressman for his or her position on the issue.
- If you don't get a response, follow up with another letter. If you get a response that you agree with, send a short letter thanking them for their support on the issue. If you don't agree with their response, it's acceptable to send a letter of response to further discuss the issue -- but don't overdo it.
If you follow the proper etiquette and treat your congressman or congresswoman with the dignity and respect you'd like to be afforded in return, your voice is sure to be heard. Taking the time to write a letter to congress lets the folks in D.C. know about the issues that matter to you, and can help them decide how to vote on certain issues.
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