Helpful Hints when Writing to Your Elected Officials
Letters are important to elected officials. They reflect the concerns of their districts and can alert legislators to issues. Because legislators have to pick and chose what issues they will work on, it's impossible for them to follow every issue in-depth.
Letters and e-mails help direct legislators’ attention. A well-written, well-timed letter in the advocacy process can have significant impact. Obviously, the more letters they receive, the more attention they will pay to the issue. As few as 20 letters will get the attention of the official and can be persuasive.
Use the correct address on the letter or e-mail to your senator and representative. Be sure to spell their names correctly!
For your state senator:
The Honorable (Full Name)
For your state representative:
The Honorable (Full Name)
Tips on content:
- Address only one issue and try to keep it to one page. Your reason for writing should be clearly stated in the first and last paragraphs. Use your position statement to guide your correspondence. Refer to any legislation by bill number and name.
- Be factual and support your point with information. State your position and rationale. Avoid emotional arguments or threats.
- Use personal stories and be as specific as possible. Explain how the bill affects you personally.
- Be constructive. If possible, offer alternatives or a solution.
- Thank them for their attention to this matter and past support (if appropriate). Not only is it courteous, it also shows you follow the issues.
- Ask them to support your position. If the legislator is opposed to your position, ask him or her to reconsider. If the legislators support your position, thank them and ask them to have other legislators sign onto/vote for the bill.
- Remember to thank your legislator!
- Request that the legislator send a reply explaining his or her position on the issue. Be sure to include your full name and address after your signature. Upon receipt of a reply, write a thank you note for the response and reiterate your position.
Tips on format and delivery:
- If you're making an in-person visit, it will be beneficial to include a thoughtful letter with your leavebehind materials. If you’re writing before or after your visit, you can use email, fax, or snail mail.
- Whether you’re mailing or emailing your letter, the format is the same. Address your letter to the highest official who has responsibility for the issue—your senator, the mayor, an executive, or a state agency director.
- E-mail is timely and less formal, but it is more common and oftentimes preferred by legislators. A brief, hand-written, hard-copy letter is more personal and can catch the attention of legislators and staff.