How to Write a Letter to Your
The American Library Association gives the
following advice on writing to your legislator:
Where possible, use your official letterhead. If this is not appropriate, and
you write as an individual, use plain white bond paper, and give your official
title following your signature as a means of identification and to indicate your
competency to speak on the subject.
"Sincerely yours" is in good taste as a complimentary close. Remember to sign
your given name and surname. If you use a title in your signature, be sure to
enclose it in parentheses.
- Your legislators like to hear opinions from home and want to be kept
informed of conditions in the district. Base your letter on your own
experiences and observations.
- If writing about a specific bill, describe it by number or its popular
name. Your legislators have thousands of bills before them in the course of a
year, and cannot always take time to figure out which one you are referring
- They appreciate intelligent, well-thought-out letters that present a
- Even more important and valuable to them is a concrete statement of the
reasons for your position--particularly if you are writing about a field in
which you have specialized knowledge. Representatives have to vote on many
matters with which they have had little or no first-hand experience. Some of
the most valuable information they receive comes from facts presented in
letters from people who have knowledge in the field.
- Short letters are almost always best. Members of Congress receive many
letters each day, and a long one may not get as prompt a reading as a brief
- Letters should be timed to arrive while the issue is alive. Members of the
committee considering the bill will appreciate having your views while the
bill is ripe for study and action.
- Remember to follow through with a thank-you letter.
- Letters that demand votes for or against a certain bill without giving any
reasoning are not very influential.
- Threats of defeat at the next election are not effective.
- Boasts of how influential the writer is are not helpful.
- Do not ask for a vote commitment on a particular bill before the committee
in charge of the subject has had a chance to hear the evidence and make its
- Form letters or letters that include excerpts from other letters on the
same subject are not as influential as a simple letter drawing on your own
- Congressional courtesy requires legislators to refer letters from
non-constituents to the proper offices, so you should generally confine your
letter-writing to members of your state's delegation or members of the
committee specifically considering a bill.
- Do not engage in letter writing overkill. Quality, not quantity, is what
For more advice on writing to your legislator,
see the following sites: