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A face to face visit may be the most effective way of contacting your legislator. When this is not possible a personal letter may be the next best choice, giving tangible evidence of your concerns.
The easier your position can be explained, the more likely it is that a legislator will be persuaded to accept it. Boil down the issue to the simplest, most essential facts and arguments.
Mail vs. Fax/Email
As a rule, the substance of the communication is more important than the form. However, mailing your letter is still the most preferable way to send your correspondence to an elected official.
If timeliness is your key concern, use email or fax to send your message. However, do not send identical letters through more than one venue (i.e.: faxing and also mailing a hard copy).
Personal Letters vs. Form Letters
Using your own words has more impact than simply forwarding a form letter. Form letters can serve as good models for composing your own personal response, but including a personalized note or anecdote makes a higher impact.
Dear Senator/Representative [Name],
Say why you are writing
- Say something about the current situation
- Identify yourself
- Add a personal touch - your story here!
- An optional closing, re-stating your position
[Signature and Name]
Members of Congress and the State Legislature receive surprisingly few letters from their constituents. They pay a lot of attention to those they do receive.
Do's and Don'ts for Writing
- Do use personal or business letterhead, if you have it. If not, write your complete address on the letter - envelopes get lost.
- Do hand write your letter if your writing is legible; if not, type it, but always sign by hand. If your signature isn't legible, print or type your name underneath.
- Do identify your bill by number, within the first few sentences of the letter if possible.
- Do be relatively brief and stick with a single issue. Keep your letter to one page, although you could add a one-page sheet, newsletter article or other enclose.
- Do be sure to thank the official, even if they don't support your position.
- Don't just add your name to a form letter. Try to say things in your own words. Even if you have a sample letter to follow, change it around so it sounds individual.
- Don't use petitions. One personal letter has much more impact than 100 names on a petition.