Short-and-sweet, specific, and personal carries the day.
- Be courteous and respectful without “gushing.”
- Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter. If it’s about a certain bill, identify it correctly.
- Say who you are. Anonymous letters go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number and email address. If you don’t include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.
- State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have, especially those pertaining to the subject of your letter.
- Keep your letter short — one page is best.
- Use specific examples or evidence to support your position.
- State what it is you want to be done or recommend a course of action.
- Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.
People who think members of the US Congress pay little or no attention to constituent mail are just plain wrong. Concise, well thought out personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing the lawmakers they elect.
Members of Congress get hundreds of letters and emails every day, so you will want your letter stand out. Whether you choose to use the US Postal Service or email, here are some tips that will help you write a letter to Congress that has an impact.
It’s usually best to send letters to the representative from your local congressional district or the senators from your state. Your vote helps elect them — or not — and that fact alone carries a lot of weight. It also helps personalize your letter. Sending the same “cookie-cutter” message to every member of Congress may grab attention but rarely much consideration.
It’s also a good idea to think about the effectiveness of all of your communication options. For instance, a face-to-face meeting at an event, town hall, or the representative’s local office can often leave the biggest impression.
That is not always an option though. Your next best bet for expressing your opinion is a formal letter, then a phone call to their office. While email is convenient and quick, it may not have the same influence as the other, more traditional, routes.