Writing to policymakers
Letters can be a very important tool in advocacy. This also applies when submitting or giving public testimony. Public officials expect to receive mail from constituents. They rely on real-world input to help decide how they will vote. Letters are one of the best ways to communicate your message. You have time to be sure you are understood. It is permanent – they can refer back to the letter as needed.
- You don’t have to be an expert, just explain your point of view.
- If you are a constituent, say so in the first paragraph.
- Be brief. Respect the readers’ time and short messages are easier to remember.
- Be polite, respectful and reasonable. Language that is too strong distracts from your point. But don’t be vague.
- Use your own words – do not use a thesaurus.
- Personal stories and observations are the most persuasive
- Be clear -- avoid jargon or overly technical language.
- Be specific about your concern and what you want the official to do about it.
- It is best to address only one issue in a letter.
- Call the official’s office or visit their website beforehand to get the correct address, title and spelling. For example -- who should be addressed “The Honorable” and who shouldn’t.
- Be sure your letter is legible. It doesn’t have to be typed, but it should be easy to read.
- Ask for a response.
- Include your name, address, phone number and other contact information on the letter. Don’t rely on your return address -- envelopes often get separated from letters.
- Triple check your work. Have a friendly “editor” look it over before you send it.
- If you don’t hear soon, call to be sure the official got your letter. Ask again for a response.
- Share the response with any coalitions or partners you are working with.
- Follow up and find out how the policymaker acted on your issue. Write to thank them, if appropriate.
- You can “recycle” the language in letters to other policymakers, to the same policymaker next year, a letter to the editor or a fact sheet.