Writing a Letter to a Government
Writing a letter can be an effective way of
making your voice heard in your town,
county, state or in Washington, D.C. To give
your correspondence the most impact:
Address only one issue in each
Be brief. Try to keep your letter to
Be courteous, but make your point and
don't be too apologetic about it. If
you're angry or feel strongly, you can
let that show, but be polite.
State your specific purpose or
position in the first paragraph of the
Refer to specific legislation by
number and title.
Mention whether you are a constituent,
or identify another connection with the
State why you support or oppose a
particular measure. Don't concede the
other side's points, even if you agree
Personalize your letter. If you must
use a form letter, type or write it over
Before sending an e-mail letter in
response to a legislative issue, call
the legislator's office and ask his or
her staff if e-mail from constituents is
given any credence by that particular
legislator. Use normal rules of
etiquette for sending e-mail.
Your letter may be read by an office
staff member, who will report to the
legislator the volume of correspondence
and its general content.
These people may deal with many
issues, and huge amounts of
correspondence. It is important for your
letter to be concise and clear.
To a Federal Senator:
The Honorable (name)
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
To a Federal Representative:
The Honorable (name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Congressman or
To a State Senator or a State
The Honorable (name)
(state capital address)
Dear Assemblyman or Assemblywoman
Representative___________: OR Dear
Delegate____________: (depending on the
title used in that state)
Meeting with a Government Official
Meetings with legislators can be a very
productive way of communicating, although
some may be able to meet personally with
only a tiny fraction of their constituents.
To give your meeting the maximum effect:
Schedule an appointment in advance.
Plan, time and rehearse your comments
prior to the meeting.
Be on time. The government official
may be late, but you shouldn't be.
Be prepared to wait. Legislators'
schedules are often very hectic.
Appoint a spokesperson who will do the
talking for the group beforehand if you
go with a small group.
Get to the main purpose of your visit
in the first five minutes.
Other group members may add comments,
but they should only be to reinforce or
elaborate on your main point.
Expect the meeting to be brief. If the
legislator wants to keep talking, that's
Answer any questions accurately and
briefly. If you don't know the answer,
say so and offer to follow up.
End by asking the government official
to do what you want him or her to do,
such as, "Will you vote for Senate
Leave a one-page statement of your
issue and position.
If you meet with a staff aide instead
of the legislator, remember that
educating the staff is very important,
too. Many legislators rely heavily on
their staff's advice.
Follow up with a thank-you letter,
answers to any of the legislator's
questions that were not handled during
the meeting or any other information you
offered to gather for the legislator on
Calling A Government Official
When there is no time to write a letter, a
phone call to your legislator's office can
be effective in delivering a quick, simple
message. To give your phone call impact:
Plan exactly what you want to say
before you call.
When you place your call to a state or
federal official, ask to speak to that
person's legislative assistant who
handles the issue you are interested in.
If you get to speak to the state or
federal Senator or Representative
directly, that's a bonus.
If you are calling a town, city or
county official, they may or may not
have an office staff, depending on the
size of the locality. If they do have a
staff, ask to speak to the staff
assistant who handles the issue you are
calling about. If they do not have a
staff, you will probably get to speak
directly to the legislator.
Make your message short and simple.
State your name and your main point:
"Please vote in favor of the
amendments to Code Section 10" or
"Please vote against Senate Bill
123." Then say why in a few
End by repeating your name, where you
live and/or your connection to the
legislator's jurisdiction. Give a phone
number and offer to provide more
information if the legislator requests
If the person who handles your issue
is not available, leave your name and
phone number. If your call is to support
or oppose an upcoming vote, also give
your main point as part of the message.
If you don't know a federal
legislator's direct number, call the
Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and
ask for that Senator or Representative's
Look in the telephone book for
listings of government offices to find
telephone numbers for state and local
Follow up with a letter if there is
Legislative Alerts, http://www.akc.org/news/sections/legislative_alerts.cfm
and click on Legislative Alerts A site that
I find the most helpful is, http://www.pet-law.com/
for tips, ideas and strategies on voicing
your opinions to your Senator and
Representatives. If you need assistance
locating your Senator or House
Representative (State, Federal or even
Canadian), go to http://www.mydogvotes.com
and click on FIND YOUR LEGISLATORS.