Letter writing “Do’s and Don’ts”

Do…

Keep your letters brief — You want your representative or senator to be able to quickly learn and understand the point you are trying to make – don’t let it get lost in a 10 page letter! If you have a lot of facts and figures you think they should have, supply them as an attachment or supplement to your letter. They can then go “in depth” if they choose to.

Focus on one specific topic – A letter should be about one specific issue and not turn into a laundry list of complaints or issues. Again, the reader may lose site of what is important to you if the main issue you are addressing gets lost in a hodge-podge of issues.

Make you letters personal — Hand written notes or letters are obviously more personal and will have a greater impact than pre-printed form letters. Also, personalize your letter if you can by referencing something you know about the senator or representative. For example, if you’re writing a letter less than 6 months after an election, you can start out by writing, “Congratulations on your election victory!” It doesn’t matter if you didn’t vote for them – they don’t know that! If you have ever met the person you are writing to be sure to mention that and remind them how and when you met.

Make a specific request – A letter that asks, “Please support Assembly Bill 100 which will protect my rights as a dog owner” is much better than one that says, “You gotta do something to help us dog owners.”

Include your contact information – Especially on emails! If they cannot see that you are a resident in their district, your email may get discarded.

Don’t…

Threaten them – One of the most frequent mistakes people make is thinking they can get a politician to vote their way by threatening them. “If you don’t vote for that bill me and my family will never vote for you again,” is a very bad way to effectively lobby.

Be rude or disrespectful – Sometimes we think that because they work for us we can treat them any way we want. We have to remember that we are asking them for a favor. We need to treat them with respect and dignity.

Confuse them with jargon – Remember that the person reading your letter will know a lot less about hunting and dogs and guns etc. than you do. Try to avoid writing in what to them may be like a foreign language.

Rely on petitions or form letters – Petitions are likely to be thrown in the trash. The way politicians view it, if somebody believes in something they will take the time to write a letter, send an email, or make a call. Form letters that are obviously just copied, signed, and addressed to “to whom it may concern” are not as bad as petitions – but still not nearly as desirable as personalized letters.

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