Sending a letter or an email is a great way to communicate your thoughts and feelings to policymakers because it allows you to think about your message, write it down, and then edit it until you feel comfortable with what you are sending. It is also a good alternative to calling on the phone if you are concerned you may get “stage fright” or trouble understanding what is being said.

Here are some general guidelines for writing letters and emails to your representative:

  • Your letter or email should address a single topic, issue, or bill.
  • If you are mailing your letter, typed, one-page letters are best.
  • The best letters and emails are courteous, to the point, and include specific supporting examples.
  • Always say why you are writing and who you are.  (If you want a response, you must include your name and address, even when using email.)
  • Provide detail.
  • Be factual not emotional.
  • Provide specific rather than general information about how the topic affects you and others.
  • If a certain bill is involved, cite the correct title or number whenever possible.
  • Close by requesting the action you want taken: a vote for or against a bill, or change in general policy.
  • As a general rule, emails are usually shorter and more to the point.

Personalized letters and emails can have a big impact on policymakers. As a result, advocacy organizations often draft what are called “form letters,” which allow you to simply fill in your contact information and send it to all of your representatives. These letters make it easier for individuals to contact his or her legislators, thereby increasing the volume of letters received on a particular topic. However, you may want to think twice before sending a form letter. Many legislators worry that form messages don’t reflect the sender’s position. They also may be concerned that the message may have been sent without the constituent’s knowledge.

Whenever possible, write your own email or letter, even if you borrow points from a form letter. The message can be simple and to the point.