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Writing Elected Officials

Tips for writing to elected officials

By following the tips below, you will enhance the impact that a letter or email will have with an elected official.

Address the letter correctly.
In the address, members of Congress and elected officials are referred to as “The Honorable”.  The salutation should be “Dear Senator” or “Dear Representative.” 

Include your full name and address.
This is to show that you are a constituent.

Limit the letter to one page.
Keep it short if possible.

Limit the letter to one topic.
For example, don’t include your views on increased funding for the National Forests and off-road vehicle use in the same letter.  Most likely, different people in the office handle those issues.

Be specific
If possible give the name and number of the legislation you are writing about.  For example, “I am writing in support of S. XX, the XX Act.”  For funding for a specific program, “I am writing in support of supplemental funding for our storm damaged Forests and Parks.”

Identify yourself as a constituent.
For example, “My name is Jennifer Jones and I live in you district in Vancouver.”  You may also mention that you are a member of the Washington Trails Association (do not imply that you are writing on behalf of that organization without its permission).

Tell personal stories about specific relevant incidents.
For instance, if you are writing to support the increased funding for National Resource Conservation Areas (NRCA), you might say, “As an avid hiker I have spent much time in NRCAs and appreciate the experience provided by these wildlands.” Or “During my most recent trip to the Dishman Hills NRCA I noticed that the trail system is in need of basic upkeep, without proper funding this beautiful area is certain to be lost.” But keep your story short!

Use statistics and factual information to back up your position.

Give examples of how the legislation would impact your community.

Always tell the truth and be gracious.
Be truthful and do not threaten.  Be rational but passionate.

Ask for a specific action on the part of the official.
Some examples include voting for or against a bill, cosponsoring a bill, vetoing or signing a bill.

Ask for a response from the official.
Ask them to explain their position and what they plan to do about the legislation you are writing about.