A comprehensive guide to writing an effective letter to an elected representative.


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The Wiry Irishman
November 19, 2008, 07:12 PM
Like everyone else on the board I'm greatly concerned about what the next four years might have in store for us, so I'm getting out my pen and paper so I can make my views known to my various representatives. I haven't done much of this, however, so I started this thread to get the opinions of some of the members that have been active for much longer than I have, both for my own use and for something other people new to this to find via the search function.

To start out, common sense tells me that my letter should be:

-Hand-written (LEGIBLY)
-Snail-mailed
-Polite
-Proofread (multiple times, preferably. A single misspelled word could make me seem unintelligent and take all credibility from my argument)
-Logical (in regards to construction of argument, don't want to hop around or make unconnected jumps in reasoning)
-Concise

I'm also thinking that rather than writing a single "here's what I believe and why I believe it" letter and sending it to all my various representatives that I would research their positions and voting records and try to tailor my argument specifically to each of them. Everyone has some sort of right they like to champion, whether it's gay rights, right to life, right to choice, etc, and it would be very easy to draw a parallel between any of those and the right to keep and bear arms. Does this sound like a wise decision? Any input would be appreciated.

I'm also unsure as to what tone my letter should take. Almost all the writing I do is very technical and very dry, and while a long list of facts and statistics would appeal to some people, it will put others off. The same would go for the inverse, with a letter full of philosophy and emotion. I don't think there's a way I could find out which of my representatives prefer which kind of argument, so some sort of middle ground is in order. What has worked well for you in the past?

Don't limit your input to my questions or suggestions. Post anything at all you've found effective in the past, and any tips you can think of from how to construct a moving argument to the proper way to greet them at the beginning of the letter. Anything. Thank you very much in advance for your input.

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JohnKSa
November 19, 2008, 08:15 PM
I don't really think that the letter needs to be hand-written these days, it just needs to be obvious that it's not a form letter.

It's good that you have concise on the list but it needs to be the FIRST item on the list. IMO if you can't condense what you need to say into a couple of paragraphs and perhaps 200 words then you might as well forget it.

That will also help keep the letter logical since it's far less likely that the point will get lost (either to the reader or writer).

Polite is good, but it's important to remember that if the letter is going to be read at all it's going to be read by someone who reads a LOT of letters. IMO it's better to get right to the point than it is to spend a lot of time on niceties.

BullfrogKen
November 19, 2008, 10:23 PM
Brevity.
Brevity.
and more brevity.

Oh, and be concise. I have a problem with it myself.

Unless you've got a specific bone to pick with one of your reps, I wouldn't say much beyond something congratulatory. These guys get letters, e-mails and phone calls all the time. From people compaining about the neighbor's dog, to the increase in the cost of their water bill, to the just plain nuts with too much time on their hands.

Perhaps something like, "Congratulations on your election. I'm interested in preserving our gun rights. I know you ran on a platform to protect them. You can count on my support when you stand up to oppose any anti-gun bills."

Or if his gun rights position is weak, or maybe even negative, "You've supported anti-gun positions in the past. We don't have to see eye to eye on every issue. If you stand up to oppose gun restrictions, I'll stand beside you. Otherwise I'll have to work to oppose you."


Just take it from there. It helps to add examples, or hot issues in your area for the local politicians.

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