Ever heard of the old adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease? Nowhere does that hold truer than in Washington, DC. Correspondence from constituents and special interest groups inundate Capitol Hill on a daily basis. It is the most effective means to capture their attention and gauge public sentiment about particular issues; but if written in haste, correspondence can do more harm than good.
Here are some useful tips for writing your member. Whether you elect to follow them or not, just remember that your letter is one of many received each day. The way you present your concerns will determine to a large extent the reply you receive.
- Keep the letter brief and to the point.
- Write on office, fire department or personal letterhead, and sign your name over your typed name at the end of your letter.
- Write only about one issue per letter, stating your position in the first paragraph. Personal experiences are the best supporting evidence.
- Avoid combative or argumentative language.
- If you have met the member of Congress personally or have some connection or association beyond being a constituent, highlight it in your letter.
- Ask the member of Congress to state his or her position in the reply.
- Write your letter well in advance of pending congressional action to give your member of Congress the timely opportunity to make an informed decision.
- Know your facts. Erroneous information will hurt your credibility.
- Express your own ideas and opinions. Do not use standard phrases which often give the appearance of a form letter.
- Do not write on impulse. Have someone review your letter for content and grammar. Show that you put some time and thought into it. You might reveal something for the first time which can heavily influence a member’s position.
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