1. Often the best time to write a legislator is a month or so before the legislative session begins. He has more time to read and think about your letter. A week or so after you send your letter, call the legislator on the phone to jog his memory. Most state legislators prefer phone calls at home, and publish the number that they want you to use.
2. Make sure that your letter includes your return address and your home phone number. You might get a letter or a phone call in return.
3. State your purpose in the first sentence. If you’re writing to support or oppose a bill, identify it by number and name at the beginning of your letter.
4. Stick with one issue per letter. Don’t try to eradicate crime, improve schools, and save the whales in one letter.
5. Letters to officials should be as short as possible, only a few paragraphs at most, whatever it takes to get your point across.
6. Yes, you may disagree with a public official, even the President of the United States! But you must do it politely. Never write a rude letter, and never threaten!
7. It is always nice to give a compliment. Including something good about what a public official has done shows that you are an involved citizen, starts your communication off on a positive note, and might make the legislator more willing to listen!
8. You do not need to apologize for taking up the legislators’ time. His job is to listen to people, even young people! Being a student might just work in your favor.
9. If you should write to a legislator other than the one who represents your area, send a copy of your letter to your own representative. Not only is this good manners, but you may get help from your representative, too!
1. Sue Davis, American Political Thought (Englewood Clifts: Prentice Hall, 1996) 85.
2. Richard C. Sinopoli, From Many One (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1997) 176.
3. Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, (http://www.monticello.org/Day/cabinet/fun.html).
4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, (http://www.monticello.org/Day/cabinet/fun.html).
5. Paul LeClerc, et al. New York Public Library American History Desk Reference (New York: Macmillan, 1997) 338-339.
6. Paul LeClerc, New York Public Library American History Desk Reference, et al. 314-315.
7. Benjamin P. Thomas, Abraham Lincoln: A Biography (New York: Random House, 1968) 273.