One of the many wonderful aspects of living in the United States is that we can have a direct
Be courteous and respectful in all communications. Don’t use threats.
influence on the way we are governed. To do so, you need to become your own advocate with Congress. Members of Congress listen to their constituents and care about constituent opinions. But to be effective, you must communicate properly with your representative and senators. Members of Congress are people, too, and as you would react negatively to someone who sent you an angry or threatening letter, so do they. So to be effective, you need to follow some guidelines that are founded on civility and common
Letters, Faxes & E-Mails
Unless you have a personal, first-name relationship with a member of Congress or one of their staff members, the way you guarantee that your communication will be effective is to make sure the receiving office instantly can identify you as a constituent. If they can’t, there is an excellent chance your communication will be discarded without being read. Start each communication with your name and address at the very top:
When writing a member of Congress it’s important to use the proper salutation. For senators it’s “Dear Senator” (and the senator’s last name: Dear Senator Lansing:). For members of the House of Representatives (according to House rules), the way to address female members of the House is “Congresswoman” and male members is “Congressman” (Dear Congresswoman Munster: / Dear Congressman Calumet:). However, using “Dear Representative” (Dear Representative Hammond:) is acceptable.
If you are sending a letter, fax or e-mail already prepared for you, take a minute to put the message into your own words.
If you are sending a letter, fax or e-mail already prepared for you, take a minute to put the message into your own words. And remember, courteously written communications are more likely to be read and have positive impact than a page or two of ravings and rantings.
Here are some other key points to remember in writing to your legislators:
Also, don’t forget that elected officials are people too and they like to be told when they’ve done something right. Send them a congratulatory note when they do something that merits approval.
If you are sending an e-mail to a representative, you won’t receive a response via e-mail but will receive one through the mail (rules of the House — however, you can communicate with House staff members via e-mail). Senators respond to e-mail with e-mail. If you follow these guidelines and establish a working relationship with the elected official or one of their staff, you might be sending and receiving e-mails on a regular basis.
Don’t forget that elected officials are people too and they like to be told when they’ve done something right.
It is very important to remember that all contacts with elected officials must be constructive even if their opinions contrast with your own or those of your organization. It’s one thing to disagree with someone, it’s another thing to be a jerk about it . . . be respectful, courteous, and professional.