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How to Write Letters to Congress: a Tutorial (Optional Video Tutorial Included)

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posted on Jan, 30 2013 @ 05:21 PM
How To: Write Letters to Congress

With all that people are either upset over or even happy about with the U.S. I figured I would post this tutorial (in addition, a video tutorial for those that don't wish to read the tutorial). With all credit going to the writer (and creator of the optional video included at the end of this thread)
Robert Longley.

Robert has logged over 26 years of experience in municipal government in Texas and California cities. He has also served as About's Guide to U.S. Government since October 1997. You can also read more about Robert's current and past work on his Google Profile: Robert Longley.

Perhaps this tutorial will provide individuals (members of ATS and lurkers alike) with at least the basics in regards to effective communication when writing letters to the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government.

In turn, if enough people properly make their elected officials aware of their concerns (or praise for that matter) in regards to the way this country is run then all of the effort that is given towards what may be considered an unconventional means of expressing one's views and opinions may not fall on deaf ears when properly composed and delivered.

So, you're going to write your Congressman? Good idea. Make it a good letter.

People who think members of Congress pay little or no attention to constituent mail, are plain wrong. Concise, well thought out personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing law-makers. But, members of Congress get hundreds of letters and emails every day. Whether you choose to use the Postal Service or email, here are some tips that will help your letter have impact.

Think Locally

It's usually best to send letters to the representative from your local Congressional District or the senators from your state. Your vote helps elect them -- or not -- and that fact alone carries a lot of weight. It also helps personalize your letter. Sending the same "cookie-cutter" message to every member of Congress may grab attention but rarely much consideration.

Keep it Simple

Your letter should address a single topic or issue. Typed, one-page letters are best. Many PACs (Political Action Committees) recommend a three-paragraph letter structured like this:

    1. Say why you are writing and who you are. List your "credentials." (If you want a response, you must include your name and address, even when using email.)

    2. Provide more detail. Be factual not emotional. Provide specific rather than general information about how the topic affects you and others. If a certain bill is involved, cite the correct title or number whenever possible.

    3. Close by requesting the action you want taken: a vote for or against a bill, or change in general policy.

The best letters are courteous, to the point, and include specific supporting examples.

Addressing Members of Congress

To Your Senator:

    The Honorable (full name)
    (Room #) (Name) Senate Office Building
    United States Senate
    Washington, DC 20510

    Dear Senator:

To Your Representative:

    The Honorable (full name)
    (Room #) (Name) House Office Building
    United States House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515

    Dear Representative:

The above addresses should be used in email messages, as well as those sent through the Postal Service.

Finding Their Addresses
Senate and House of Representatives

U.S. Senators (web sites and mailing addresses)

Write Your U.S. Representative (A service of the House that will assist you by identifying your Congressperson in the U.S. House of Representatives and providing contact information.

He even includes the Judicial Branch:

U.S. Supreme Court
Contact Information - US Supreme Court
The Justices do not have email addresses, but they do read letters from citizens.

The Conclusion

To Conclude

Here are some key things you should always and never do in writing to your elected representatives.

    1. Be courteous and respectful without "gushing."

    2. Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter. If it's about a certain bill, identify it correctly. If you need help in finding the number of a bill, use the Thomas Legislative Information System.

    3. Say who you are. Anonymous letters go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number and email address. If you don't include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.

    4. State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have, especially those pertaining to the subject of your letter.

    5. Keep your letter short -- one page is best.

    6. Use specific examples or evidence to support your position.

    7. State what it is you want done or recommend a course of action.

    8. Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.


    1. Use vulgarity, profanity, or threats. The first two are just plain rude and the third one can get you a visit from the Secret Service. Simply stated, don't let your passion get in the way of making your point,

    2. Fail to include your name and address, even in email letters.

    3. Demand a response.

Identifying Legislation

Cite these legislation identifiers when writing to members of Congress:

House Bills: "H.R._____"
House Resolutions: "H.RES._____"
House Joint Resolutions: "H.J.RES._____"
Senate Bills: "S._____"
Senate Resolutions: "S.RES._____"
Senate Joint Resolutions: "S.J.RES._____"

There are other very useful links on the page but I thought this particular tutorial would be a good thread as well as a good addition to ATS.

Here is the link to the Video Tutorial: Video:How to Write a Letter to Congress

Personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing law-makers, so citizens should write a letter to congress with ideas. See how to effectively write a letter to congress.

Happy writing

I would be remiss if I didn't end the thread with this quote...

"The pen is mightier than the sword"
edit on 1/30/2013 by UberL33t because: typos

posted on Jan, 30 2013 @ 05:27 PM
If ATS had a central collection of the top reference threads for practical use...this one would have my vote!

Thanks for taking the time on sharing solid and valuable information others may very well come to use! (Myself included.

posted on Jan, 30 2013 @ 06:02 PM
if you write a letter you'll most likely get a letter back.

how about writing a tutorial on how to make an appointment with your senator and find out what you want to know.

in the united states he is your representative, if you don't approve what he is doing you can ask him to stop doing it if it is affecting you negatively.

he is your senator.

posted on Jan, 30 2013 @ 07:00 PM
reply to post by randomname

Actually, they have a whole formula worked out in elected offices to figure out representation based on method of contact. Email represents xx number of people ... phone calls are xx number and meeting in person raises to the top level.

Of course it's better to meet in person but not everyone can do that in distance or time. If not? Writing a letter does represent the most people for their charts. It's the best method, IMO if an appointment simply won't work.

(Senators only come 2 to a state for example. Texas may be a LOOONG drive for most people)

posted on Jan, 30 2013 @ 07:59 PM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Indeed I would have to agree that a letter or even email would be easier but if one can make an appointment then by all means do so.

To the poster above you, I don't think a tutorial would be necessary for a face to face however. It would most likely start with a call to inquire about scheduling an appointment but, I would think that most of the above tutorial would apply to a face to face meeting as well, but then you'd also have to shower and gussy yourself up so...

Thanks for the kind words in your first post Wrabbit

edit on 1/30/2013 by UberL33t because: structure

posted on Jan, 31 2013 @ 07:53 AM
I wanted to give this thread a morning bump to the Recent Posts. I have this great knack of posting threads at the absolute worst opportune time. Being that the U.S. crowd is presumably beginning their morning stir on ATS I wanted to cycle this back through.

It really is good information. I have written my State Representative before and though by nature I did adhere to most of the Do's in the OP, there were still elements I neglected to include. Having this knowledge will assuredly make for a better letter should I ever decide to write another and perhaps it will do the same for those reading this thread.

edit on 1/31/2013 by UberL33t because: typos

posted on Jan, 31 2013 @ 08:42 AM
Thanks for this info. Maybe this will help in receiving responses to my emails to my congressmen and senators.

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