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Writing Effective Letters to Congress and Your State/Local Legislators

When it is not possible to meet personally with your Members of Congress, letter writing is another effective way to lobby. The letter is still the most widely used form of communication. Delivered by the truckload to congressional offices, the mail is a major focal point for the legislator and his or her staff. Each letter is read by the appropriate staff person and answered, and the amount of mail on a particular issue frequently helps to determine the representative’s position on an issue.n

If you decide to write to a Member of Congress, or other elected official, the following is a list of helpful suggestions that will increase the effectiveness and impact of your correspondence:

  • The most effective type of letter is one that expresses a message in your own words. Sample letters are often provided by AFA or your Local Council Government Affairs Committee . These should serve as a basis for your own letter.
  • Typing a letter is fine, but a handwritten letter in clear script is best.
  • Address only one issue in the letter and keep it to a single page.
  • Send letters to your Representative and both Senators. It is fine to send the same letter, but do not photocopy the same letter and simply put different names at the top.
  • Your purpose for writing the letter should be clearly stated in the first paragraph. Always mention that you are a member of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO. Also, if you are a constituent, mention this as well.
  • Identify AFA’s position in your opening statement and restate at the conclusion of the letter. If your letter references a specific piece of legislation include this information, e.g. if you are writing a U.S. House member refer to House Bill H.R. # and if you are writing to a Senator refer to senate Bill S. #.
  • Keep your position and discussion brief, but complete.
  • Be sure to put your return address following your signature.

Due to post-9/11 mail restrictions on Capitol Hill, consider sending your letter via fax or e-mail. Posting your letter via regular mail may take longer than usual to arrive.

If you don’t know who your Representative or Senators are, please call the U.S. Capitol at 202-224-3121 or visit the House of Representative’s website at www.house.gov or the U.S. Senate’s website at www.senate.gov.

Addressing Letters

To a Senator:

The Honorable (full name)
United States Senate
Washington , DC 20510
Dear Senator (last name):

To a House Member:

The Honorable (full name)
United States House of Representatives
Washington , DC 20515
Dear Representative (last name)

To a Governor/Mayor

The Honorable (full name)
Dear Governor (last name) or Dear Mayor (last name)

Tips on Writing a Letter to the Editor

One of the best ways to get the public engaged in our issues and to educate Congress about the concerns of their constituents is to write letters to the editor of Local paper. Below are a few tips for writing these letters.

  • Reference a Recent Article: If possible, it is best to include a reference to recent article that appeared in the newspaper you've selected and then write your letter as a response, building on what was printed or pointing out how your viewpoint isn't included. This greatly increases the likelihood that your letter will be printed.
  • Include Your Contact Information: Most newspapers will only print a letter to the editor after calling the author to verify his or her identity and address. Newspapers will not give out that information and will usually only print your name and city should your letter be published.
  • Be Clear and Concise: Keep your letters brief and to the point. Newspaper editors often edit for length, so try to keep your letter to less than 200 words. The shorter it is, the more likely it will be printed.
  • State Your Point Early: Be sure to state your main point in the subject line and in the first sentence of the letter.
  • Keep to One Topic: Keep your letters focused on one subject. Use AFA communications as a basis for your message.

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