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Sustainable Society:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.







How to Prejudge the Effectiveness of Your Letter

How to Write Congress (and others)

Ed Glaze
January 1999


How to Prejudge the Effectiveness of Your Letter
    Questions to Answer
How to Write Congress (and others)
    The Basic Format
    Tips That Can Make Your Letter To A Politician More Effective


How to Prejudge the Effectiveness of Your Letter

These are the points by which your reader will consciously or subconsciously accept or reject your message. Be sure you can answer “yes” to these questions about your letter.

Before all else consider the physical aspects of your correspondence: 

·        Take pride in the letters you send out. 

·        Use quality paper and matching envelopes with dignified letterhead information.

·        Insure your letter has an even and well-balanced appearance by adjusting the margins, spacing and type size—computers make it easy. 

·        All letters should look easy to read and inviting to the eye. Make an effort to keep paragraphs short. 

·        Always insure that you use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation to avoid prejudicing the reader against you and destroying the effectiveness of your letter.

·        Always be courteous and well-mannered. 

·        Don‘t abuse, condemn, criticize or ridicule the reader, no matter what the circumstances. 

·        Know what you want to say and stick to the purpose of your letter. 

·        Don‘t ramble.

Questions to Answer 

 1. Does your letter look neat? Is it faultlessly written or typed, well spaced and balanced, free of noticeable erasures or errors?

 2. Does it look easy to read? Is it concise, with sort sentences and paragraphs?

 3. Is the opening paragraph pertinent and interesting … does it refrain from “acknowledging” and “advising” … thus inviting further reading of the letter?

 4. Is the letter clear and forceful, not involved or cluttered up with meaningless, stereotyped words and phrases?

 5. Does it sound natural … not stilted, officious or affected?

 6. Have you kept your reader’s point of view… his desires, needs and requirements, well in mind? Approached him from his side of the issue, not yours?

 7. Have you told your reader what he wants to know? Have you answered fully and completely all his questions, asked or implied? Does your letter anticipate and answer your reader’s questions?

 8. Have you avoided saying anything that might be vague or misconstrued?

 9. Does your letter sound sincere? Does it sound as though you are really trying to be helpful and considerate of your reader’s feelings, wishes and needs?

 10. Have you said what you should say, specifically and to the point? Is your letter concise… brief without omitting important details, but not so brief that it appears curt?

 11. Does each sentence and paragraph follow in natural sequence so your letter reads easily —doesn’t ramble?

 12. Have you made it as easy as possible for your reader to follow your bidding … are you sure you haven’t asked him to do the impractical or unpleasant?

 13. Have you used sound, logical reasons why your reader should do as you suggest or ask?

 14. Are your closing lines strong and forceful, likely to cause your reader to react favorably to your suggestions or proposals?

 15. Is your letter friendly, likely to build good will, as well as accomplish its purpose?

 16. Is it the kind of letter you yourself would like to receive if you were in the reader’s position? Is it fair and considerate, written in the right tone?


How to Write Congress (and others)

The Basic Format:

 Paragraph 1:

State what you are writing about and what you want your elected official to do. If it involves pending legislation on a controversial issue mention the bill involved.

 Paragraphs 2 and 3:

Give your reasons, emphasizing — where possible — the bill’s impact on you and the district. Avoid lecturing and bringing up other issues which are not directly related.

 Paragraph 4: Restate you position and the action you’re seeking.


Tips That Can Make Your Letter To A Politician More Effective

1. Focus on one subject. Not a single sentence should in any way obscure the letter’s purpose.

 2. Identify a bill by its title and bill number, the person who introduced it and what it will do.

 3. Be courteous. Steer away from emotional outrage.

 4. Ask for specific action. Unless your request is focused, you may receive only a vague response.

 5. Give reasons for taking a stand. It’s not enough to say “I’m opposed.” Give concise, convincing arguments.

 6. One page is usually sufficient. Handwriting may receive more attention than a computer printout, especially one with a form letter appearance.

 7. Offer information they don’t have. If you have expert knowledge, share it. A scientist’s expert opinion may move your letter from a staffperson’s desk right into the congressmembers’ hands.

 8. Send letters to just your own delegation. If you do write a member from another state, make sure to indicate that you sent a copy to your own representative or senators.

 9. Be timely. Your letter won’t be influential if a bill has already passed. A telegram before a vote can help. Western Union offices offer an overnight “Public Opinion Message” to elected officials for $9.95 for 20 words. Call (800) 325-6000.

 10. Follow up. Praise a positive action, and ask members to change positions if they vote wrong.

 11. Write as an individual, not just as a member of some group. Avoid using impersonal form letters or preprinted postcards.

 12. Write as you would talk.
Courtesy of journalist Ed Glaze.
Apparently drawn from The Bantam Book of Correct Letter Writing
 Ed Glaze, January 10, 1999


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