These are, indeed, strange times. And, over the past year, I have found myself feeling anxious or even fearful about the future; When there were empty shelves at the grocery store and the sky turned red from smoke, I felt some pretty intense emotions.
My training as a yoga teacher and my experience as an activist have helped me develop practices that I lean on during times when the future feels uncertain: I write. I first turn to my personal journal to gain clarity about my feelings and then I turn to my ability to help shape the future by writing a thoughtful letter to a politician (or two).
As a citizen from a democratic nation, I feel that we have a responsibility to communicate our values, observations, needs, and informed opinions with our political representatives. While voting is the most important component of a citizen’s participation in their democracy, one must never underestimate the value of a great letter.
Open letters have become important “vehicle(s) for literary activism” and, in many situations, have led to meaningful change. Another effective type of letter is one written directly to a political leader. Though the effect of a direct letter may be more difficult to measure, the ACLU and several politicians maintain that personal, polite, and well researched letters do make a difference and are an effective way to communicate with elected officials.
But, when you have something to say, what should you write?
In this post, I’ve included concise, clear guidelines for crafting a letter to a political leader. Hope it’s helpful.
Establish who you are in the opening sentence.
- Introduce yourself, including any relevant qualifications
- Describe your relationship with the political leader to whom you are writing
- Voter, constituent, campaign volunteer/donor, fellow party member, etc.
- If you have personally met this representative, mention it!
State your reason for writing this letter.
- Identify the issue
- Including the name of a specific legislation, policy, event, etc.
- Explain how this issue affects you personally
Include a brief, yet specific call to action.
- Ensure that this call to action is something they can actually do
Main Body of the Letter
In paragraphs 2, 3, and 4, support your argument by focusing on three important points.
- Address one point in each paragraph
- If possible, try to write so that the first point supports the second, and so on
- Provide links to relevant information and ensure that you only use credible sources
- Briefly acknowledge opposing views and include a concise rebuttal
In the last (5th) paragraph of your letter, tell your representative what you would like them to do in response to your letter.
- Restate your call-to-action
- Briefly restate the issue and how it impacts you personally
- Ask for a reply
- “I look forward to reading your response.”
- Sign your letter
- Include your contact information
Additional Writing Tips
Be respectful and courteous.
- Do your very best to present a clear and logical argument.
- Do not use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, as it is more difficult to read and may reflect poorly.
- Ensure that the letter is no more than one page or 500 words.
- If you have not received a reply within a reasonable time-frame, send an email to:
- Thank your representative for taking the time to read your letter and
- Reiterate that you hope they will respond soon.