Email or Letter
Handwritten letters always receive more attention than preprinted materials. So if you are writing about a general inquiry or topic, taking the extra time to send a physical letter may be worth it. That said, consider the urgency of the matter. If you are writing concerning a pending vote, email is your best option as security screenings may delay receipt of a physical letter by up to three weeks.
What happens to emails and letters once they arrive? A legislative correspondent reads the messages and verifies if the sender is a constituent. Messages are then routed or tallied:
- Important or compelling correspondence is given to a legislative assistant.
- Unique and moving messages are shared with the member of Congress.
- A summary of emails and letters received is given at an issue briefing before a vote.
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.
Tips for Writing your Member of Congress
Write letters only about the issues of greatest importance to you. That way you don’t dilute your influence or your message. Each letter should be:
State your subject clearly in the email subject line or first sentence of the letter. Stick to just one issue in the letter.
Identify yourself as a constituent. State your views, support them with your expert knowledge and, when appropriate, cite the bill number of relevant legislation (e.g., H.R. 1234 or S.3456).
Ask for the policymaker’s point of view and how he or she plans to vote on relevant legislation. Expect an answer to a letter, though it may be a form response. Replies to email vary by office; not all reply.
- Factual & Courteous
Rely on the facts, but personalize the issue. Explain how the issue affects your life. Avoid personal attacks, threats of political influence or demands.
Be positive about your issue and offer recommendations about how you want the member to address concerns.
Always explain the hometown relevance of the issue. Use “I” statements and cite specific times and examples.
Offer to provide additional information if needed, and provide your contact information.
Remember to thank members for their attention. Follow the issue and thank them later if they vote your way.
Keep your letter to one page, or your email to 500 words or less.
Addressing your letter
When addressing your letter, use the following format:
For Your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room Number) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator (last name):
For Your House Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room Number) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative (last name):
The above addresses should be used in email messages, as well as those sent through the Postal Service.
Take the Next Step
To find and contact your US Senator:
- Visit the Senate website (www.senate.gov).
- Conduct a search using the Find Your Senators pull-down menu in the upper left corner (select your state and click Go).
- On the results page is a link to the Senators’ website, contact information, and links to an online contact form (forms vary by Senator).
To find and contact your US Representative:
- Visit the House of Representatives website (www.house.gov).
- Conduct a search using the Find Your Representative zip code search box in the upper right corner (enter your zip code and click Go).
- On the results page is a photo of your Representative(s), links to the Representative’s personal website and online contact form, and a local map.
- In the event your zip code overlaps with multiple congressional districts, the results page will include boxes for you to enter your zip code+4 or mailing address to find the correct Representative.
If you have any questions or comments about contacting your member of congress or you want some guidance or help, reach out to Dave via email at email@example.com.