Grassroots letter writing tips

Written on Feb 28, 2014

During the legislative session, much of your representative's time is spent at the capitol, so most of your communications should be sent to that address. When writing to a legislator, it is important to keep the following guidelines in mind:
  • Use your personal or company stationery. Include your return address on the letter, if it is not on the letterhead.

  • State the reason for writing, and include a bill number and/or the issue of concern in the first sentence or two. 

  • If you extend an invitation to participate in a special event or request a meeting, suggest a time and date, or several dates, for the visit. Be flexible. Also, indicate how much time you would like with the legislator and explain the purpose of the meeting.

  • If applicable, provide brief background information about your practice or business/industry.

  • Keep your comments short and to the point. If you are writing to express your views, address only one issue per letter, and try to keep the entire letter to one page.

  • If you are communicating your views about an issue, explain how the issue would affect you, your clients or business, your livelihood, and any specific impact it would have. Personal stories you can share will be more memorable than simply sharing facts.

  • If you know where your legislator stands on the issue, acknowledge this position in your letter. If it concurs with your own, don't spare the praise. If it conflicts with your view, be courteous but do not hesitate to state your beliefs and request that the legislator reconsider his or her position.

  • If you have written previously on the same issue, acknowledge any reply you had received. Don't write so often that your letters become an annoyance.

  • Don't be threatening. Be reasonable, courteous, and respectful in all communications.

  • Be constructive. If a bill addresses a problem but seems to put forth the wrong solution, propose constructive alternatives. (Ask OSCPA for help as needed.)

  • Avoid form letters and trite phrases and sentences that give the appearance of form letters. OSCPA will provide you with talking points for you to customize, because communications that are written in your own words reflect your personality. Always type your letters.

  • Don't forget to write when your legislator does something that deserves approval or thanks.  

  • Write to express your disappointment when the legislator fails to support your position on an issue. Let the legislator know that you are attentive to his or her actions. Don't be rude.

  • Always bear in mind that the legislator may support your view on future issues even if they aren’t with you on the issue at hand.

  • Address the letter correctly. On the envelope and on the inside address refer to the elected official as "The Honorable (first and last name)."

For a member of the Ohio House of Representatives:

The Honorable (name)
Ohio House of Representatives
77 S. High Street
Columbus, OH  43215

For a member of the Ohio Senate:

The Honorable (name)
Ohio Senate
Columbus, OH   43215
Your greeting at the opening of the letter should read:

Dear (Representative or Senator) (last name):

When writing to the chair of a committee or the Speaker of the House, it is proper to address them as Dear Mr. Chairman or Madam Chairwoman; or as Dear Mr./Ms. Chairman or Speaker.

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