Communicate Your Thoughts Coherently, Concisely, and Correctly
In this age of easy communication through the Internet, letter writing seems to have gone the way of the horse and buggy; yet many government leaders, corporate executives, and others in positions of leadership still respond more often to the written word on a piece of paper than to emails and telephone calls.
To make sure your letters are read, there are certain elements you must remember to include:
- Keep your correspondence to one page if possible and always follow a professional format.
- Keep to one point in your letter. If you have several issues you wish to write on, write several letters.
- Get to the point immediately in the first paragraph. If you are writing about a specific event, bill, or situation, make sure you give all the pertinent information so the reader knows exactly what you are writing about.
- Briefly state your personal interest in the issue. Include legitimate facts. Be careful not to rant or exaggerate information. If you have credentials pertinent to the subject, make sure you mention them.
- Make sure you ask the recipient to do something—a call to action—at the beginning and again at the end. Make sure your request is clear and specific.
- Write to those government officials (local, state, federal) who represent you. If your representatives do not serve on a committee where an important bill or issue awaits review, write them urging they cosponsor or vote for (or against) the bill once it moves out of committee.
- Prior to writing your legislators, check their position regarding a bill or issue. Do they already sponsor the bill? Did they vote for or against it in committee? Do they support animal issues in general? Simply visiting a legislator’s website will give you a good idea of where he or she stands on an issue.
- Check the status of the bill. What committee is it in? Has it gone to the full floor for a vote? Did it already pass, or fail, sometime ago?
- If you are writing to a corporation, make sure you have the correct name of the chief executive or president of the corporation and the correct mailing address.
- When writing to a for-profit organization, let them know of your connection to their product or service; for an example, you’re a customer.
- If you are writing to a government agency (local, state, or federal), make sure you have the correct name of the director or administrator of the agency and the correct mailing address.
- Not all letters need to address what the business or agency is doing wrong. Writing letters to organizations and legislators letting them know you are pleased with their stance is another way to get your message across.
Please check out Examples of Action Letters page for inspiration and models.
Writing to editors of newspapers and magazines is another way to bring your message to the public. Check the publication guidelines for submissions; many publications limit the number of words they will print in a letter to the editor. Make all of your words count by being direct, polite, and concise. Letters should be timely and written for the intended reader of the publication. Make sure you include your contact information. Letters can be both a call for change as well as congratulations on something or to someone doing a good deed for animals.
While email is more informal than a letter sent through the postal service, you should still be polite, specific, and appropriate in your request and your supporting arguments. Some organizations prefer you send your email to them off their website, others you can send to the email address of a designated spokesperson for the organization. As with a letter, always state your reason for writing in the first sentence. Follow that with justification for your request. Then end by reiterating your request.
Just as with a letter, make sure you have the correct person or department. Before you place a call, make an outline of your points. Make sure you have accurate facts to support your position. And, as with a letter, make sure your call to action is stated at the beginning of your call and at the end. State the issue clearly and concisely. Sometimes you may have to leave a message. Having your outline handy will allow you to leave a coherent, clear, concise message.
Legislators, government officials, and private industry leaders receive hundreds, if not thousands, of communications weekly. Some come in the form of prepared emails, letters, postcards, and petitions advocating on a wide range of issues. In a world where information is transmitted with great speed, these communications are a powerful way to rapidly mount large campaigns and enable citizens to act quickly on important issues.
Yet, despite the growing convenience that form correspondence offers, it is vital that we as individuals also use our own voices through personal phone calls, emails, and letters when contacting these individuals. Simply put, the “personal touch” still remains one of the most effective, memorable, and sincere ways to express your view on issues from the local to national level.
Because legislators, government officials, and private industry leaders are inundated with pre-formatted communications on thousands of issues, a personal letter or email is often more noticeable and garners quicker attention—plus, taking the time and effort to write your own communication is a strong statement about how much you care about the issue. The same is true for personal phone calls. Let us not forget perhaps the most powerful tool each of us has—our own voice.