Today I took the dog for a walk and realized that there is a letter that I must write. Near our house, we walk up a once paved road that is now mostly rock and mud. It runs behind several houses then up a hill and ends at some very high priced home sites that are, as yet, unbuilt. In the winter this is a beautiful trail lined with small waterfalls and lush green trees, in summer it is a trail overrun by wildflowers that the neighborhood children enjoy picking. This trail, used regularly by its neighbors, is in danger of disappearing. The developer of the homesites is petitioning the city to repave the trail and make it once again an automobile thoroughfare. This trail is a vital part of our neighborhood, and losing it to another street (that would benefit only the future homeowners of 5 homesites) would distress those who use it regularly to walk the dog, teach their children about nature, or to escape the concrete jungle for a moment of peace.
Choose Your Topic
But, of course, the city planners wonít know this unless we tell them. That is what a letter writing campaign is aboutÖ.telling the people in charge what is important to us. And it is up to each of us to determine what is important, and then appropriately express that opinion. Leaders of government as well as corporate leaders value our opinions, because it is our opinions that keep them in power. Their power to do right (or not) is given to them by us! So, use your power to help create the world in which you want to live. And donít limit yourself to local issues. There are global organizations that conduct letter writing campaigns to create change socially, politically, environmentally and economically around the world. These organizations need us to speak up.
Verify the facts
Before you begin your letter, do your homework. Who is in charge? Get the correct name and title. Find out what has been done to date regarding this issue. Do an internet search on the topic, visit the library and use the very underused and extremely knowledgeable reference librarian, call the local governing body to determine the status of the issue. If you are writing as part of a globally organized letter writing campaign, the organization conducting the campaign will provide thorough background information for your use. Read this information. It is vital that you are knowledgeable on your topic if you want your letter to be read and taken seriously.
Write an Effective Letter
A letter to any corporate or political official must be professional, concise, and personal. Your goal is to get your letter read, and that will not happen if you donít maintain these standards. When you are ready to begin your letter, get out a nice white piece of paper and type your letter. Begin with the correct name, address and title of the official as well as the date. Be sure to include your return address on the letter (not just on the envelope) so that you can request and receive a response. Now organize your thoughts (on a separate piece of paper) and begin writing. Keep the following in mind:
- Your letter should be short while covering all necessary information.
- Be polite and constructive, never inflammatory or accusatory. Presume that the person to whom you are writing is reasonable and treat him or her with due respect.
- Be certain of your facts. One incorrect or insufficiently researched fact will render your entire letter useless. Communicate your understanding of the context of the overall situation as well as the specific issue at hand.
- Be specific about the action you are looking for, donít speak about vague or theoretical ideals.
- Personalize your letter with information about why this issue is important to you, and how it affects you.
- If the organization or person to whom you are writing has taken positive steps on this issue, compliment their action.
- Finally, respectfully request a response to your letter and sign your letter by hand.
If you follow these steps, you can create a dialog between yourself and the official in charge. Become a respected member of this officialís community whose opinion is welcome and desired, and you have made a difference.
If appropriate, send a copy of your letter to the local newspaper. Generating more interest in the issue creates better opportunity to create the desired action. Then, keep track of the result of your action. If you receive a response, acknowledge the response and thank the official for his or her consideration. If the action you requested is carried out, send a thank you letter expressing your appreciation. If you hear nothing and the issue seems to be unresolved, send another letter. We have a voice, but it is only heard if we speak!
About The Author
Leslie Laskin-Reese is a writer and the founder of Letters and Paper (www.lettersandpaper.com), a website dedicated to preserving the fine art of letter writing.