Take Action

Take Action

Contacting (calling or writing) your senators and representatives – whether locally, in Madison or in Washington – is one of the best ways to have an impact on their decisions. Just choose what you’d like to call about, and then follow this step-by-step guide to making your voice heard. It only takes a few minutes!

You can find your representative’s contact information here

Letter Writing Tips

One of the most effective ways to speak up on public issues is through the Letters-To-The-Editor section of your newspaper. Readership surveys show that this is one of the most widely read features of any paper. Political figures in your area watch this section since it is generally a forum for political opinions and reflects the mood of the voters. Don’t forget to write directly to your representatives either!

Some letter writing tips, compiled from the Heritage Foundation and the National Taxpayer’s Union (NTU):
Some letter writing tips, compiled from the Heritage Foundation and the National Taxpayer’s Union (NTU):
1. Letters are used to respond to recent articles, editorials or columns appearing in that paper, or to recent/upcoming news events. Your letter is more likely to get printed if it’s responding to a recent article – don’t delay. Reference the previous article or event in the first line, to help set the stage for the point you will make. Letters Editors like controversy, so viewpoints different from the author of that article attract their attention.
2. Your message should be short and concise. Keep the length of your response to that of the average one published in that paper. If you write longer, it may not be used, or it will be severely edited for length. Make only ONE point. Don’t ramble. Use caps and lower case, NOT ALL CAPS LIKE THIS. Most responses are online now. Use one sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 white paper for your letter, two sheets at the most.
3. Use clear, strong–but not strident–language. Keep sentences short for readability.
4. Get to the point immediately. If the news story written missed an important point, say so, and explain why it is important. If someone gave an explanation that was unclear or misleading, clarify the point for the newspapers’ readers.
5. Don’t just write to the daily newspaper. Local outlets, and even weekly Shoppers are candidates, along with TV and radio stations.
6. Know your topic, and use up-to-date information. Your viewpoint will be stronger if you can back it up with an interesting statistic, contrasting quote, or personal experience. For example, if your Congressman claims to be a tightwad, mention that his NTU Foundation BillTally total tells a different story. Double-check dates and spelling of proper names. How will the legislation likely affect you or other people?
7. Use Your Own Words – Carefully. Rambling, wordy letters find their way to the wastebasket in no time, along with anything profane. Aim for a concise, precise statement with just a dash of your own personal rhetorical flair. Avoid insulting language when referring to another person. Newspapers and magazines are governed by concern over libel laws and will shy away from any hint of name-calling.
8. Always give your full name, address and daytime telephone number, (so they can verify that you actually wrote the letter) and be sure to sign your name. Also give the editor an evening telephone number, since they may work the night shift. Find out the name of the Letters Editor if possible and address it to his or her personal attention.
9. The single biggest tip nowadays is technical. Editors prefer e-mail because it doesn’t have to be re-typed before publication. Paste the full text of your letter into the body of the e-mail (no indentations for paragraphs, add an extra line) rather than send the letter as an attachment. A lot of newspapers have very tough “spam filters” that might send your message into oblivion if it comes with an attachment. Also, Letters Editors get a lot of submissions, and it helps if they can just open your e-mail and see the letter right away without having to download an attachment, which they may not like due to virus concerns.
10. Don’t be Discouraged. Since newspapers receive many more letters on one issue than they can possibly print, you probably won’t get published the first time. Don’t stop trying. Liberals keep on keeping on. We can too.
11. Don’t always send letters of criticism. Letter of praise are important too, especially to friendly legislators. Potomac Fever, or Mendota Malaise, strikes the best of them, so keep them in line, in a friendly way.
12. In concluding the letter, you may wish to issue a Call To Action. End on a positive note. Ask for a response.

One very successful letter writing technique is an “open letter” to a public official. For example, you may want to begin your letter: “The following is an open letter to Mayor [name],” and proceed to ask the Mayor why he followed a certain policy. Local and even national officials have at times drafted detailed replies for publication in response to such open letters. The debate usually generates a good deal of community interest and will bring publicity to your group.