Letter Writing Tips
aka: Getting the Attention of Bureaucrats and Politicians
By Del Albright, Blue Ribbon Ambassador
on earth do you capture the attention of a bureaucrat so that your 4x4
letter doesn’t end up in the proverbial “stack” of unread letters?
Perhaps it’s not fair to say unread; let’s say “sort of read
writing letters to bureaucrats (and happen to have been one), so I’d
like to offer some advice. Oh,
you ask, what the heck is with the snake business at the start?
Well, that’s a phrase I coined after watching some of our
politicians in action. Mostly
it’s there to get your attention so you’ll read this article!
The first tip
for writing letters to bureaucrats (including elected officials) is to GET
THEIR ATTENTION UP FRONT -- make your point in the first sentence.
If you place yourself in the shoes of an ostensibly busy government
official, perhaps reading tons of mail every day, and nowadays maybe even
spending hours reading emails, then you’ll soon realize that there just
isn’t enough time in the day. If
a letter doesn’t hone right in on the salient points, those points might
is: start your letter with your primary reason for writing. For example, if you’re going to write to your elected
official to say that you’re opposed to a piece of Wilderness legislation
that is going to close a bunch of roads, then start out by saying so: “I
am writing to let you know that I oppose (whatever) legislation.”
Now you need
to lay out your facts in simple form -- easy to read -- visually
capturing. And believe me, as a
(retired) 30-year bureaucrat, I can attest to the visual affect of bullet points
in a letter.
stand out and get the point across quickly.
draw the eye to focus on them immediately as the salient points.
are easy to find again when the reader wants to refer back to your letter.
You can also
use numbers if you want to show some sense of priority. But the point is, make your key messages stand out in the
letter. Then after you
bullet point your key facts, elaborate on each one of them in succeeding
paragraphs. I like to discuss
one point per paragraph just for simplicity sake; and for ease of finding the
information later. Don’t
over do it, but underlining and bolding also work to make a key point stand out.
the topic, you may have to establish your credentials at
this point (or even earlier on if that works better).
If you are an experienced in your sport, let the reader know your
background. If you are a member of
organizations like Blue Ribbon Coalition or Tread Lightly, and you think this
might give you more credibility with the reader, then point it out.
But this is what it might sound like: “Let me close by restating that I
very much oppose (whatever) because I feel this legislation really denies the
public the opportunity to enjoy our public lands; and I request that you vote
against it when it comes before you.”
never hurts to leave the reader with a pleasant salutation and an offer to help.
For example, you might say: “Thank you for your time.
If I may be of some help to you on this issue, please let me know.”
you want to be included in future mailings, or be notified of any actions
affecting your area of concern, include that comment.
Here is a
I am writing
to let you know that I am opposed to any legislation that might close roads in
the southern California desert. I
appreciate the efforts of you and your staff thus far with all the legislation
that has come before you. I know
you are working hard to keep the interests of the public first in your mind.
However there are too many bills before you now that are threatening to
take away our rights to use public land.
As I see it,
there are three important points that you should consider:
The opportunity for motorized recreation has been severely limited by
previous legislation; nearly ____ miles of roads have already been closed;
The number of backcountry recreationists and off road enthusiasts is
growing every day; nearly a __% increase in our local club alone.
Many of the roads in the desert have been there since the late 1800’s
and early 1900’s, and are the only realistic way to see the many historic and
cultural resources in the backcountry.
I have been
exploring the backcountry for over thirty years.
I have yet to place a tire where it didn’t belong.
I want my children to enjoy the same opportunities to explore the desert
and its vast expanses of scenic wonder -- by vehicle.
Most of us who adventure in the backcountry are responsible
recreationists and deserve the right to continue our sport.
Let me close
by saying again that I am opposed to any legislation that might close any more
roads in the southern California desert. I
request that you vote against any such legislation. I would also like to be included on your mailing list and
notified of any actions that affect this area.
If I may be of
any help, or provide you with any further information, please do not hesitate to
contact me. Thank you for your time.
your phone number, email address, and address.
the tips I’ve offered you: