Putting your thoughts in in a letter or email is a great way to express your concerns on an issue. The following tips can be applied to all correspondence.
Correspondence should be:
1. Typed rather than handwritten
2. Succinct and to the point
Your first paragraph should identify the issue and the second paragraph should be about what you would like to be done about the issue. The last paragraph can summarise these points and highlight your reason for writing. Always thank the reader for their time. It is acceptable to open your letter with ‘Dear’ as a standard form of address, while ‘Kind regards’ or ‘Yours sincerely’ are suitable for concluding your letter/email if the recipient’s name is known. If you have addressed the letter ‘Dear sir’ or ‘Dear madam’, then ‘Yours faithfully’ is the correct choice of sign off.
3. In a plain format
Without any visual embellishment. No smiley faces or emoticons.
4. Objective and professional
Avoid personal attacks or insults. Your concerns will be taken far more seriously if you keep it polite.
5. Factual and well-researched with accurate spelling and grammar
An incorrect statement of fact, bad spelling or incorrect grammar can compromise the impact of your letter.
6. A two-way method of contact
Always include your name, address/email address and phone number to encourage people to respond directly. If using a hardcopy format, sign your name and then print it underneath.
There are several forums where putting your thoughts in writing is appropriate:
1. To Politicians
Politicians are extremely busy people. Often your letter/email will be read first by a staffer or aide. It may then be passed on to the recipient, but this is not always guaranteed. It very much depends on the MP and their personal take on this type of contact.
All the above advice applies, with a particular emphasis on brevity, focus and accuracy.
You may also like to research your chosen Member of Parliament in more detail. State or territory parliamentary websites or political party websites are a good place to start and usually provide a profile of the MP in question. Finding out answers to questions like the following will help you draft a more targeted piece of correspondence:
- What is their stance on a particular issue?
- Are they in a marginal seat?
- Have they publically expressed an opinion on an issue in the past?
- Do they sit on any relevant committees or hold any relevant portfolios?
- What kind of constituency do they have?
2. To Publications
Another popular forum which has a great deal of impact is the Letters to the Editor page of magazines and newspapers (both online and hardcopy).
Most publications now have the ability to accept electronic letters, so check their website and look for any requirements. Most will have a strict word limit.
Be brief and keep to the point. Editors cut from the bottom, so ensure all your important information is in the first paragraph.
Successful letters will be well-written, timely and contain a considered analysis about a particular subject. It often helps if you write in direct response to an article published by that publication. Letters that are aggressive, poorly-written or potentially libellous might make you feel better but are far less likely to be published.
3. To Businesses
Generally all of the above rules apply when it comes to writing to a business. You are unhappy with the activities of a particular business for a particular reason and this is the motivation for your letter.
Avoid rants and insults – stick with facts and a rational argument as to why they should change their practices. You can certainly expand more on the facts at hand but remember stay focused and concise.