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Meet John Doe: How to write your politician a letter or e-mail
By Paul Gorski
I received a few e-mails the past few weeks asking for my help or my advice on a variety of issues. Politicians, bureaucrats and non-politicians wrote the e-mails, and some of the e-mails could have used a bit of fine-tuning. Most of the errors were related to lack of details and/or not including a request for a specific action. I offer this advice on how to write your politician, public utility or the corporate authorities.
Keep it short. If you have a long story or narrative to support your request, attach it as a separate document. Your primary request should be short and easy to scan by the human eye.
Stay focused. Stick to one topic. “There are potholes at Main and First Street.” Or “A city truck hit my car.” You might have multiple gripes, but only address one at a time. Remember, these are simple politicians you are writing.
Use facts. Specify a date and time, include a picture, quotes and the like, but only items that support your basic request. Do not make the recipient hunt for information, either. Do not send a link and say, “Here, look at this.” Quote the report or news story, and then include the original link.
Ask for a specific response or action. State what you want the politician to do. “I ask that Main Street be paved by September 2015.” Or simply, “Please respond to my request by May 1, 2014.”
Include your mailing address, telephone number and e-mail, if possible. Give your politician or government worker as much flexibility as you can to respond to your request.
Here is a sample request:
Dear Mr. Gorski:
My name is John Doe and I live at 1234 Main St., DaCounty, Ill. My neighborhood is just outside the city of Rockford, and we do not have streetlights. My neighbors and I would like to meet with you to discuss how we could get a streetlight installed in our neighborhood. Please call me at (815) 555-1212 after 5 p.m. weekdays, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org by May 1, 2014, to arrange a meeting to discuss the street light.
Thank you very much for your cooperation.
1234 Main St
DaCounty, IL 61105
(815) 555-1212 (weeknights after 5 p.m.)
Let me know if you have a request for a national, state or local politician that you would like me to review; I will take the first five requests from our readers. E-mail me at email@example.com.
Paul Gorski (firstname.lastname@example.org) authors the “Meet John Doe” and “Tech-Friendly” columns seen in this newspaper and is a Cherry Valley Township resident.
Posted April 29, 2014