Writing to your MP
So, you’ve decided to write to your MP, but how do you make your letter or email stand out? Here are a few simple tips for maximising the impact of your correspondence.
Use the correct titleIn the case of letters, set out the name and address of the MP or Senator in the top left-hand corner. This is not necessary in the case of emails. An MP’s name should be stated in the address as follows: ‘Mr/ Mrs/Ms/Dr First Name Last Name MP’. A Senator’s name should be stated as follows: ‘Senator First Name Last Name’. MPs or Senators who are, or have been, government Ministers, are given the title ‘The Honourable’. For ministers in the House, this becomes ‘The Hon. First Name Last Name MP’ and ‘Senator the Hon. First Name Last Name’ in the case of Ministers who are Senators. Start your letter as follows: ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Dr Last Name’ in the case of MPs, and ‘Dear Senator’ or ‘Dear Senator Last Name’ in the case of Senators. Find your Representative/Senator and how to address them
Introduce yourself and your issueStart your letter out by saying who you are and why you are writing to them. If you are a member of their electorate, make this clear. It can also be helpful to briefly set out any relevant connections in the community – for example, you may want to indicate that you attend a local school or church, are involved in a youth group or Rotary organisation, or work for a local business. If your letter is about a particular region or country and you have visited it, outline this connection.
Keep it briefYour letter should be as short and simple as possible. Try to keep it to one or two pages. Ideally it should be typed, or written very neatly and signed by hand. Stick to one issue per letter and use simple points to make your case. Write logically in well set out paragraphs. If the issue is technical or requires further explanation, keep your letter short but include an additional document which sets out the extra information. Alternatively, you can refer the MP to a website, article or book where they can get more information. Sending reams of paper is not an effective way of getting attention. In fact, there is a high possibility that most of the information won’t be read.
Use your own wordsPoliticians’ offices receive hundreds of letters from constituents. Your objective is to make your letter stand out from the crowd. Often an organisation will start a campaign and ask its members and supporters to send pre-written letters to their MPs. These are called ‘form letters’. While form letters do have some value in demonstrating the level of community support or opposition to a particular issue, they do not have the same impact as a well crafted, passionate and personal letter. If you are asked to send a form letter in support of a particular campaign, take the time to personalise it by adding your own thoughts, or putting the points in your own words. It can be useful to:
- Include relevant facts and figures
- Refer to a recent news item about the issue
- Highlight a local connection to the issue
- Include a personal experience that made you want to speak up on the issue