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Emails and text messages are an extremely effective way of communicating with your elected officials. Many legislators believe that a email represents not only the position of the writer but also many other constituents who did not take the time to write.

These tips will increase the effectiveness of your communications:

Keep it brief: Emails should never be longer than two paragraphs, and should be limited to one issue. Legislative aides read many letters on many issues in a day, so your letter should be as concise as possible.

State who you are and what you want up front: In the first paragraph, tell your legislators that you are a constituent (include your address and ZIP Code to make the point) and identify the issue about which you are writing. If your email pertains to a specific piece of legislation, it helps to identify it by its bill number (e.g. H.R. ____ or S. _____).

Hit your three most important points: Choose the three strongest points that will be most effective in persuading legislators to support your position and flesh them out. Be sure to mention your expertise on the issue. For instance, if the bill deals with public schools or education, mention if you are a teacher or involved with the education profession.

Personalize your letter: Tell your elected official why this legislation matters in his/her community or state. If you have one, include a personal story that shows how this issue affects you and your family. A constituent’s personal story can be very persuasive as your legislator shapes his or her position. For instance, if the bill deals with discrimination, be sure to mention past examples of discrimination that you might have faced.

Personalize your relationship: Have you ever voted for this elected official? Have you ever contributed time or money to his or her campaign? Are you familiar with her through any business or personal relationship? If so, tell your elected official or his staff person. The closer your legislator feels to you, the more powerful your argument is likely to be.

You are the expert: Remember that your legislator’s job is to represent you. You should be courteous and to the point, but don’t be afraid to take a firm position. Remember that often your elected official may know no more about a given issue than you do.