Letter Writing Guide

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TAKE ACTION & GET ATTENTION!

GUIDELINES FOR WRITING

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR

A letter to the editor may not have the glamour of splashier forms of

media exposure, but the letters pages are among the most widely

read sections of almost all newspapers.

Local weekly papers print many of the letters they receive. The dailies

cannot print every letter – the volume is just too great. But don't be

discouraged. Remember just one letter in the Telegraph Journal will

reach tens of thousands of people in one day. That's influence.

Make it brief. 100 to 150 words should be the maximum, fewer if possible.

Confine yourself to one subject. Make one point and make it clearly. You

undoubtedly have views about the issue you are raising, but in a letter to the

editor, you can make only one point effectively. To help you focus your letter,

summarize the point you are trying to make in a single phrase or sentence

before you begin writing the text of your letter. You should bring in supporting

evidence and arguments, but all should be in support of your main point.

Don't digress. Your main point can be specific or broad, e.g. "Closing

Belledune will drive people out of Northern NB" or "We need Coleson Cove to

ensure the reliability of the power grid". If possible, have someone else read

or edit your letter before sending it off.

Newspapers tend to favour letters from individuals over letters from

organizations. Avoid personal attacks or disparaging the motives of someone

you disagree with. Stick to the issue and the facts.

TAKE ACTION &

GET ATTENTION!

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION

HON. BRIAN GALLANT

Premier of New Brunswick

Phone: (506) 453-2144, Fax: (506) 453-7407,

Email : premier@gnb.ca

Mailing Address: Chancery Place, P. O. Box 6000,

Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1

Contact info for you MLA can be found at www.gnb.ca

Telegraph-Journal

P.O. Box 2350,

210 Crown Street

Saint John, NB

E2L 3V8

The Daily Gleaner

P.O. Box 3370,

984 Prospect Street

Fredericton, NB

E3B 2T8

Times & Transcript

939 Main Street,

P.O. Box 1001

Moncton, NB

E1C 8P3

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

138 rue Neill Street | Fredericton, NB E3A2Z6 | 506-455-0037

1-877-437-0037 | info@ibew37.com | www.ibew37.com

Writing

EFFECTIVE

LETTERS

to elected officials

and the media

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TAKE ACTION &

GET ATTENTION!

DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER

OF A PERSONAL LETTER

Campaigns can be won when dozens or hundreds of people telephone,

write letters, and send e-mails to elected officials and the media.

Petitions and postcards are easier, but politicians recognize this – so you

need thousands of names on a petition, or thousands of postcards to make

an impact. A well-placed and well-written personal letter can be very effective.

WRITING EFFECTIVE LETTERS TO POLITICIANS

One of the biggest hurdles in effective letter writing is the fear that you have

to be an expert to discuss an issue. Usually, the politician will likely know less

about the issue than you do. Letters are used to measure constituents' feelings

and can serve as a basis for action. The successful letter applies the three R's:

be RIGHT, REASONABLE, and REPETITIVE.

Rule 1: State your position clearly and identify a specific request. The most

common weakness in letters is being unclear about what you want.

Rule 2: Ask specific, leading questions that require a response. The strategy

is not just to let them know your opinion, but to make them work on your

behalf, and keep working until they resolve the issue.

Rule 3: Make it clear you expect an answer.

Rule 4: Send copies to other politicians. Copies or individually addressed

letters will expand your effectiveness with little extra work. After all, you wrote

the letter, so spread your impact far and wide.

Rule 5: Keep a copy.

WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT FOR AN ANSWER?

Response 1: Zero. The politician has ignored your questions and said

absolutely nothing.

Response 2: Affirmative, agreeing with your stance. Seldom will you

hear this. This is more likely the answer from the opposition members

or a supportive backbencher. If they're genuinely on your side, they'll

appreciate the moral support.

Response 3: Newspeak. This is the “current” truth or policy,

which is a selection of the facts in support of their position. The

answer may also take the tactic of trying to overwhelm you with

technical details.

NOW, YOU'VE RECEIVED YOUR RESPONSE. WHAT NEXT?

Go back to your first letter and begin a second one. It is this follow-up letter that will be

enough to make them take you seriously. This time they'll know they can't just brush you

off as they may have attempted in the first letter.

Tactic 1: Ask again any questions the politician didn't answer or didn't answer fully.

Tactic 2: Point out any inconsistencies between their response and others you have

received, or with their government's public statements.

Tactic 3: Point out any weakness in their arguments.

Tactic 4: Restate your position and make it clear that you expect a response.

LETTER-WRITING IS LIKE A SLOW GAME OF PING PONG.

IT'S THE SECOND AND THIRD LETTERS THAT START SCORING.

Sending letters to the Opposition Leaders and critics can often be useful. Sometimes

they'll warm up and go after the Ministers in the Legislature. Sending to Ministers not

directly responsible for the issue you are concerned about is a sign to the Government

that everyone is being drawn in and they must take a stand.

In addition to the Premier and Minister responsible, don't forget to write to your own MLA

(contact info at www.gnb.ca). A phone call or two on any issue tells them they've got an

issue they must deal with. Fifteen letters and they'll know they've got a hot issue getting

out of control.

You'll likely get a personal reply and it could

sound very informed. Once you've got your

MLA on the run, keep him or her there.

The more letters, phone calls, and faxes a

politician receives, the more seriously they

will take them. Above all, encourage

citizens outside your group to write letters

of their own.

Remember, the pen is still

mightier than the sword.

Have fun.

Adapted from Connexions Online Digest: “The Write Stuff”

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