NSG6002 Writing Assignment : Letter to a Congressperson Instructions

As nurses we too have a moral, ethical, and professional duty to be advocates for our patients so that the government can meet the moral challenge of taking care of the children, aged, and ill. To do this we need to be part of the dynamic process of healthcare policy making. We need then to be politically active in both state and national initiatives that affect healthcare. One simple way is letter writing. Below are some guidelines about writing your Congressperson on an issue you believe will affect the scope of your practice and ultimately patient care.

Assignment: Write a letter to your Congressperson on an issue about which you are passionate. The letter must be written in Times New Roman 12 point font and not to exceed one page.

Writing a letter to your Congressperson

Below are some guidelines from a variety of internet sources on the essential elements of writing a persuasive letter to your Congressperson.

1. Be courteous and respectful without “gushing.”

2. Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter. If it’s about a certain bill, . If you need help in finding the number of a bill, you can go to or

3. Say who you are. Anonymous letters go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number and email address. If you don’t include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.

4. State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have, especially those pertaining to the subject of your letter.

5. Keep your letter short — one page is best.

6. Use specific examples or evidence to support your position.

7. State what it is you want done or recommend a course of action.

8. Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.


1. Use vulgarity, profanity, or threats. The first two are just plain rude and the third one can get you a visit from the Secret Service. Simply stated, don’t let your passion get in the way of making your point,

2. Fail to include your name and address, even in email letters.

3. Demand a response.

Identifying Legislation

Cite these legislation identifiers when writing to members of Congress:

House Bills: “H.R._____”House Resolutions: “H.RES._____”House Joint Resolutions: “H.J.RES._____”Senate Bills: “S._____”Senate Resolutions: “S.RES._____”Senate Joint Resolutions: “S.J.RES._____”

Retrieved from

To increase the impact of your letters to your Congressperson etc.:

· Write legibly or use a computer or typewriter (if your handwriting is bad or hard to read).

· Include your name and address so that (1) they know you are a legitimate constituent of theirs, and (2) so they can respond (most will, at least with a form letter outlining their position on the topic you address in your letter).

· Limit your letter to one page and address a single topic.

· In general, letters should be no more than three to five short paragraphs. Long missives and manifestos will not be read in detail, and will reduce the impact (and point) of your letter.

· The first paragraph should state that you support or oppose a position or piece of legislation.

· The second paragraph should explain, briefly, the reasons for your support or opposition.

· The third (or last) paragraph should ask the Congressman to write back explaining his position on the legislation.

· Avoid exaggeration and, when appropriate, document your position with an accompanying article or editorial.

· State your view firmly, but avoid name-calling or making threats. Write the kind of letter you would like to receive.

· Use a professional tone that is reasonable, factual, and friendly.

· Even if you disagree with them on most issues, be sure to commend or compliment them if they have done something right. It will establish that you are fair and will encourage them to pay closer attention to subsequent complaints about their performance.

· Whenever possible, refer to bills and resolutions by number. It will help your Congressman to determine exactly which measure you are interested in and will demonstrate that you know what you are talking about.

· Finally, time your letters to arrive at mid-week, rather than on Monday, when deliveries are heaviest, or on Friday, when the weekend rush hits (and both your Congressman and his staff are probably looking forward to the weekend, just like you!).

Follow Up

Follow-up with your Congressperson’s response, or lack thereof, with another brief letter – regardless of the position he or she takes.

If the Congressperson agrees with you, send a one or two sentence letter of thanks for his stand in favor of limited, Constitutional government.

If the Congressperson disagrees with your position, reply with a brief letter quoting the section of his letter with which you take issue and restate your position.

Elected officials listen most intently to letters from voters in their own districts, and hardly listen at all to voices from outside of their districts.

In most cases, it is not worth the trouble to write to officials who do not represent your state and district. The majority of Congressional offices automatically forward non-constituent letters to the Congressional office representing the letter-writer.

Your letters to members of Congress or to the President may be addressed this way:

The PresidentThe President of the United StatesThe White HouseWashington, D.C. 20500Dear Mr. President:

A SenatorThe Honorable ________Senate Office BuildingWashington, D.C. 20510Dear Senator _______:

A RepresentativeThe Honorable ________House Office BuildingWashington, D.C. 20515Dear Mr. _______:

Your GovernorThe Honorable (first name, last name)Governor of (name of state or commonwealth)(city, state, &zip of your state capitol)Dear Governor (last name)

Retrieved from

Some Fundamentals

· Address is properly: “Hon . _____, House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515,” or “Senator _____, Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510.” This may seem fundamental, but I once received a letter addressed like this: “Mr. Morris K. Udall, U. S. Senator, Capitol Building, Phoenix, Arizona . . . Dear Congressman Rhodes . . .”;

· Identify the bill or issue. About 20,000 bills are introduced in each Congress; it’s important to be specific. If you write about a bill, try to give the bill number or describe it by popular title [“BLM Organic Act,” “Toxic Substances Bill,” etc.];

· The letter should be timely. Sometimes a bill is out of committee, or has passed the House, before a helpful letter arrives. Inform your representative while there is still time for him or her to take effective action;

· Concentrate on your own delegation. The representative of your district and the senators of your state cast your votes in the Congress and want to know your views. However, some writers will undertake to contact all 435 members of the House and 100 senators, who cast votes for other districts and other states. If you happen to be acquainted personally with a member from, say, Nebraska, he or she might answer your letter, but there is a “congressional courtesy” procedure which provides that all letters written by residents of my district to other members will simply be referred to me for reply, and vice versa;

· Be reasonably brief. Every working day the mailman leaves some 150 or more pieces of mail at my office. Tomorrow brings another batch. All of this mail must be answered while I am studying legislation, attending committee meetings and participating in debate on the House floor. I recognize that many issues are complex, but your opinions and arguments stand a better chance of being read if they are stated as concisely as the subject matter will permit. It is not necessary that letters be typed–only that they be legible; the form, phraseology and grammar are completely unimportant. In the course of my years in Congress, I have received every kind of mail imaginable–the tragic, the touching, the rude, the crank; insulting, persuasive, entertaining and all the rest. I enjoy receiving mail, and I look forward to receiving it every morning; in fact, my staff people call me a “mail grabber” because I interfere with the orderly mail-opening procedures they have established. Whatever form your letter takes, I will welcome it, but to make it most helpful I would suggest the following “do’s” and “don’ts.”


· Write your own views–not someone else’s. A personal letter is far better than a form letter, or signature on a petition. Many people will sign petition without reading it just to avoid offending the circulator; form letters are readily recognizable–they usually arrive in batches and usually register the sentiments of the person or lobbying group preparing the form. Form letters often receive form replies. Anyway, I usually know what the major lobbying groups are saying, but I don’t often know of your experiences and observations, or what the proposed bill will do to you and for you. A sincere, well-thought-out letter from you can help fill this gap;

· Give your reasons for taking a stand. Statements such as “Vote against H.R. 100; I’m bitterly opposed” don’t help much, but a letter which says, for example, “I’m a small hardware dealer, and H.R. 100 will put me out of business for the following reasons . . .” tells me a lot more. Maybe I didn’t know all the effects of the bill, and your letter will help me understand what it means to an important segment of my constituency;

· Be constructive. If a bill deals with a problem you admit exists, but you believe the bill is the wrong approach, tell me what the right approach is;

· If you have expert knowledge, share it with your congressional representatives. Of all the letters pouring into a legislator’s office every morning, perhaps one in a hundred comes from a constituent who is a real expert in that subject. The opinions expressed in the others are important, and will heeded, but this one is a real gold mine for the conscientious member. After all, in the next nine or ten months, I will have to vote on farm bills, defense bills, transportation bills; space, health, education, housing and veterans’ bills, and a host of others. I can’t possibly be an expert in all these fields. Many of my constituents are experts in some of them. I welcome their advice and counsel.

· Say “well done” when it’s deserved. Members of Congress are human, too, and they appreciate an occasional “well done” from people who believe they have done the right thing. I know I do. But even if you think I went wrong on an issue, I would welcome a letter telling me you disagree. It may help me on another issue later.


· Don’t make threats or promises. Members of Congress usually want to do the popular thing, but this is not their only motivation; nearly all the members I know want most of all to do what is best for the country. Occasionally a letter will conclude by saying, “If you vote for this monstrous bill, I’ll do everything in my power to defeat you in the next election.” A writer has the privilege of making such assertions, of course, but they rarely intimidate a conscientious member, and they may generate an adverse reaction. Members of Congress would rather know why you feel so strongly. The reasons may change their minds; the threat probably won’t.

· Don’t berate your representatives. You can’t hope to persuade them of your position by calling them names. If you disagree with them, give reasons for your disagreement. Try to keep the dialogue open;

· Don’t pretend to wield vast political influence. Write your senators or representative as an individual, not as a self-appointed spokesperson for your neighborhood, community or industry. Unsupported claims to political influence will only cast doubt upon the views you express;

· Don’t become a constant “pen pal.” I don’t want to discourage letters, but quality, rather than quantity, is what counts. Write again and again if you feel like it, but don’t try to instruct your representative on every issue that comes up. And don’t nag if his or her votes do not match your precise thinking every time. Remember, a member of Congress has to consider all of his or her constituents and all points of view. Also, keep in mind that one of the pet peeves on Capital Hill is the “pen pal” who weights the mail down every few days with long tomes on every conceivable subject;

· Don’t demand a commitment before the facts are in. If you have written a personal letter and stated your reasons for a particular stand, you have a right to know your representative’s present thinking on the question. But writers who “demand to know how you will vote on H.R. 100” should bear certain legislative realities in mind: (1) On major bills there usually are two sides to be considered, and you may have heard only one; (2) The bill may be 100 pages long with twenty provisions in addition to the one you wrote about, and a representative may be forced to vote on the bill as a whole, weighing the good with the bad; (3) It makes little sense to adopt a firm and unyielding position before a single witness has been heard or study made of the bill in question; and (4) A bill rarely becomes law in the same form as introduced; it is possible that the bill you write about, you would oppose when it reached the floor. The complexities of the legislative process and the way in which bills change their shapes in committee is revealed by a little story from my own experience. One time several years ago, I introduced a comprehensive bill dealing with a number of matters. I was proud of it, and I had great hopes for solving several perennial problems coming before Congress. However, after major confrontations in committee and numerous amendments, I found myself voting against the “Udall Bill.”

Your senators and representatives need your help in casting votes. The “ballot box” is not far away: it’s painted red, white and blue and it reads “U.S. Mail.”


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