Writing Guidelines

Use the following as an editing tool BEFORE sending out your letters.

Follow the money.

Include letters to Ministers who control finances or provide financial oversight. The Ministry of Finance, the Attorney General, municipal City and Finance Managers are excellent additions to your contact list. Consider adding senior government officials to your list. Knowledge of citizens’ concerns may lead them to research and/or clarify impact of decisions to relevant elected officials.

Be timely.

Make sure your comments get to the right person before a vote, budget or course of action takes place. Fax it is you must. The exception to this is a news item comes up and is relevant to your cause.

Be brief and simple.

Try to keep the letter to one page (250 words double spaced), two pages maximum if you have relevant research to substantiate your point or you are an expert in the field being addressed. Write in your own words. Do not use language you are unfamiliar with.

Establish credibility.

Know your facts. Do not be shy about expressing your expertise in an area. Do not exaggerate or lie. Use of exaggeration or lies undermines your credibility. Your letter will be ignored if you use deceitful tactics.

Presentation.

Proofread the letter for legibility and comprehension. Make sure your document is as grammatically correct as possible. Avoid spelling mistakes. Handwritten letters are acceptable but must be neat. Poor presentation will reflect badly on your argument.

Be polite and avoid ultimatums or rudeness.

Give praise where praise is due. Do not send rude letters; those containing foul language will be thrown in the trash. You will get a better response from being civil. Remember that even if you are angry, express it about the situation or legislation, not personally at the official.

Say thank you.

If you get a response back, send a thank you note. Let them know you appreciate the response. If a change is made in favour of what you contacted them about, thank them then as well. These actions will build a good rapport.

Do not send attachments.

Whether through the post or electronically do not send attachments. Quote and reference articles through their titles, publisher and date. Place cited quotes in the body of the letter. Sending links electronically can potentially be filtered as spam.

Don’t become spam.

Use your contacts sparingly but effectively. Write at the time of decision making or when new facts come to light. Do not write every time an article comes out on the topic. Contact only those who have a direct influence on the outcome.

Don’t cc everyone.

Email letters should be addressed individually and not as a memo. The effect is more personal and establishes an oppourtunity for dialogue. You are also less likely to get tagged as spam by an Internet service provider.

Advise relevant groups of your action.

Posts on the Advocacy Hamilton site will advise whether notification is desired. If writing on your own about an issue, consider sending a short email to let them know you what you have done. More importantly, let them know if you have received a response. Many agencies will cite the replies when dealing with officials.

Advocacy Hamilton, Inequity, Poverty, Social Assistance:
Serious Thinking & Real Reform

Ontario has a poverty problem. Hamilton is an intensified example of this. 18% percent of the population lives in poverty, almost 50% of them children. That is 1 In 7 children. 6.8% unemployment rate again [...]