Document Type

Guide (how-to document)


University of Montana Rural Institute

Publication Date



Demography, Population, and Ecology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


A well-written personal letter may be the most effective way to communicate with public officials. They want to know how their constituents feel about issues, especially when those issues involve decisions by elected officials. Public officials usually know what lobbying groups are saying about an issue, but often they do not understand how a particular decision affects you. A well-written letter describing your experiences, observations, and opinions may change an official’s mind. The same guidelines are also useful for writing to private officials such as business owners, executives of groups like the chamber of commerce, or presidents of corporate boards of directors. These individuals can also make decisions that affect you or the public. You can write two types of letters – positive or negative. A positive letter explains why a decision is or would be good. You should write positive letters about favorable decisions. A negative letter explains your opposition to a pending decision. Writing effective letters builds your reputation as a thoughtful person in the eyes of officials and makes your criticisms more influential. This guide is designed to help you prepare effective letters. It includes examples of a positive letter and one that criticizes a pending decision. Specific steps for writing an effective letter are also described. Then you will write your own letter.


community participation and independent living, leadership, rural, disability


© 1984, Tom Seekins and Stephen B. Fawcett

Granting Agency

National Institute on the Handicapped; U.S. Department of Education's Rehabilitation Services Administration


Grant #G008006928, National Institute on the Handicapped. Reproduced in November, 2000 with written permission from the RTC/IL, grant #H235K000002), U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration.

Project Number

NIH: G008006928; USDE: H235K000002