One of the most time-honored and common ways of effecting the outcome of legislation is to make contact with your elected officials and persuade them to take a specific stance regarding certain legislation. Even so, simply writing a letter to your senator or representative is not enough to convince them to take the desired action. Effective advocacy involves understanding critical points in how to write persuasively.
In order to write persuasively, you must first make sure that you know something about the issue at hand. This involves research regarding the legislation in question. Take time to research the legislation, such as who initiated the legislation, the problem the legislation is intended to address, and who will be most affected by the legislation. Other important points to cover in your research include any proposed changes or amendments that are currently in play for that particular piece of legislation. Finally, make sure you have a clear understanding of the time frame for the bill, including when it is expected to pass.
The most persuasive arguments for or against a piece of legislation are those that are well researched. A persuasive argument is not one that is lengthy or verbose, but grounded with a few solid and well researched points. There are a number of information sources you can utilize, including the following:
- Thomas – “In the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, legislative information from the Library of Congress”
- Clerk of the House – Maintains an online list of roll-call votes.
- Congressional Budget Office-www.cbo.gov
- GovTrack.us “A civic project to track Congress” – Contains legislative information and congressional documents.
- Government Accountability Office (GAO) – Provides reports related to independent audits and evaluations of governmental agencies and activities. An excellent source for testimony and reports.
If you are not certain regarding the position that a member of Congress has taken regarding a piece of legislation, obtain this information ahead of time rather than assuming. Contact their office and inquire about their position. This will allow you to be much more effective and persuasive in your communication. Our Persuasive Writing course can help you learn to write effective and persuasive proposals.
Source: Section 13.0 Private and Government Information Providers, in Congressional Deskbook: The Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Congress, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider
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