Letters and faxes are an effective way of communicating with your elected officials. Many legislators believe that a letter represents not only the position of the writer but also many other constituents who did not take the time to write.

These tips will help increase the effectiveness of your letter:

Keep it brief. Letters should never be longer than one page, and should be limited to one issue. Legislative aides read many letters on many issues in a day, so your letter should be as concise as possible. A subject line, included below the address and above the salutation, can be helpful. For example: Re: Vote No on S. 2453, The National Security Surveillance Act of 2006.

State who you are and why you are writing. It is important to let your elected officials know you reside in their district, represent a local organization, or have some professional expertise on the issue.

Personalize your letter. Did you volunteer for the official’s campaign or vote for him or her? Do you have a personal story that shows how this issue affects you and your family? Tell them about it.

Provide details. Explain facts about the legislation and how it will affect your community. If you know the elected official’s position on the issue, talk about why you agree or disagree and the action you would like them to take.

Ask for a response. A simple phrase such as “Please advise me of your thoughts on this issue and if I can count on your support (or opposition to) the referenced bill” is a polite way to ask for a response.

You are the expert. Remember that your legislator's job is to represent you. You should be courteous and to the point, but don't be afraid to take a firm position.