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Forms of Address for Writing Congressmen

Stick to one issue per letter to Congress.

Members of Congress welcome constituent letters and emails about current hot-button issues, bills up for consideration and access to government services. In fact, a 2011 survey of congressional staffs revealed that when a member is undecided on a particular issue, constituents who voice their opinion in letters and emails are more influential than lobbyists. Although a personal response letter is rare, congressional staffs typically attempt to reply to as many serious inquiries as possible.

1. Address

    • When addressing a letter to a congressman or congresswoman, it is appropriate to use "The Honorable" before the full name. For example, "The Honorable John Smith" should be used when addressing an envelope for snail mail, as well as at the top of a letter or email.

2. Salutation

    • There are two proper ways to begin a letter or email to a congressman or congresswoman: either with "Sir/Madam" or "Representative." The letter or email should open with, "Dear Sir," "Dear Madam" or "Dear Representative Smith."

3. Party Leaders

    • When writing to the Speaker of the House or the chairperson of a committee, it is appropriate to address them with their title. The address on the envelope and at the top of the correspondence can still begin with "The Honorable," followed by the full name. A letter or email to the Speaker of the House should open with "Dear Mr. Speaker" or "Dear Madam Speaker," while a letter or email to a committee chairperson should open with "Dear Mr. Chairman" or "Dear Madam Chairwoman."

4. Tips

    • Members of Congress receive thousands of letters and emails each year, so it is in the constituent's best interest to be courteous, personal and succinct. If the correspondence is in reference to a particular piece of legislation, it should be cited clearly in the first paragraph. Close each letter with "Sincerely yours," followed by your full name, snail mail address and email address.

By Jennifer Ranz, who has put her writing skills to work in political and business communications since 1993. During a diverse career, she has written speeches published in the "U.S. Congressional Record" and how-to's for "Cleanfax" magazine. Ranz holds a B.A. in journalism from East Carolina University.

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