How To Address A Letter
How to Address a Letter to a Government Official
Writing a letter to a government official can be a great way to weigh in on what's going on in your nation, state, or locality. Search online for the official mailing address of the leader that you wish to contact. The proper addressing etiquette varies from official to official, so make sure to look up the standard for the specific person to whom you are sending the letter!
Addressing the Letter
Learn the official's name.Make sure that you know exactly who this person is, and that he or she is the appropriate person to contact about your case. Clarify why you are writing a letter to this particular official.
Find the mailing address of the official.Run a web search for "[government official] mailing address." If a web search doesn't turn up the answer, then visit the website for the relevant department of the local, state, or national government.
How to Find Specific Mailing Addresses
If you live in the United States:Visit to access a comprehensive list of contact information for national, state, and local administrators.
If you don't have a specific official in mind:Look for the address of the relevant department. Perhaps you need to contact your local DMV office, or the Department of Homeland Security.
.Include theofficial's title and full name(e.g. President Barack Obama) along with his or herofficial mailing address.Write the words clearly and legibly in the center of an envelope, and then seal the letter inside the envelope. Stick a stamp in the top-right corner of the envelope. If you are hoping for a response from this government official, make sure to write your full name and return address in the top-left corner of the envelope!
Following Proper Etiquette
Show due respect.Open your letter with a formal salutation, and end it with an appropriate closing statement. Depending on the level of government, this official may employ a team of secretaries to read through his or her mailbox for important letters. Apolite, thoughtful, and well-written letterwill almost always be more likely to make it through this filtration system.
Use the proper title.If there is only ever one person in a given post at a time (e,g, the President, the Mayor, or the Speaker of the House,) then you can address the person by his or her title alone: Mr. President or Ms. Mayor. If multiple people hold a given office at one time (e.g. Senator, Justice, Representative,) then you need to use the last name to clarify whom, exactly, you're addressing.
- It never hurts to
include the official's name,even if he or she is the only person holding the position. A personally-addressed letter lends a certain degree of humanity to your message.
- It never hurts to
Read sample letters, or send a form letter.Do your research to find out how other people have addressed letters to this particular government official. Some activism groups and petition websites will actually provide specific information about contacting the officials relevant to a certain cause. You may also be able to simply email the official.
If you are very unsure about how to address and relate to the official in question, remember thatyou don't need to use your own words.Some elected officials receive hundreds of letter each day, and they certainly don't have time to read them all closely. In some cases, you can get the point across with aform letter and a clear subject line.
Writing an Actionable Letter
Ask for something doable.Before you send the letter, consider whether this government official will be able to meaningfully act on your letter.Avoid asking for unrealistic things.Do not ask the government official to do more than his/her job allows. Take a step back and consider whether there is a better channel for your complaint.
- Petitions and form letters are usually well-written and actionable. Make sure, however, that the demanded actions fall within the scope of this official's duties.
Get your letter to the top of the stack.Depending on rank, government officials may receive dozens to hundreds of letters each day. He or she may even employ professional letter-sorters to determine which select few messages actually wind up in the hands of the official. Make your letter polite, concise, and topical. In the first sentence or subject line, reference an issue that is at the top of the official's agenda.
Tips for Making Sure Your Letter is Noticed
Write well:Make sure that your letter is insightful and well-written. The letters that wind up at the top of the stack will be readable, relevant, and easy for the official to understand.
Identify your credentials:Briefly explain your qualifications, and tell the official why he or she should take note of your opinion. Perhaps you have a Ph.D, or you live in the town that's been in the news lately, or you have personally met the official at some point in the past.
Make sure that your letter is appropriate.Is it necessary, or are you just venting? Send a request that is polite, concise, and realistic. Do not swear or drop insults.Respect begets respect.
- Do not threaten a government official. The letter can be traced back to you. Beyond any risk, your threats will not necessarily inspire productive action.
QuestionHow can I write a letter to an official if I am 12-years-old?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere is no age requirement to write to an official. As long as you are clear with your intent and your topic, you may write to the official. Locate their official mailing address, be sure you are addressing the right person, and write away.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I write a letter of appreciation to a governor?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe first paragraph of your letter would be to give reference to the event, activity or incident you are referring to. In your second paragraph, relate the objective of the program, project or activity of your company where the assistance or support provided by the governor has contributed to its accomplishment, and that such gesture is highly appreciated. End your letter with giving thanks for their support and cooperation on matters of mutual concern.Thanks!
QuestionIs it OK to mail a letter about an an idea I have to help the area?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. You might want to check the government's website to see if it already covered that topic.Thanks!
QuestionCan I use "Dear" for the salutation or should I use "To Mr. so and so"?wikiHow ContributorCommunity Answer"Dear" is appropriate. However, it would be best to use the official's title instead of Mr. or Mrs.Thanks!
QuestionCan I use "sir" for the salutation?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSir or Madam is appropriate.Thanks!
QuestionShould I include a date in the letter head?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, always.Thanks!
QuestionShould I address several officials in the same cover letter or should there be individualized cover letters?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPreferably individualized, or make a general category and list names on the letter.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I compose a letter to get a bill passed?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can't get a bill passed with a letter. You can send a letter to your congressperson. Use a formal letter format and state your case clearly with supporting arguments. Make sure your spelling and grammar are correct and clean so your words will be taken seriously.Thanks!
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To address a letter to a government official, first you need to find the official’s name and titles, which help to demonstrate respect when addressing your letter. Then, find their address by searching online for their name and the phrase “mailing address,” or check USA.gov for a list of addresses for many officials. When writing the envelope, include their full name, titles, and official address clearly and legibly on the front, and be sure to write your return address in the top left corner. Simply place the stamp in the top right and drop the letter in the mail!
- If you need more help, U.S. citizens can contact the Department of State's Office of Protocol at 202-647-2663. Representatives are available to answer etiquette questions over the phone.
- If you wish to write the current First Lady of the United States, she should be addressed simply as Mrs. [Last Name] on both the envelope and in the salutation. When her husband is out of office, she reverts to being called Mrs. [Husband's First Name and Last Name].
- Be polite. Don't include threats or inflammatory comments.
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