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Writing Letters:

Letters, phone calls, faxes, emails to the press and public officials can all make a difference. This is something everyone can do.

Government Officials to contact:

George W. Bush, President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
202-456-1414
president@whitehouse.gov

Richard J. Durbin, Senator
230 S. Dearborn St. Suite 3892
Chicago, IL 60604
312-353-4952
fax 312-353-0150
dick@durbin.senate.gov

Barack Obama, Senator
230 South Dearborn St.
Suite 3900
Chicago, Illinois 60604
(312) 886-3506
(312) 886-3514 fax

Mark S. Kirk, Representative
10th Congressional District
102 Wilmot Road Suite 200
Deerfield, IL 60015
847-940-0202
fax 847-940-7143
rep.kirk@mail.house.gov

News Outlets to contact:

Editor
Northbrook Star
3701 W. Lake Av.
Glenview, IL 60025
847-486-9200
fax 847-486-7451
Glenview@pioneerlocal.com


Letters to editors - Tips for writing

1) Keep it short. The shorter your letter, the better the chances it will be printed. And if it is printed, the better the chances people will read it. What looks like an average length paragraph on your 8_ x 11 inch paper looks endless when typeset into a column that is 2 inches across. If your letter is too long, the editor may reject it altogether or may shorten it. When editors shorten your letter, the meaning can be changed.
Each periodical has its own idea of how long letters should be. Count the number of words in letters they have published in order to get an idea of what they want, and then make your letter no longer than the average of what they usually print.

2) Get right to the point.
Example:
Better – "The U.S. should not invade Iraq at this time."
Worse – "It should be plain to everyone who has been reading the newspapers by now that the U.S. should not invade Iraq at this time."

3) Choose carefully the periodicals you will write to. General circulation newspapers and magazines (e.g. Northbrook Star, Chicago Tribune, Time Magazine) are good choices. Specialized publications (e.g. VFW chapter newsletters, Modern Maturity) may or may not be interested in letters about war and peace. However, even if a periodical has not previously printed letters on a topic, they might print your letter if it is well written. Your church bulletin might not have touched on the topic before but might be happy to print what you have to say.

4) Be timely. For example, if the President says something you want to comment on, submit your letter before the periodical’s next publication deadline. Don’t wait a couple of weeks or the editor will consider your comments to be stale.

5) Be rational. You may be very upset that we are headed towards war, but try not to sound like a lunatic. People who read your letter are much more likely to be influenced by it if sounds like a letter from a friend of theirs. Be reasonable and thoughtful, like you always are.

6) Do what the periodical wants. If the masthead doesn’t say where to send letters, call them and ask. If they want letters faxed, or emailed, or via U.S. mail, follow their instructions.

7) Don’t be afraid. Your opinion is just as important as anyone else’s. Your way of expressing yourself is valid, even if you aren’t a polished writer. The letters that have the most impact are those that are written from the heart. Some people you know will read your letter. They will either agree or disagree, but they will pay attention to what you say just because they know who you are. You have credibility with your friends. You are the best person to write for them.


Writing to public officials - Additional tips

1) The higher the office, the shorter your letter should be. If you are writing to a village official, they will probably read every word you write. If you are writing to the President of the United States or your congressman, they probably won’t even see the letter. An aide will simply put a tally mark down that you support or oppose the invasion, and you will get a form letter thanking you for your input. The President and Congressmen pay attention to those tallies, so it is important that you write. But don’t waste your time crafting an eloquent letter for someone who won’t read it. One or two sentences saying you oppose the invasion and why is all that is necessary.

2) Spend your money wisely. Nothing gets a public official’s attention like a campaign contribution. But it can take quite a bit of money to get anything more than a form thank-you. Just send the letter, and save your money for when it will do some good.

3) Write to someone who cares. Your congressman wants your vote. Congresspeople in other states know from your return address that you can’t vote for them. Unless you give them some specific reason to care about what you have to say, they won’t.

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Northbrook Peace Committee
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