CoolMom supports climate change and environmental legislation by writing letters to the editor, attending rally events, and contacting legislators either by writing, calling or visiting their offices. Due to CoolMom's 501(c)3 status we do not endorse specific candidates or give financially to individual candidates' campaigns. Watch for CoolMom News on the latest advocacy action.
How to write a letter to the Editor
Media research shows that the letters to the editor are one of the most widely read parts of the paper. It is a natural forum for CoolMom members to share their opinion and story with the community.
What to say:
- Stay local and timely.
- Stick with the basic issue of climate change.
- Tie your letter to a recent event or previous article/editorial /letter to the editor. This helps set the stage for your letter's point.
How to say it:
- Be brief - no more than 200-250 words maximum. Check your local paper for letter guidelines. If you need more space, do an op-ed piece.
- Keep it to one point. State your point clearly in your first sentence.
- Follow with background sentence or two, state your position and end by suggesting what the reader can do to help.
- Use a fact or figure to back up your position if possible.
- Compare and contrast is another good letter writing technique.
- No more than three paragraphs, with one-two short sentences per paragraph.
- Avoid too much emotion-no ranting, raving or sarcastic remarks about the opposing side of an issue, please. No cliche`s or puns.
- If you respond to another letter or column don't attack the author. Instead offer your opinion and try to promote a debate that encourages other reader letters.
- If you're responding to a recent news article, previous letter editorial, piece of legislation or news event, reference it by a date and name. It makes your letter more relevant. It also lets the editor quickly check the original item to verify your references.
- Include your name, address, email and phone number.
- Read your letter out loud before you send it. Does it make sense?
- Keep a copy to see how the letter may have been edited.
- Don't be disappointed if your letter doesn't get published. Newspapers get lots of letters daily.
- If you had a letter published recently, wait a month or so before trying again or have someone else submit your letter.
- If you send in a letter and don't hear back from the paper within a week, give them a ring and ask if they have received your letter. If they don't respond to your phone call, then try sending it elsewhere.
The difference between a LTE (Letter to the Editor) and an Op-Ed (opinion editorial)
They are both opinion pieces. In that sense they are very similar. The differences are often cosmetic.
Letters to the editor are generally printed in the editorial page.“Op-Ed”, which is short for “opposite editorial” means the page, is physically opposite the editorial page. A Letter to the Editor is short – 200 to 300 words. An Op-Ed is a longer piece – 750 to 1000 words. A letter to the editor can be in reaction to a day to day or a larger issue. An op-ed should generally be about a larger issue. There can be many letters to the editor on a single topic. A particular issue is unlikely to have more than two op-eds at a time – one for and one against. A letter to the editor is generally a reaction to an editorial or an op-ed or a news item. An op-ed on the other hand, often addresses issues introduced by the writer.
Contacting Your Legislator
Your role in the democratic process of government does not end at the polls. By sharing your opinions and ideas with your legislative representatives, you help them decide what to do about the issues and pending legislation that affect us all. They value your suggestions and encourage you to express them.
Your legislators receive a huge amount of phone calls and mail from their constituents. Unfortunately, their full agendas limit their ability to personally read and respond to it all. How then, can you be sure your voice is heard? Here are some tips to help you get the most impact out of your communications with your legislators.
- Know who your legislators are and how to contact them. If you don't know who represents you, you can find out by researching online (for local legislators type their name and state capitol into your search engine and you should be able to find them). For US Senators go here and US Representatives go here. Your legislators' page will give you his or her mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email address.
- Make sure you understand the legislative process. Even the most basic understanding of the process will help you effectively express your ideas.
- Contact your legislator about a particular issue before the Legislature takes action on it. Most matters coming before the Legislature are well publicized before session.
- Use a variety of communication methods. You might choose to telephone, write, email, fax, or visit your legislator.
- You might also choose to give testimony at public hearings held by the Legislature. (To give testimony, you would need to contact the appropriate committee administrative assistant before the hearing to sign up.)
- Tell your legislator what effect you think a particular bill, if it becomes law, will have on you, your children, business, or community. Be concise, but specific.
- Be polite, even if you disagree strongly with the legislator you are addressing. Lawmakers cannot please everyone. Your communication will be more effective if you are reasonable in your approach.
- Suggest a course of action and offer assistance. Don't make promises or threats.
Writing Effective Letters
- Be certain you spell your legislator's name correctly and use the correct address. If you don't, you could lose your audience. Type or print legibly. Sign your name neatly and give your address correctly so they can respond to your letter.
- Keep letters, email, and faxes brief. Never write more than one page. Concise written correspondence is more likely to grab and keep the reader's attention.
- Identify the importance of the environmental/climate change bill at the beginning of the letter.
- Cover only one issue per letter. If you have another issue to address, write another letter.
- Back up your opinions with supporting facts, if you have them. Your letter should inform the reader.
- Avoid abbreviations or acronyms, and stay away from technical jargon. Rather than impressing your reader, such terms may possibly frustrate him or her.
Calling or Visiting Your Legislator
- Plan your call or visit carefully. Keep to the point and discuss only one issue. Organize your thoughts ahead of time and make notes to help you stay on track.
- When planning to visit your legislator, make an appointment.
- Call or write for an appointment
- Prepare a one-page fact sheet concerning your issue to give to your legislator. This will help him or her better retain what you present.
Watch this video on how to visit your legislator at his or her office. The location is Texas and some information is pertinent to only that neck of the woods, but it is a good representation of a legislator's office visit.