Americans have always prided themselves on participating in the voting process. For many, this includes campaigning for their preferred candidate or writing letters to increase public knowledge about their favorite issues. Campaign letters, like any other persuasive letter, must demonstrate an understanding of the audience to be successful. These letters should also be short and direct to retain the interest of the audience; this is especially important if you are writing a letter meant for publication in a newspaper, where space is at a premium.
Plan when to mail your letters. For maximum effect, send your letter early in the campaign. Many newspapers get flooded with campaign letters the month before an election and your letter might not get published. Early mailing is also important for letters that are meant for private citizens; write to them before they have made up their minds. Mailing letters two to six months before an election gives you enough lead time, but the bigger the election, the earlier you should mail the letter. For example, it is more important that you send a letter early for a presidential campaign than for a local campaign because fewer people are participating in the local election.
Consider the audience before you write. Whether you are mailing letters to local senior centers or writing for publication in the local newspaper, your audience has particular interests and opinions. For example, if you are writing letters meant for mailing to area seniors, consider what issues are important to them. Jot down a few ideas. You will also benefit from talking to area seniors to see what concerns they have; you may learn some surprising insights.
Open the letter with a fact or scenario that will interest your audience. For example, if you are writing a letter to the editor of your local paper and your city has many young families, you might begin your letter by stating that under the opponent's plan, 150 teachers in your district would lose their jobs.
Get to the point. Why should the audience vote for your candidate? Use evidence and scenarios that will interest them in particular and explain your candidate's position in terms the audience can understand. Provide a source for your claims so the audience can follow your logic; if your facts turn out to be false your letter might backfire and hurt your candidate rather than help her.
Compare your candidate to the opposition, but be careful. Never attack a candidate or a candidate's family personally, for example, or you will seem biased. Readers on the fence want to hear a reasonable, well-considered argument, not a personal attack. The tone should be positive overall or you won't leave a positive impression of your candidate; all readers will remember is your negative attitude.
Close with a personal endorsement. Why are you supporting this candidate? Be specific. Then, ask the readers specifically to vote for your candidate on election day, and give the date of the election so that the readers who aren't aware do not forget to go.
Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.