Your neighborhood is backed up every morning with commuters desperately trying to get to work, and you're convinced the solution is a traffic light. Or you're confused by the mud-slinging during the latest campaign, and you want to know just where an official stands before you vote again. Perhaps a recent policy change in leash laws has made it impossible to walk your pet comfortably. Any of these situations is a reason to write to a government official. Whatever your specific reason, make sure your letter is formal, well-worded and respectful.
Get It Right
First things first: Decide which official to whom you need to direct your letter. Choose someone who has the most direct influence on the topic you're concerned about. Once you've identified the right person to direct your letter to, obtain a working address for that official. Getting the official's name and title correct is very important. Misspelling a name or using the wrong designation -- Mr. Haley instead of Governor Haley, for example -- can detract a great deal from the seriousness of your letter.
A formal salutation is appropriate for a letter written to a government official, such as, "Dear Governor Charles" or "Dear Senator Richardson," followed by a colon. Then start your letter by introducing yourself and the reason you're writing. Be concise and specific as your letter may be just one in a deluge of others. The better you can sum up who you are and what issue has prompted you to write, the more effective your letter will be.
Explanations and Suggestions
Delve deeper into the issue at hand. Explain how this issue affects you and anyone else in your group, followed by your personal stand on it and the reasons for your position. Letters to officials are typically of two natures: a complaint or an offer of support. If yours is a complaint, offer the suggestion you think will mend the problem. If you're in support of a decision, letting the official know is equally important as she needs feedback of both varieties. You may also want to volunteer some of your time to helping out if possible.
Wrap it Up
Any formal letter should include a note of gratitude for the time the recipient has taken to read the letter and consider your thoughts. Then end the letter with a formal closing, such as, "Sincerely" or "Yours faithfully," followed by a comma. If it's a typed letter, leave space between your closing and your typed name so you can add your signature in ink in that space.
Stick to the Rules
Your letter should be headed with your address and the date. Four lines below that, insert the name, title and address of the recipient. Whether you align the addresses on the left or right of the page depends on the visual style of the letter. Drop down one more line to insert the salutation and another line to begin the body of the letter. After the body, drop down a line to type your closing. Remember to avoid using contractions and spell out both words and avoid informal language and slang.