How to Address a Letter to a Government Official

Four Methods:Sample LettersAddressing the LetterFollowing Proper EtiquetteWriting an Actionable Letter

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!

Sample Letters

Sample Letter to a Mayor

Sample Letter to the President of the United States

Sample Letter to the Head of a Department

Method 1
Addressing the Letter

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    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.
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    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.[1]
    • If you live in the United States, visit to access a comprehensive list of contact information for national, state, and local administrators.[2]
    • If you don't have a specific official in mind, then look for the address of the relevant department. Perhaps you need to contact your local DMV office, or the Department of Homeland Security.
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    Address the letter. Include the official's title and full name (e.g. President Barack Obama) along with his or her official 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![3]

Method 2
Following Proper Etiquette

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    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. A polite, thoughtful, and well-written letter will almost always be more likely to make it through this filtration system.[4]
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    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.[5]
    • 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.
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    Read sample letters, or send a form letter.[6] 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.[7]
    • If you are very unsure about how to address and relate to the official in question, remember that you 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 a form letter and a clear subject line.

Method 3
Writing an Actionable Letter

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    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.
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    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.
    • 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.
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    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.


  • 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.

Article Info

Categories: Official Writing and Complaints | Political Campaigning and Participation