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How to Send a Complaint Letter to a Politician

This indispensable guide will give you the tools to make your voice heard when you find, as we all do at one point or another, that your elected officials are advancing their own interests at the expense of your concerns. Use only if you are prepared for fantastic results.


1. Learn your politician's home address. Depending on the office they hold and the size of their district, the politician you are writing to may get hundreds or even thousands of letters at his or her office each day. The fact that you went out of your way to get his or her home address demonstrates a degree of determination and creepiness that assure you will make an impression. It is often easy to locate the home of a small town mayor or state senator, but you may have to get a little more creative with folks higher up the political ladder. Finding your U.S. senator’s address, for instance, may necessitate your exploration of leads at his or her spouse’s workplace, or child’s school. Take proper precautions in this stage of your investigation, using discardable, prepaid cell phones for telephone inquiries, and wearing dark glasses and hooded sweatshirts for on-site reconnaissance.

2. Select a greeting that will really catch your politician's eye. Using his or her first name can be an effective way to break the ice. But using a stronger greeting that reflects the degree of your concern can be even more compelling. Salutations like “Dear Jackass” or “Governor Douche Bag” are bound to make a lasting impression on even the most thickheaded of numskull politicians.

3. For the body of your letter, employ each of the major rhetorical strategies: Flattery, bemoaning, and threats. Some will tell you that it is best to limit any given letter to a single strategy. What these individuals fail to recognize is the persuasiveness of the tone of unbalanced desperation, created by the use of all three simultaneously.

4. Flattery: Compliment the politician, preferably for something very minor, because the more minor the subject the more disproportionately laudatory your commendations can become. Matters of policy can be useful (i.e. “I so admire your brilliant work on the transcendent new stop sign at the corner of 2nd and Main.”), but matters of personal appearance are even more effective (i.e. “Your delightful little mustache is both adorable and masculine perched beneath your nose like a sweet yet manly baby moth.”). Aim for five or six effusive compliments per letter. These should ideally be equally dispersed between passages of…

5. Bemoaning: Now is the time to plumb the depths of your personal misery. Studies have shown that the more miserable and pathetic a person is the more likely they are to garner the sympathy of politicians. Think of the speeches you hear every presidential election. Invariably, someone will bring up Bethel, the blind one-legged old woman who has to hop up and down the riverbank collecting bottles in order to buy the generic brand cat food she lives on. Explain in detail the various miseries of your day-to-day life. Does your cable frequently go out? Did your father miss your little league games? When you re-tie your shoes, does one always end up too tight, cutting off your circulation, while the other one flops around like an angry elephant-seal in molting season? These and complaints like them will help enhance your credibility as a concerned constituent. Whether or not these concerns bear any relevance to the immediate subject of your complaint letter is immaterial. These complaints are about style, not substance. Besides, their immediate impact will be tempered by their placement among a series of…

6. Threats: Of course the classic “If you ever want my vote again” never goes out of style. But a genuinely persuasive complaint letter will bolster this old standby with some hard hitting new ammunition. Consider the effect of a well placed “I’ll start leaving flaming bags of feces on peoples’ front porches with tags attached reading ‘Sincerely, Your Mayor.’ A useful subset of threats is blackmail. Here is where you can get creative. You may not know any specific secrets, but, believe me, your politician has them. Think of him or her as a dartboard. Just throw a few things out and something is bound to stick. “I know about your affair/cronyism/secret perversion” is traditional. But, again, a little creativity can go a long way. “I’ll tell everyone I know that you like to ride yellow Labradors like ponies” is bound to pack a punch that your standard fare would lack. Remember to place these threats evenly among your flattery and bemoanings. An elegant symmetrical pattern of threat, flattery, bemoaning, threat, flattery, bemoaning, etc. has the same soothing effect on the eye and mind as the delicate rhythms of a Shakespearean sonnet.

7. Close with power. Everyone knows that the thing a reader is most likely to remember is the last thing on the page. This is why it is best to confine the issue that you are complaining about to the closing paragraph, or, if possible, final sentence of your letter. You’ve already done the majority of your work in the body. By now your politician is putty in your hands, ready to respond with immediate decisive action to your primary complaint. You may want to experiment with a variety of styles here, but the most seasoned complainers will tell you that a simple “In conclusion, I demand …” is by far the most compelling way to spur your politician to action. If at all possible, avoid a lot of mumbo jumbo about the issue. A concise call to action is always preferable to a rambling equivocating explanation of the subtleties of your viewpoint. In the end, statements like, “I demand that you solve the immigration problem now” or “I demand that you fix the government immediately” will get you real results.

8. Send your letter. Be sure to affix adequate postage.

Article added: 02 June 2008

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