Outlining your letter for success

  • Set it up formally. If you are submitting through CNPS, the letter will use the CNPS letterhead. The letter should be addressed to the correct contact person for the lead agency, and be titled clearly with the project title and the document on which you’re commenting. 
  • Include an Introduction. Start by thanking them for the opportunity to comment on the project. This can be followed with a brief introduction of the project, including the project title, SCH #, and other relevant information. If you are commenting as part of CNPS, in partnership with your conservation chairs, you will be provided with a boilerplate paragraph to introduce yourself, the organization, and the problems with the project. 
  • End your introduction with a quick outline of the issues. This paragraph should end with a sentence that clearly outlines the concerns addressed in the letter (your thesis statement). 
  • Create context as needed. Set up any needed information about the project, issues of concern, or any special circumstances around the project. 
  • Use headings. Divide the letter into individual sections for each issue. Further divide issues with sub-headings or bullets if needed for readability.  Keep headings simple, persuasive, and to the point. It is okay if each section of a letter is short, as this will make it easier for the reader to digest quickly.  
  • Organize sections in a logical order. Make sure the document has a smooth flow and does not require a lot of internal cross-references to previous or later sections. 
  • Keep it brief and use simple, clear language. These comments will be reviewed by agency staff who have to review and respond to hundreds of comments. If the reader can easily understand the points you are making, your letter has a better chance of being effective. 
  • Use topic sentences for each paragraph.This is especially important at the beginning of sections to clearly introduce the issue you will discuss. 
  • Include a conclusion. You can use the conclusion to once again summarize the issues, but it is not necessary to do so.  If you have a main “Ask”, reiterate it and emphasize it here. 
  • End with a thank you and invitation for follow up. You can say something like, “Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the [NAME OF PROJECT]. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.” 

See the CNPS Comment Letter Template for a sample layout and our Boilerplate Introduction Paragraph. (This follows the paragraph where you give thanks for the opportunity to comment and briefly introduce the project) 

Next: Tips for Effective Comment Letters