Environmental Wordsmithing 101: Universal Tips For Advocates

The Sierra Club offered an informational handout, “Making Your Voice Heard” to participants at the “Clean Air Act Rulemaking and Permitting Training For EJ Communities,” April 25-26 in Detroit. Adapted from The Art of Commenting: How to Influence Environmental Decisionmaking With Effective Comments, by Elizabeth D. Mullin, the handout addresses a strategic aspect of advocacy: how to speak skillfully.

The advice is directed to advocates who are preparing for a public comment session in a permit or regulatory hearing. But this applies to any public comment, delivered orally or  in written form (example: a news commentary). Carefully-crafted public comments strengthen the position of advocates when trying to gain the attention and respect of regulators, as well as to counter claims by opponents. Preparation is the foundation to an effective comment:

  • Define your objectives.
  • Use clear organization, formatting, and language.
  • Make the strongest possible points.
  • Suggest specific language when possible and appropriate.
  • Use specific examples to illustrate concerns.
  • State what you support as well as what you disagree with.
  • Provide supplemental information, if needed.
  • Offer helpful solutions.

The guide offers good suggestions on how to take an incomplete or poorly-written comment and strengthening it with alternative words and word usage. You can get the pdf of the handout at http://eli-ocean.org/gulf/files/Making-Your-Voice-Heard.pdf.