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How To Write a Public Comment
Tasks for Writing a Public Comment
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Influencing Administrations:
Tasks for Writing a Public Comment

The Task Outline provided in this section will help you create communications that effectively meet audience expectations.

Task 1: Find calls for public comment

The U.S. government’s official source for notifications of proposed rule-making is the Federal Register, published daily. You can find the Federal Register either in government information depository libraries or online at You will find calls for comment in the section titled “Proposed Rules” or the section titled “Notices.” Look for announcements by agencies authorized to act on topics of concern to you.

Alternatively, if you already know the executive branch department, and within it the relevant agency, that administers laws in your area of concern, do not go initially to the Register. It can be overwhelming, and you might have to look at the index every day to follow the government’s activities on an issue of concern. Instead, first try the web site of the relevant department (the Department of Transportation, for example); search there for the relevant agency (National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, for example). If you do not know what department or agency to search for, go to the web site of an advocacy group associated with your concern. Browsing there is likely to turn up the name of both the department and agency. Then proceed with searching the agency’s web site for notifications.

If you are concerned about a state issue, you can find calls for public comment in state notifications such as the Pennsylvania Bulletin or the New York State Register. Every state has one. Familiarize yourself with the index and other finding aids for the state publication you are likely to use often.

Alternatively, if you know the jurisdiction for your concern, go first to the web site of the state agency with jurisdiction. Or go to the web sites of interested associations and advocacy groups to find where you can make a comment on an active issue.

If you want to comment on a local government matter, consult local newspapers. Local government calls for public comment are published in the public notices section of newspapers. Notifications are also posted in local government offices or, possibly, on their web sites.

Task 2: Write the public comment document

In most respects, writing a public comment is like writing any other policy document. The demands for preparation and planning are the same. The same criteria for clarity, credibility, and conciseness apply. One possible difference: some calls for public input specify the exact information needed. If the call to which you are responding does specify the contents, be sure to provide them as requested. If you have additional information, include it too, but not at the expense of requested contents.

To help ensure that your comment will be taken seriously, include these features and qualities:

  • Narrow focus
  • Evidence, analyses, and references supporting your view
  • Indication of public support of your view
  • Positive and feasible alternatives

Before you write, use the General Method to plan.

After you write, check the product against the expected standards (Communication Checklists).

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Example 1

Professionals in the field of automotive safety submit a proposed change in motor vehicle safety standards during the rule-making process. Read more...

Example 2

The Penns Valley Conservation Association responds to a call for public input on a permitting process. Read more...

Example 3

The Aaronsburg Civic Club requests a public meeting.