If you feel you've been unfairly treated at school or at work, it may help to know how to write an appeal letter. At school, you may be appealing a decision made by a teacher or administrator. For example, if you feel you’ve been unjustly placed on academic probation, you might write an appeal to the Dean, asking him or her to reconsider the decision. If a decision has been made that impacts your professional standing, i.e. a denial for a raise or an unexpected transfer, you might write an appeal to your superiors.
An appeal letter should detail the facts of the case rather than act as an emotional plea. This is probably one of the most important elements to keep in mind. You may feel very emotional at the time, but you must remain objective and professional in your writing. Here are some strategies to help you write an effective appeal letter.
An appeal letter, at its core, has three main components.
It’s important that you’re clear and get right to the point. Assume the person you’re addressing is very busy and needs to be captivated/moved by your words almost immediately.
You also want to maintain the utmost professionalism and courteousness. If you achieve clarity and maintain a high level of respect, you’ll be well on your way to a moving appeal letter.
Be sure to format your appeal letter as a business letter. Begin with the recipient’s name and address. Follow that with your own. Then, address the person in charge of the matter (i.e. Dear Mr. Henshaw:).
Keep your paragraphs short and concise. You can follow the three main components above. That is, explain the situation, state why it’s unjust, and outline the new outcome.
Although an appeal has an emotional connotation, be sure to stick to the facts. If you can cite an appropriate policy of the organization, now’s the time. If you have supporting evidence or documentation, be sure to indicate it and attach it to your letter. Appealing to emotions offers no guarantee of success. A clear-minded, concise outline of that facts, along with supporting evidence, however, may move the needle.
This has already been stated, but it’s worth repeating, do not include obvious emotional appeals. Think like a lawyer. What are the facts? You need to avoid any hints of anger or judgment. This is your opportunity to be persuasive, not aggressive.
Also, don’t include any exaggerations or mistruths. If you did something wrong, acknowledge it and indicate what you’ve learned from your mistake. Then, return to the facts surrounding how you were wronged so you can begin to wrap up with your desired outcome.
Let's take a look at a sample appeal letter that's constructed with our three main components in mind:
123 Main Street
Smalltown, MA, 12345
June 1, 2018
456 Notmain Street
Bigtown, MA, 67890
[Explain the situation] My name is Jane Murphy. I have been an employee with ABC Company for over 10 years. Recently, I was moved, without warning, from the Customer Service Department to the Billing Department.
[State why it is wrong/unjust] This came as a shock to me. My cubicle is lined with awards and accolades for my ability to provide outstanding customer support. Copies of those certificates have been attached. Not only is this where I excel, it’s where I’m happiest. Without doubt, that is a major reason for my professional success.
[State why it is wrong/unjust] Moving me to the Billing Department is doing your company a major disservice. My strength in the Customer Service Department sets your company up to shine and receive favorable customer reviews. I’ve also attached a copy of the wave of positive reviews your company has received as a result of my efforts. Finally, my experience in billing is limited to customer refunds. I’ve never been formally trained, nor do I wish to be.
[Briefly outline what you hope the new outcome will be.] It is my sincere desire that you will allow me to return to my position as Customer Service Representative. If employee satisfaction is of concern to you, I know you will consider this. Likewise, a continued flow of favorable customer reviews is sure to come your way with such a determination.
Thank you for your attention in this matter. I'll look forward to your speedy response.
(Signature, if hard copy)
You should always follow up on an appeal letter. A good standard is one week. If you haven't heard anything back within five business days, be sure to send a second e-mail or letter. Again, remember to maintain a clear and concise tone, free of emotion.
If the matter is truly urgent, you may want to follow up sooner, possibly within three business days. Of course, nowhere in this process is there room for demands or harsh tones, so always take the time to ensure you've followed proper protocol.
Before you submit your letter, ask a friend or colleague to review it. This will ensure grammatical accuracy and objectivity. That objectivity may be the thing that prevents you from sending a highly emotional letter, which will do you no good. With a clear head, a concise outline of the facts, and a respectful call to action, know that you've made a solid effort to achieve your desired outcome.