Writing an Effective Appeal Letter

SFU normally requires that all appeals include a statement or letter written by the student that describes the reasons for their appeal. The appeal itself should be approached like a position paper. There is no limit on how many pages you use but it’s always a good idea to try and keep your letter to 1 or 2 pages. The first thing you should do before writing an appeal paper is to brainstorm a list of every reason why you believe the appeal should be granted. Disagreeing with a decision because you don’t like it, is not good enough. There need to be specific reasons relating to policy or procedure that warrant a review. Your letter should contain only clear and concise sentences.

While the appearance of a letter is important, the content and tone will determine whether the letter really does its job. Make sure you have read all relevant policies and procedures that relate to your situation and pay particular attention to what the decision maker needs to know to consider an appeal or request. That information should be included in your letter. Leaving out essential information may delay a response or even result in your appeal or request being denied. Appeals are considered confidential and are normally only read by the panel or group that are making the decision.

Don't rush

Far too often students do not take the time to write a proper appeal. When you rush or submit a poorly written appeal you increase the chances that your appeal will be denied, even if you have a good case.

Opening statement

The first sentence or two should state the purpose of the letter clearly.

Be factual

Include as much factual detail as possible and if possible reference your comments to supporting documentation. Avoid dramatizing the situation.

Be specific

Provide information about the who/what/when/where/how/why, especially for facts that the decision maker may seek to verify.


Include any documentation required to substantiate your claims. If documentation is being sent by a third party, state that with details.

Stick to the point

Don't clutter your letter with information or requests that have no essential connection to the main message.

Do not try to manipulate the reader

Threatening, name-calling, cajoling, begging, pleading, flattery and making extravagant promises are manipulative and ineffective methods.

How to talk about feelings

It is tempting to overstate the case when something is important to us. When feelings are legitimate part of a message state it as a fact but again avoid being overly dramatic.

Be brief

It is more work to write a good letter than a long one. Decision makers appreciate the extra effort that goes into composing a good short letter.

Be honest

If you have actually done something wrong – accept responsibility! Everyone makes mistakes and if you express your regret and demonstrate that you have learned from the situation that sends a positive message to the reader.

Deadlines matter

Always meet the deadline.

Keep copies

Scan everything, your letter and all supporting documentation until - and possibly for some time after - a matter is settled, keep a copy of all letters sent or received, as well as relevant documents, forms, and receipts.