You're understandably disappointed to receive a formal rejection of any kind. But remember, just about any decision can be appealed, meaning asking the deciding party to take another look and reconsider their decision. The way you write your reconsideration letter also called a letter of appeal has a lot to do with whether your request will be honored or will even get a second glance.
Be Brief and Direct
People who make decisions like these every day are overwhelmed with communications, including many reconsideration letters. So their first impression of your letter can affect how they feel about your request before they've even read it. If it's crammed with long paragraphs, they're weary from the start; and may even push it to the bottom of the pile. To make the best impression:
- Keep your letter to one page.
- Write short paragraphs.
- Use bullet points to make it easier to read.
Use Proper Business Style
A reconsideration letter, or recon letter, is important and therefore requires formal business format and style. Keep these points in mind when setting up your letter:
Use block format: Block and indented formats are the most commonly used in business letters. In block format, every line is flush left. Paragraphs are indicated by an extra line space rather than by indentations. Although you could use either, block style makes bullet points stand out because all other copy is flush left.
Begin with your address: Skip your address if you're using letterhead. Otherwise, write your address on two lines: Street address on line one and city, state and zip code on line two. Spell out words like "Street," "Road" and your state. Do not include your name in this section.
Add the date: Skip one line and add today's date if you'll be mailing your letter today or tomorrow. If you are mailing it later, date it close to when you'll mail it. Or change the date just before you print and mail it. Having a current date conveys that your letter is important. If it's a week old by the time your decision maker sees it, it looks like old news that can't matter very much.
Add the recipient's information: Skip one line after the date and use as many lines as you need to include all of your recipient's pertinent information, including formal name, complete and accurate title and business name and address.
Example of writing a recon letter to a judge:
The Honorable John H. Cranston
District Court (or whatever the full name of the court is)
Street address of the court
City, State zip code (no comma between state and zip code)
Example writing a recon letter to a college:
Ms. Meredith P. Johnston
Dean of Students
City, State and zip code
Greet formally: Use the full, formal name from the rejection document. For example, "Dear Judge Cranston:" or "Dear Dean Johnston:" Note that the greeting ends with a colon.
Confident, not arrogant: The tone you take in writing your recon letter can be a make-or-break factor. Don't take an antagonistic, angry or superior tone. Aim to sound confident about your request, but humble in asking.
State Your Request Up Front
A recon letter isn't the place for a clever opening. Decision makers want to know up front what your letter is about. For example:
"I'm writing to ask that you reconsider your decision in Case Number 4325671, that was given on (month, day, year). The decision is attached to this letter for your convenience."
Attaching a copy of your decision letter or documents makes it easier for the recipient to refer to the details of your case without having to look it up. It also reduces the likelihood that they'll set your letter aside while looking for your case documents.
Add Any New Information
Your best chance at having the rejection reconsidered and reversed is if you have new information in your recon letter that wasn’t given at the time of the first decision. Make it clear that this is new information and explain it briefly but so it’s easy to understand. For example, if you’ve been removed from school because of an infraction of the rules, or accused of a crime in court:
“I have new information that affects this case:
- A witness has come forward with evidence that places me far from where the activities in question occurred.
- The witness’s sworn and notarized statement is attached.”
Plead Rationally, Not Emotionally
If you don't have new information, try to give the case a new slant or ask that it be reconsidered differently. People who make these tough decisions receive many recon letters asking that decisions be reconsidered. They've heard every conceivable excuse and plea before. Why should yours be the exception? Avoid expressing your hardships or devastation. Everyone who is rejected is upset, but that's not a valid reason to have the decision reversed. For example, in the case of a college admissions rejection, instead of:
"I will be the only family member in three generations not attending Milbert College."
State your case in more rational terms and address benefits to the school:
"Twelve members of my family are proud Milbert College graduates, and three made lasting contributions that benefit all students:
- Championing the construction of the Tower Arch.
- Fundraising for the expansion of the biology department.
- Chairing the annual Fulton Poetry Competition.
I, too, want to add my contributions to Milbert College. For these reasons, I believe my status as a legacy applicant should be given further consideration."
Closing Your Reconsideration Letter
Wrap up your reconsideration letter with a quick thank-you. Add a formal closing and indicate that attachments are included. For example:
Thank you for taking the time and effort to reconsider my decision.
(Skip four lines to sign your name)
Your full name
Title, if appropriate
(Skip one line)
Attachments: court decision documents
Use a grammar and spelling program to check for and correct any errors. Print, sign and mail your reconsideration letter immediately.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She has written on business topics for afkinsider.com, smallbusiness.chron.com, Harbor Style Magazine, the Charlotte Sun and more, as well as advertising copy and materials. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards in B2B and B2C marketing.