There are two reasons to write a waiver letter. One is to let someone know that you're waiving your rights to something, such as your right to sue if a product doesn't work, or perhaps you waive your right to claim a prize because you don't want it. The second reason to write a waiver letter is to ask someone to waive a requirement or a fee for you. Though the format for both is similar, they also have important differences.

Understanding Elements of Waiver Letters

Waiver letters are serious communications. Waiving one's rights to anything should be done only after careful thought about the pros and cons of doing so. Requesting a waiver is serious because you're asking to have an exception made for you. When writing waiver letters, be sure to:

Use a business format. Write the letter in business style with a professional tone. Use letterhead if appropriate. Otherwise, lead with your address and date; the recipient's name, title, company and address; and a formal business greeting such as "Dear Ms. Riggs" rather than "Dear Pat," even if you know her.

Be direct and to the point. That doesn't mean, however, that the letter will necessarily be short. A waiver letter should be as short as it can be, but as long as it needs to be to convey your message clearly and make your points convincingly.

State Your Purpose. Begin with a succinct explanation for why you're writing the letter:

"I'm writing today to inform you that I am waiving my right to examine the letter of recommendation you are writing for me."

Explain Your Reasoning. Start a new paragraph and continue with a sentence or two – or more if you need it – explaining why you're waiving your rights or why you're asking for a waiver. For example:

"Although the university allows applicants to review letters of recommendation written on their behalf, I want you to feel free to be honest and complete in your letter. I know you will write a thoughtful letter concerning my work."

Wrap it Up. Bring your letter to a polite close in your final paragraph. Ending right after your meaty paragraph of explanation would seem too curt and almost rude. If you can, add another sentence or two that transitions from your explanation of reasoning to your final close. Using the same example of the letter waiving your rights to examine a letter of recommendation, you could add:

"Having you as my mentor was one of the most valuable parts of my education. I learned so much – not only specifics about the work, but also from the example you set for me – and I will carry it with me in my own work. I am honored that you agreed to write a letter of recommendation for me."

Close with a simple, "Sincerely," your full name and your title and employer if it's appropriate. For example, if you want to prompt the person to remember you, giving these will help to remind them how they know you. Presumably, you wouldn't ask for a recommendation from someone who might not remember you; this applies more to other types of waiver letters.

Writing a Letter Requesting Waiver

Often, there will be a form specifically designed to request waivers for fees or requirements, and it will have space to explain why you believe you deserve special consideration. If you want to write a letter in addition to the form, begin with your purpose:

"I am writing to you today to request a waiver of the application fee due to hardship."

Next, explain your reasoning:

"I will have difficulty paying the fee because I am unemployed. My job ended last semester, and since I knew I would be going back to school, I didn't apply for a new job because I knew I would have to leave it. Once I am enrolled in school again, I will apply for a paid internship or financial aid in the form of a work-study job. My parents cannot help me because all of their earnings go to support my six younger siblings."

Finish the letter in the same way as the example for the letter waiving your rights. To write a letter requesting the waiver of a requirement, follow the same format by stating your purpose in writing, your reasoning, and a closing.