Tips for effective letter writing

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Letters can be very powerful tools for advocating for your child. It is worth working on your letter-writing skills. You can also get help from advocacy organisations to write important letters.

There are likely to be a number of times, over the course of your child’s time at school, when it will be important for you to be able to write the most effective letter that you can.

Telephone calls or face-to-face meetings also have their place. But in many situations, a letter is a good way to make a complaint, to record your issue and any steps you have taken to address it, and make it ‘official’. A letter demands a reply, and if you write it in appropriate, effective language, can be a powerful tool for achieving the outcome you want for your child.

You can download this information as a Word document here:
Tips for effective letter writing (39KB)

Here are our top ten tips for effective letter writing:

  1. Your letter should focus on one issue only. Start your letter by clearly stating the reason that you are writing. Explain the main issue, including how the problem is affecting your child and family.
  2. Strive to keep your tone courteous at all times. You don’t need to sound like a professional; you can be personal in how you explain the problem and its impact on your child and family. But always use appropriate and reasonable language – it makes it more likely that you will get a positive response.
  3. Explain what outcome you are seeking to resolve the problem (what you want to happen), and what action you are requesting from the person you have addressed the letter to, to assist with this.
  4. Keep your letter reasonably short – generally one to three pages, at most.
  5. If you have relevant evidence that you wish to supply with the letter (such as an assessment report, for example), include a copy as an attachment to the letter, and refer to it in the letter.
  6. Address your letter to the person most directly responsible for making the relevant decision. If you have already been through some steps of a complaints process (for example, talking with the teacher) and are not happy with the response, you might address your letter to the principal. Check and follow your school’s complaints process. You might wish to address your letter to the regional DET office (or to the appropriate next step ‘up the ladder’ in the Catholic or independent school system) but remember that unless there is a special reason to not go through the school process first (for example, if the issue relates to the principal themselves), you will probably be required to go through the local process before taking your issue ‘up the ladder’. See the section A guide to the complaints process for more details.
  7. Consider whether you want to send copies of the letter to the supervisor of the person addressed, or to any other person. At the bottom of the letter, write ‘CC:’ and the person’s name and title.
  8. Reflect on your letter, and ask at least one other person to read it for you, to give you feedback. You can ask for assistance from an advocacy organisation, including feedback on a draft letter.
  9. Include all of your contact details, and the best way to reach you, and suggest a timeframe for when you would like a reply. Complaints send to the DET, for example, should generally be acknowledged immediately, and all attempts made to resolve them within 20 working days.
  10. Always keep copies of all correspondence on your home file.

Find out more

  • For much more information about complaints processes in all types of schools, including external complaints mechanisms such as human rights bodies, see A guide to the complaints process.
  • For tips and family stories about how to effectively raise a concern with school, including thinking through the outcome you want and how best to express your concern, see Raising a concern with school.
  • For tips and strategies on how to tackle challenges commonly raised with ACD’s support staff, see Tips for dealing with common challenges.