How to Write a Letter of Complaint

Writing a letter of complaint can be just as irritating and time consuming as the poor service, shoddy quality, or lack of common courtesy that sparked the need for a letter. When writing a letter like this, it is important to remember: a letter that does some good is worth much more than a letter that shows just how angry someone made the writer. This is best accomplished when writers attempt to put themselves “in the shoes” of whomever they’re writing.

It makes the task of letter writing easier to break the process down into 5 Dos and 2 Don’ts which separate letters of complaint that actually get results from those that get thrown out.

Do Be Polite

As hard as playing nice can be when someone has been offended or genuinely mistreated, there is serious leverage gained from poise and grace in a letter of complaint. This is partially because the person receiving the letter is rarely the person who caused the trouble. Why make someone who wasn’t involved instantly defensive and, therefore, less likely to listen to the complaint simply because of how the letter is written?

Do Be Specific and Logical

A clear and simple restatement of your grievances with some form of logical order and a suggested method for fixing the problem make for an excellent letter of complaint. This saves whoever ends up reading the letter the trouble of asking, “Well, what can I do about it?”

Do Get to the Point Quickly

A letter of complaint is not the place to ramble on, or in circles to make a point. If the person in charge of reading and answering your complaint has to slog through several pages of back story, narrative, and/or finger-pointing, they may very well give up trying to help the writer.

Do Expect Return Communication

While politeness will get the writer of a complaint letter respect, ending the letter with phrases like “I look forward to your reply,” or “I trust I will hear from you soon,” are more likely to provoke correspondence or, at the least, some form of response.

Do Sleep On It

This could really be two steps. First, write the letter while still angry, hurt, or irritated and familiar with the specific events and trouble behind the complaint. However, don’t send the letter until the next day, after removing the angry and impolite remarks in favor of the above suggestions.

Don’t Sound Crazy

Take a lesson from people who write to newspapers or comment on blogs and other internet news sites: Think before you write. Many web commenters may not realize that, when they write lines and lines of disorganized, negative content, they don’t sound knowledgeable, they come across as neurotic or eccentric. Long, rambling letters about everything that went wrong may be help you vent your frustration or feel better about yourself; however, a letter of complaint should not be about venting or soothing your ego, it should be geared toward getting someone to correct a problem or situation.

Don’t use foul language or ALL CAPS

While it seems obvious, it it is still important to keep your letter of complaint professional and avoid personally insulting whoever reads it. It is also important to remember that in letters (and online) using all capital letters is generally understood to be the same as shouting. It is inappropriate to use all capital letters for emphasis – use italics or underlining instead.


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