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How to Write a Complaint Letter

Dear Complaint Department

If you have ever received a complaint letter, you know those nasty words can sting. But if you are someone who has a complaint, here are some tips to help get your message across without beating the poor person in the complaints department.

  • Choose the right department. If you can, address the complaint to a specific individual.

  • Keep your sentences short, around 20 words per sentence.

  • Try active voice when possible. Sometimes passive works as you MAY NOT want to blame anyone in particular. For example, write The plane has some defects in its engineering. VERSUS The engineers designed defective parts.

  • Don’t forget ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Remember your grandmother’s old adage: You get more with honey than vinegar.

  • Complaint letters need to be direct and clear. The first paragraph should answer the question: Why am I writing this letter? Details are important, but stating what you want is crucial. “We enjoyed the view from our window, but the bed was too soft.”

  • Second paragraph should state what went wrong and what caused the problem.

  • Last paragraph might give a deadline as to when you would like to hear back. Close the letter politely: ‘Sincerely’ works here.

  • Negative language just puts people off. Forget loaded words like ‘stingy’ and ‘rotten.’ They’re better stated as ‘frugal’ and ‘expired.’ Spam filters might delete your message if it sets off those alarms.

  • It’s one thing to be upset about your raw chicken, but it doesn’t help to bully the recipient of the letter, who probably had nothing to do with your horrible meal anyway. Plus, rudeness can backfire by delaying action. Remember, good business communication means mutual respect.

  • Remember to keep all your correspondence about this issue, as well as receipts, invoices, and warranty documents. Cite a product code or batch number if relevant.

  • It’s also helpful to record any serial and model numbers, along with the date of purchase or service, so you don’t pull your hair out tracking down that information. I’ve always found it surprising what lengths manufacturers go to in order to hide this information on appliances.

By the way, have you ever written a compliment letter to someone? Try it. You’ll be surprised how responsive the receiver is. You might even receive free products or coupons.

Contact one of our capable writers at Business Writing That Counts! 425.485.3221 if you need help with your letter of complaint—or praise.


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