Letters of complaint

If you are writing a letter of complaint, here are some dos and don’ts that can help you get the right outcome:

 
Do
  • gather all your facts before you start writing the letter, e.g. where and when goods were bought, any customer reference numbers or invoice numbers, or a record of any previous communication with the company concerned.
  • get straight to the point and set out exactly what the problem is.
  • give all the relevant information in a clear and logical sequence.
  • state what action you want the company to take and when you expect them to have done this.
  • enclose copies of any relevant documents that support your case.
Don’t
  • use abusive language, however frustrated or angry you might feel.
  • allow yourself to get sidetracked from your specific problem into generalized criticism of the company or its products or services.
  • send your letter without checking it carefully for grammar or spelling mistakes.
 
Structuring your letter
 
The opening
 
  • Start your letter with the greeting Dear Mr (or Mrs, Ms, Miss, etc.) Surname.
  • If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, begin with Dear Sir or Dear Madam; if you don’t know their name or sex, use Dear Sir or Madam.
 
The content
 
  • Begin with a heading alerting the reader to the subject of the letter, and in your first sentence draw their attention to the matter you’re going to raise or discuss. For example I am writing to complain..., or I wish to express my dissatisfaction with ... or Thank you for your letter of ...
  • Introduce your main point as early as possible, stating your reason for writing in a clear, concise way. Once you have done this, you may want to give more details, perhaps adding further background or relevant facts.
  • In conclusion, you should state what your expectations are, for example Please let me know as soon as possible what action you propose to take or I look forward to hearing from you within the next ten days.
 
The close
 
The wording at the end of a formal letter follows a standard format:
 
  • If you know the name of the person you’re writing to, you should end the letter with Yours sincerely.
  • If your letter begins with Dear Sir or Dear Madam, it should end with Yours faithfully.
  • Your own name should be typed out underneath your signature.
 
Sample letters of complaint
 

 


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Grammar and usage