Writing a Complaint Letter

Letter Writing


This week, we will write the most common of adult writing: the letter of complaint.


The following never happened, but pretend it did.

You  have been notified of a recall on your 1999 Honda Accord concerning an air bag issue.  You make arrangements to return your just cleaned car to a Birmingham dealership to get the airbag fixed.  They ask for two days to make the airbag modifications. You take the car on Monday and ask a friend for a ride over to the dealership Wednesday after school.  When you pick up your car you find that your CDs  are scattered on the passenger side front seat and have fingerprints all over them,  McDonald’s remnants are on the seats, and the whole car smells like cigarettes. You decide to write a letter of complaint.


In order for your paper to be graded, it must show the following traits:

  • typed
  • no more than one page
  • no major grammar errors
  • no major spelling errors
  • Correct letter format


Your letter will be graded for;

  • clarity,
  • use of writing tricks,
  • structure (aboveboard argument).

Tip & Tricks


In the other essays, you have had a very open audience with very nebulous expectation. Now you have a very focused audience with a specific expectation.


Make sure you do these things when you write this letter.

  • Appropriate Tone
  • Tell the Story
  • Why I am writing
  • What do I want

Appropriate Tone

Tone is the trickiest part of these letters. You need to be serious and forceful, without going over the top. It is probably best if you take the attitude that “You have a problem that I can help you with.”

Remember, you are not writing to the guy who gave you the problem, you are writing to his boss. She has to take you seriously.

Thanks to Bob Barsanti for this idea.

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