Letter of Complaint

What You Say In A Complaint Letter: Rules To Follow

The letter-writing advice below is based on “The Essential Guide to Business Etiquette” by Lillian Hunt Chaney and Jeanette St. Clair Martin.

1.  The complaint letter should not be written when you are angry

2.  The complaint letter should have no apparent emotion.  (Whatyousay begs to differ.  We think it is desirable to make carefully chosen statements that express emotion, such as “I was terribly disappointed…”  “I was so looking forward to receiving the lamp that we ordered. I could just picture it in our den…”  We think this adds a nice touch.  We certainly do agree with the authors that you must stay in control of your emotions when you write a complaint letter.)

3.  The complaint letter should be factual. (Whatyousay agrees totally.  Double-check, no, triple-check every item you mention in your letter.)

4.  The complaint letter should be grammatically correct.

5.  The complaint letter should contain only essential information.

6.  The complaint letter should be polite.  If a letter is antagonistic, the receiver may not give it the attention it needs.

7.  The complaint letter should be directed to the appropriate person.  Make a phone call or visit the organization’s web site to find out to whom the letter should be addressed, and make sure the person’s name is spelled correctly.  (whatyousay adds this qualification.  When you make the phone call, ask if the person mentioned on the website is still in that position, and if he/she is receiving business correspondence. That person just might be on sick leave, and your letter might languish unread for weeks.)

–excerpted and adapted from Lillian Hunt Chaney and Jeanette St. Clair Martin, “The Essential Guide to Business Etiquette”

There are additional helpful rules to follow in “Time Tactics Of Very Successfil People.”


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You will also enjoy Lincoln Speaks To Leaders by Gene Griessman and Pat Williams.

Don’t leave yet. You’ve found a goldmine. Check out additional power phrases and unusual quotations.


Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and communication strategist. His book “TheWords Lincoln Lived By” is in its 23rd printing and “Time Tactics of Very Successful People” is in its 43rd printing. His training video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions and annual meetings all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, call 404-435-2225. Learn more at Atlanta Speakers Bureau or at his website. His latest book “Lincoln and Obama” has just been released by Audible.
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