Some tips for writing a letter of complaint/dispute

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The letter of complaint or dispute is part of professional life. On the business side, it is sometimes necessary to claim payment following a service performed. On the customer side, there are sometimes good reasons to dispute an invoice.

Whichever side one is on, complaint and dispute letter ultimately meet the same writing requirements. Namely: precision of facts, sobriety of style .

Why ? Because a confusing, poorly written, misspelled or poorly presented complaint/claim in writing letter diminishes the impact of the message. It has been proven that a recipient represents the sender of a message in his own way of writing … And that he attributes greater credibility to a claim/dispute written with rigor and formalism . Example :


A good sample letter of complaint (found on the internet). Factual, short, precise, polite, presented in a standard way. In short, efficient.


Letter of complaint / dispute = precision of the facts

Accuracy of the facts consists in “laying down” the elements in a very factual way. Above all, do not make a description and give a multitude of details: you have to limit yourself to the essentials . And the main thing are the facts, the dates that will allow the interlocutor to understand the situation and its context in a single reading. Hence the importance of information that is both precise and useful . All others are to be eliminated.

A starter phrase like ”  I’m writing to you today to let you know that…  ” isn’t really helpful:

  • ”  I’m writing to you  “: that’s obvious, since it’s a letter.
  • ”  Today  “: further evidence because the letter is dated.
  • “  To let you know  ”: normal, a letter is intended to convey a message.

You might as well go straight to the point, that is to say, give contextual elements so that the recipient resituates the message.

For example: “  I placed an order on May 12 for an XYZ battery. (see your acknowledgment of receipt dated the same day). On May 20, we received an ABC battery, which does not correspond to the product ordered”.

Once the context has been given and the subject of the dispute has been defined, you must clearly formulate what you expect: “  The payment of this invoice must be made within 10 days ”, “  I await your refund in return ”.

Continuing from the previous example: “  Consequently, I request that you return battery XYZ to us and advise us of the procedure for returning battery ABC to you (at your expense) .


Letter of complaint / dispute = sobriety of style

The sobriety of the style, it is short sentences, carrying useful information and written in a common and polite vocabulary . No stylistic effects or frills: the letter of complaint/dispute is not a literary piece of writing. So leave the “  I have the honor to introduce you…  ” to the French administration and write as simply as possible.

That said, simplicity is not the transcription of spoken language. Thus, expressions of the type “  we should arrange for the best  ” are to be excluded.

The usual politeness requires a final polite formula. That said, the traditional ” Please accept, Madam, Sir, my cordial greetings  ” may seem a little out of place in a letter of complaint / dispute. Even a little dry, the formula ”  Accept, Madam, Sir, my greetings  ” will do the trick.

Sobriety is also a letter that respects the rules of presentation of professional letters as well as a few principles of form: A4 sheet, dark ink, no insertion of images (to be reserved for attachments and as evidence ), sender details on the top left, etc.


No room for emotion in a complaint/dispute letter

Too few people know it: the expression of emotions, which already rarely has its place in a professional letter, has no place at all in a letter of complaint or dispute . Even if you are dying to express your dissatisfaction or your “fed up”.

In other words, adverbs such as unfortunately , courageously , assuredly rarely have their place in a letter.

Emotion is an individual’s reaction to a state of the environment or an event. Expressing one’s emotions is always a form of revealing oneself, one’s state, one’s feelings. Do you really want to reveal yourself to someone you don’t know? Especially since this someone will interpret these emotions according to their personal characteristics but also their place. If that someone is a debt collector, no doubt they don’t care about your feelings of harassment.

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