Start with the Letter Style
Before students can write their complaint letters, they need to learn or to review the parts of a letter. For this lesson, use the block letter style.
Block Letter Format
In the block style, there is no indenting. All parts of the letter need to line up on the left margin. The order of the letter parts are as follows:
- Your address (sender's address)
- Address where the letter is going (inside address)
- Salutation (Dear Mr. Johnson:)
- Body of letter
To view a sample block style letter, go to the Business Communication website.
Steps in the Lesson Procedure
Once students understand the proper block letter format, they can begin composing their complaint letter. It is best if students are given a scenario to write about in this lesson.
Reasons to Write a Complaint Letter
Students may need to write a complaint letter if a product doesn't work correctly or if it doesn't work at all. Or, they may need to complain about problems in their community to business owners or to leaders in the community.
Use Polite Tone
Please stress to the students that the tone of these letters should not be sarcastic, threatening or angry. If they want something to change or a product that works, they need to be clear in their message and polite.
Imaginary Scenario #1: In your community, the local park has a swing set with broken chains, basketball hoops without nets and trash bins that are overflowing. You want to write a formal complaint to the Parks and Recreation Director. His name is Mr. Ralph Blank. His address is as follows: Office of Parks and Recreation, 123 North Park Street, Logan, Ohio, 43138.
Imaginary Scenario #2: You have wanted a pair of Tike neon colored tennis shoes for months. You finally talk your mother into buying them for you. One week after the purchase, the sole is loose at the toes, and the thread in the stitching is loose. The brand name of the shoes is Tike, and the store where the shoes were purchased was The Big Shoe Store. The customer service manager for Tike is Mrs. Belinda Bowers. Her address is 456 South Shoe Street, Columbus, Ohio 45612.
Complaint Letter Lesson Steps
Step 1: Once students have selected a scenario, they need to begin writing a draft of their letter. Include the sender’s address, date, inside address and salutation.
Step 2: For the body of the letter, students need to include the following:
Paragraph 1: Describe what is wrong with the product or describe the issues/problems. Give the date of purchase and place of purchase, if applicable.
Paragraph 2: Explain how you would like to resolve the problem.
Paragraph 3: Explain that you look forward to receiving a reply with a resolution. Set a date or time limit in which to receive the reply. Give a phone number where you can be reached.
Step 3: Include a closing, such as “Sincerely" and your full name.
Step 4: Ask students to peer edit their each other’s letter before turning them into the teacher.
As an extension of this lesson, teachers can have students write real complaint letters to real companies, business leaders or community leaders after the practice is complete.
This lesson is a great way to teach students how to properly solve problems. In addition, they can learn how to write a business letter using the block letter format.