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Ministry of Education.

A letter of complaint and request for service (business letters)

Teacher: Helen Nicholls


Curriculum areas: English, economics

Year: 10-12

 Duration: 1-2 weeks

Language focus

  • Students analyse the language features and layout of a sample letter, becoming familiar with the language used to describe these features.

Learning outcomes

  • Students write a letter of complaint, using appropriate language and layout (requesting that the problem be fixed).

Teaching and learning sequence

What is a letter of complaint?

Bring a mail order catalogue to the classroom and describe the scenario: you ordered items from the catalogue and what was sent to you was faulty or incomplete. What should you do?

What sort of language do we use in a letter of complaint?

Look at the SampleLetter (Word 32KB) with the students and talk about layout and language features. The purpose of this letter is to complain about a problem with some goods that you have ordered by direct mail from a catalogue and to request the problem be fixed. Mention that a letter of complaint is usually quite short. It is usually written to a person you do not know. Therefore the tone (or register) will be formal. The letter does not include personal information. It includes all the important key facts, organised in stages.

Do it yourself?

Write a letter of complaint and request for service, using the model to guide you. You will need to use the Key facts (Word 25KB) and the instructions (Word 36KB) . Before you start, read all the key facts and decide what you want the company to do about the problem.

Is writing an email different from a letter of complaint?

Ask the students to tell you the differences between the SampleLetter (Word 32KB) and the SampleEmail (Word 26KB) .

Emails are generally less formal. An email would be sent to the company's email address, using the internet. You would type out the email address of the company, or click on the email address if there is this option. You would still need to give information about your details and the problem using formal language as in stage 1 and stage 2. However, you would leave out your street address and the date, because your email address and the date and time of sending appear automatically when the business gets the email. You would also leave out the business name and title of the person. At the end of the letter, you can just sign your name. The business would probably contact you by email (or telephone) to discuss the problem.

Published on: 09 Jan 2018