Writing Your Complaint

Writing a complaint takes time, and requires you to think objectively about your experience in order to convey it to others, but it can be empowering for someone who feels helpless to take action. It can also be a cathartic experience to put your feelings into words and express them to someone else. The main purpose, though, is to let authorities know what you’ve experienced, because otherwise, how are they to know there’s a problem?

Write an effective complaint letter and get results.
Before you start writing, it’s important to understand the scope of the organization you’re corresponding with and to keep your goal in mind. A complaint letter is not a way to vent your frustration and anger; it is a way to get something done. Be smart while writing your complaint letter and get results.

So, where to start?
First, gather all the information, paperwork, names, phone numbers, and addresses, and any other notes you have, into one place. Add dates to these if you remember them, and if not, add the approximate dates. A folder or large envelope may be helpful for keeping these things together. Next, you will need to determine who to direct your complaints to. There may be more than one organization who will be interested. You should write separate letters to different organizations, and for each, stay focused on what the organization deals with, although you can copy and paste parts from one letter to another.

  • Research and select the appropriate organization for your complaint. Know what type of complaints they do or don’t handle.
  • Take one organization at a time, starting with the one who can best address your biggest concern, then move on to the other applicable organizations.
  • Some experts suggest a letter is preferable, while others say email is just as effective, but all agree that this type of communication should be in writing as opposed to telephone calls, because it creates a formal record of the complaint. Choose the written method you’re most comfortable with.
  • Stay calm. Although your anger may be justified, it won’t give you an advantage in communicating with those in a position to provide help. Don’t use sensationalism, just present the truth with a balanced tone.
  • Be concise. The person receiving your complaint is probably very busy, and giving the necessary details, without being overly wordy, will be appreciated.
  • Begin with a summary of what the letter is about, why you’re writing, and how you came to have the complaint. You will give more detail in the rest of your letter, but a summary will let the recipient know what to look for as they read.
  • State the problem in your letter and give the history of the incident. Provide dates of service, location, names of individuals you spoke to at the center and specific incidents.
  • Provide copies of any documentation available to support your allegations. Do not send originals. Cite specific examples where the center was in violation of laws, regulations, or guidelines, keeping in mind the specific grievance the organization who each letter is to is capable of addressing.
  • Avoid giving unnecessary details that don’t support your complaint.
  • At the end, write another summary covering what your complaint is, and state what you want done or what you hope to achieve by having sent the complaint.
  • Don’t forget to include your own contact information, and thank the person who will receive your complaint.
  • Read what you have written, and edit out unnecessary details you may have included, add any necessary details you may have missed, and correct any spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Print or make a copy of the letter to add to your folder or envelope, and do this with all communications that relate to the complaints. If you speak on the phone about the complaints, keep notes including names and the times you spoke with them, and add these to your collection too.

More Tips for Specific Types of Complaints
While this page has been focused on writing complaints in general, we have additional tips for specific types of complaints. We also have links to some of the organizations that take the types of complaints you’re likely to have. Your next page to visit on this site depends on who you’d like to make a complaint to.

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We hope by keeping these tips in mind, you’ll get great results! Once you’re completed your complaint process, we hope you’ll send us copies so we can include them on the site, with all your personal information removed, of course. Contact us to find out how to send them to us.