I spend most of my work time writing. I write to translators I work with, I answer applications I receive daily, I write to clients in connection with our invoices, I write to other providers to remind them of deadlines, I write to my accountant asking administrative or tax-related questions, I ask/thank for referrals, I make recommendations of reliable people who can do a quality job, I write quotations, I write posts for my blog and my Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter pages, I write a lot…

I also teach how to write, how to draft contracts, corporate documents, business letters, useful techniques for email writing, etc. And I’ve realized that people are very interested in learning HOW TO say the things they want to say. Many times, especially when we’re writing in a language which is not our native tongue, we have a hard time putting our thoughts into words (that might also be true even when writing in our own language). So I decided to include those “tips” in separate posts for my blog, which I hope you’ll find useful and interesting.

I don’t know if it happens around the globe but at least we, Argentinians, love to complain. We complain all the time, even against ourselves. We target mostly politicians, but also judges, or maybe mobile phone and Internet services providers, our bosses, coworkers, and employees, the janitor, the cab driver, the waiter, annoying neighbors. Well, we complain a lot. We’ve got drama – and tango – in our blood. That is why it occurred to me it would be a good idea to start writing about how to write a complaint – not a legal complaint, just daily, usual complaints. (Now that I think of it, I will probably write about legal complains in the future.)

So we know that when we’re writing a letter of complaint, we’re not alone. Companies receive tons of complaining calls and letters; some even have a separate department to handle complaints. Government offices also receive thousands of complaints every….month, I guess.

Because we are just one of a crowd, we need to make our complaint stand out. And I am good at that. I’ll try to show you how:

I always try to put myself in the place of the person who will receive my email or letter and remember that my goal is not, or should not be, to get revenge or just to express my anger, but to get something done to resolve a situation. If you want results, the best way is to make a short email (or letter), factual, and reasonable.

State the problem as clearly and briefly as possible: what happened, when you noticed it, how it has affected you, what you consider needs to be done to resolve it.

Give all the important facts, include dates, numbers, and names, all the data you’ve got and include any supporting documentation you may have.

Remember: do not just complain; state clearly what you expect from the other person or company and suggest a reasonable deadline for the action you’re requesting.

Lastly, in closing, express your confidence that the matter will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

I try hard to avoid sarcasm as well as emotional outbursts, which are honestly good for nothing and only antagonize the very person who might be able to help you. Also, more often than not, the person who receives my email is not the person who caused the problem, so I am as polite as I can.

I never write only once, but many times until I get an answer about which I feel satisfied.

Here are some phrases and expressions which you may find useful when writing a complaint:

…appealing to you for help

…check on this problem

…does not meet our performance standards

…fails to meet industry standards

…has not met my expectations

It was somewhat disconcerting to find that…

…not up to your usual high standards

…unpleasant incident

We were very unhappy with…

Anything you can do to… will be greatly appreciated.

I am expecting the courtesy of a prompt reply.