Email Etiquette when Writing a Complaint

The way you approach a complaint could make the difference between being taken seriously and having your issue handled, and being dismissed out of hand...


Thanks to the Internet, it's now easier than ever to make our voices heard, and we're free to express our positive or negative opinions on any subject. What is more, we can make sure they actually get to the right people so they can be taken into account. This is as valid when building fan sites as it is when, justly or not, moaning, for instance, about the quality of a service we received.

Due to a hectic and sometimes frustrating way of life, some of us just love to moan, and do so every chance they get; they take the time to compose a written complaint about trivial matters such as the language used in a TV program. Others only do it when they reach a certain level of indignation. Whatever the reason, one must always bear in mind that there are rules imposed by decency, even to state you are dissatisfied.

Humans Read Complaints, Not Companies

First of all, remember that an actual person will be handling your complaint and be polite.

No matter how angry you are with a company or institution and the reason that triggered that anger, there's a 99.99% chance that it did not originate from the public relations employee who's actually sitting in front of the screen, prone to people's abuse.

Pick the Right Target for your Criticism

A common mistake people make when rushing to place the blame for their inconvenience is to either hold an entire company responsible for the actions of a single employee, or the vice versa, lash out at one person for a company policy which they are clearly not accountable for.

Stay Calm and Logical for Greater Impact

The best way to achieve a calm tone while angry is to make sure you're totally sober when you write your email, so you'll avoid aggravation and abstain from obscene or violent language. Make sure your criticism is not taken personally.

Secondly, after addressing the receptor civilly, maintain that same courtesy throughout your message and give a thorough account of your discontent, otherwise your complaint might be ignored for being unfounded.

Be meticulous but also clear and to the point, for if you lose yourself in the detail, you risk giving them more leverage to interpret your words and dismiss your claim. You should write the email first, and express all you feel the need to, and later reduce it to what you deem productive.

Stick to the Specific Instance of the Complaint

An additional tip is to never generalize by assuming the incident that upset you is a common one, as there is no way of knowing that, and branding a company or institution in that manner could be untrue and quite offensive.

Take a Moment to Format your Email Correctly

Formatting your email properly is also important. In order to be taken seriously, restrain your impulse of using capitals or overusing punctuation, such as question or exclamation marks, especially the latter.

A bigger, bright coloured font won't add to your point; on the contrary, it will be a distraction. When you want to make a strong point, you must also check your spelling and grammar.

The best advice however, though ignored by many, would be to quit complaining for every trifle.


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