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Ministry of Education.

Learning task 2: Letter of Complaint


Organise the students into groups of 3 or 4. Hand out the scenarios (RTF 10KB) and ask the students to think of the complaints that may ensue.

Now ask the students if they know what a letter of complaint entails. Emphasise the following:

  • Formal register
  • Polite
  • Clear details/facts
  • Occasional use of emotive words/phrases

Explain to the students they are going to read a letter of complaint to get an idea of the layout, content and register.

Task A

Hand out the model_letter (RTF 388KB) and explain that the letter concerns travel plans again.

Students read the letter or the teacher reads it with them.

Students must annotate the letter, making note of the various components (see learning task 1, Task D, ) of the letter of complaint. They also need to identify one example of emotive language. Explain to the students that emotive language is the use of strong words or phrases whose aim is to provoke a particular emotional response from the person receiving the letter. Often, the purpose of using emotive words or phrases is to elicit empathy and to cause action to be taken. For example:

  1. I was most disappointed in the service at the hotel and would like to receive a full refund.

Follow Up

In addition to the similar layout and tone to a letter of request, the letter of complaint has the following features:

  • Occasional use of emotive words
  • Usually a request for some form of compensation
  • Often a brief statement of the personal consequences of the problems
  • A polite reference to past dealings with the company in question

Task B

Go to the BrainPop_Quiz (RTF 11KB) Web site. Make sure the top right box has 'Business Letter'. Click on 'Play Quiz' and get students to answer the questions on a business letter.

(The answers to the quiz are: c; b; a; c; a; b; a; c; b; c)

If you have access to the web in class, get students to watch the movie. Click on 'Play Movie'. Here are some questions you could ask once the movie has been viewed:

1. How does Tim describe a business letter?
2. What goes at the very top of a business letter?
3. Where does the Inside address go?
4. What is another word for salutation?
5. What is the main part of the letter called?
6. What is a good idea to add at the end of a letter of complaint?
7. How many lines should there be between the body and the complimentary closing?
1. Any type of formal letter whose purpose is to provide information or request action
2. The heading, including the sender's address and the date.
3. Directly after the Heading.
4. Greeting
5. The body of the letter.
6. Something nice
7. Four lines.

Go back to the homepage of BrainPop. Click on the 'Activity Page' and get students to do the sequencing exercise. Here are the answers for the sequencing exercise:

  1. Body: 4
  2. Inside Address: 2
  3. Heading: 1
  4. Salutation: 3
  5. Closing: 5

Note: The complimentary closing on the letter in the movie is: 'Sincerely yours'. Be sure to point out that in NZ it is more common to write: 'Yours sincerely'.

Task C

This complaint (RTF 5KB) has some errors in layout, as well as some errors in tone. The students must read the letter and correct the mistakes.

Task D: Proofreading

Explain to the students how important it is to proofread any writing that will be read by someone else.

  1. Go over a marking code if they haven't already seen one; here is an example of a marking_code (RTF 14KB) .
  2. The students must read the following and correct the mistakes using the marking code. Each sentence has only one error.

For customisable student check-lists, see these Assessment Resource Bank resources:

Published on: 07 Apr 2009