GT Writing letter 7: Complaining, explaining, requesting (formal style)

You recently took a plane to a holiday in a foreign city, and on arrival you found that your luggage was lost. You did not receive your luggage until the last day of your holiday.

Write to the airline,
complaining about this situation
saying why it caused you problems
seeking suitable compensation

Begin your letter ‘Dear ——–’
Do not write any addresses
Write at least 150 words

Explanation of the Task

Recipient: This is a person you do not know; the Task says ‘write to the airline,’so this could be ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms Smith.’ In reality, you would probably find out the
recipient’s name before you write, because this is an important subject.

Style: The style will be formal and strong in tone, because you are a customer with a complaint.

Content: The Task asks you to complain (about the lost luggage) explain (the problems caused) and request (some compensation.)

Band 9 model letter 7

Dear Mrs Smith,

As you are the head of Customer Services, I am writing regarding the loss of my baggage at Istanbul airport on April 3 rd 2015. My baggage consisted of two suitcases, both being clearly labelled in the accepted way, and both being correctly locked.

On arrival at Istanbul, I found that both suitcases were listed as ‘missing’ and the airline staff could give me no information about their location. This caused me substantial inconvenience, as the
suitcases contained my clothing, toiletries and books, and I was obliged to buy all these items from local shops at a very high price. Even when I finally received the suitcases, I found that they were
opened, and many items were missing, including clothes and personal effects. This meant that I had to replace these items at my own cost when I returned home.

I am requesting, therefore, that you kindly reimburse me the cost of $495 for all these items, and I have attached all relevant receipts. As you see, this sum does not include compensation for my
inconvenience and wasted time, which I am prepared to forgo if you settle the charge promptly.

I look forward to receiving your confirmation of this payment.

Kind Regards,

Eileen Dubois

(208 words)

Why is this a Band 9 letter?

Recipient: This formal letter has a suitable greeting and ending, with a clear, strong ‘call to action’ sentence.

Style: The candidate has used a strong, formal style which reflects the fact that she has a complaint to make. She uses some classic ‘complaining’ and other formal phrases, such as:
‘I am writing regarding’
‘On arrival at’
‘substantial inconvenience’
‘I am requesting, therefore, that you kindly reimburse me’
‘As you see’ (= I have demonstrated that this is true.)
‘I am prepared to forgo’ (to forgo = to disregard)
‘I look forward to receiving your confirmation’

All of these phrases will impress the IELTS examiner in a formal complaint letter.

Content: The writer has combined the ‘complaining’ and ‘explaining’ ideas in the central paragraph.

This is effective, because she explains clearly why the problems were so inconvenient in a formal way, using:
‘This caused me’
‘I was obliged to’
‘This meant that I had to’
Other phrases which you can use to ‘explain’ the implications of problems or complaints are:
‘The plane was late. The consequence was that I was forced to wait for three hours.’
‘As a result, I had no choice but to wait for three hours.’
‘This led to me waiting for three hours.’
‘I was ultimately compelled to wait for three hours.’

About numbers in letters:

If you need to write prices in your letter (eg ‘the cost of $495’), then use a well-known money symbol (£/$/€) and write the number in figures, not words (ie ‘€495’not ‘four hundred and ninety-five Euros.’

Remember that the money symbol goes before the number. Don’t make it complicated by putting ‘cents’ in the price (eg $45.76), because this is completely unnecessary.

If it’s a large price, remember to use a comma (not a full stop) before the hundreds, eg ‘This would cost us $1,400 in total.’
If you refer to a room number or a page number, use the figures (eg ‘I am complaining about the noise in room 93 at your hotel’ and ‘I checked on page 137 of the brochure, but there was no information.’)

However, if you refer to a number in the general course of the letter, only use the word, not the figure,eg ‘I can see three opportunities’ and not ‘I can see 3 opportunities.’

If you refer to someone’s age, only use the words (eg ‘My brother is twenty-one this year.’)