Writing Well

Letters of Opinion

How about those Mets? Everybody's got an opinion, and few of us are shy about expressing it. That's where letters of opinion come in. By stating our point of view in writing, letters of opinion give legitimacy to our feelings.

Letters of opinion are like telephone books: They have a wide variety of uses. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • To praise or criticize a company
  • To register your viewpoint on a community issue
  • To comment on public policy
  • To respond to an editorial or article
  • To support a candidate or other elected official

All letters of opinion state your opinions clearly and provide reasons to support them. Here's how it works with a letter of complaint.

I Can't Get No Satisfaction

The washing machine ate your socks; the hair dryer has more hot air than your local Senator. You're mad as hell, and you're not going to take it anymore. What to do? Why not write a letter of complaint? “Ah, they never work,” you scoff. Actually, they do—and quite well. Here's how to lodge a consumer complaint and accomplish more than just venting your spleen.

  1. Gather up all the paperwork related to the product or service in question— which you saved, like the careful consumer you are, rather than throwing away with the box. Here's the proof you'll need to make your case:
    • Sales receipts
    • Work orders
    • Canceled checks
    • Charge slips
    • Warranty booklets
  2. Contact the company by letter. The letter approach allows you time to frame your complaint more carefully and completely than a phone call. It also provides tangible proof of dissatisfaction in the form of a “paper trail.”
  3. Follow these guidelines as you write:
    • Address the letter to the company president or the consumer complaint department.
    • Explain your problem with the product or service.
    • Include the model number, serial number, and any receipts.
    • State what you want. Be specific but reasonable. If the toaster broke after a month, a replacement is another toaster or a refund, not a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer or a week in Barbados.
    • Be sure to include your return address and a daytime telephone number.
    • Keep the letter brief.
  4. Give the company sufficient time to respond to your complaint.
  5. If you haven't received satisfaction after what you judge to be a reasonable length of time, you can take the following steps:
    • Assume the letter was misplaced and write again.
    • Contact your locate consumer affairs office or regulatory agencies.
Write Angles

You can often find a company's phone number or address through toll-free customer service numbers or on the Web.

Writer's Block

Never throw out any response you get from the company, and keep a record of any phone calls, too. Of course, you'll keep a copy of all the correspondence you send.

Kudos!

A letter of opinion can state a positive viewpoint as well as a negative one. For example, you might write to a store to praise a helpful clerk or to a company to applaud a product or service. Or, your letter of opinion might state a dissenting viewpoint, a different way of looking at the same issue. You might write to a newspaper, magazine, or television station about their editorial viewpoint. Whatever your purpose or audience, here are some suggestions to consider as you write.

  1. For letters of praise:
    • State exactly who or what you are praising.
    • Give dates of exemplary service.
    • Identify outstanding employees by name and title (e.g., Jimmy Joe Johnson, clerk).
    • Include your name, address, and telephone number.
  2. For letters of dissent:
    • State what editorial, article, or so on prompted your response.
    • Keep your cool; name-calling works against you.
    • Stay on the issue; avoid pointless digressions.
    • Include your name, address, and telephone number.
book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well © 2000 by Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.