Write a persuasive formal letter delivering “bad news” to a recipient.

It is time to write a persuasive formal letter delivering “bad news” to a recipient. Bear in mind that these are the toughest types of letters to write well, so study all the resources for this module carefully before you begin.


You will formulate a letter that demonstrates your understanding of the importance of the right rhetorical stance, business-like tone, professionalism, and sensitivity toward your reader. Your letter will establish what you should do in a problematic business situation because you will encounter times in your career when you will need to present difficult news with clarity and persuasion.


Select your topic from the list below for your business letter and type it according to the protocols laid out in the readings and viewings for this week.

Although the situation you are presenting in your letter is not a pleasant one, your letter should be professional in tone and appearance, demonstrate careful thought and intelligence, sound compelling and sensitive to the writing context, make use of careful word choice, grammar, and punctuation, and relay a complexity and sophistication in ideas and appeal.

Further, your letter must be persuasive and substantive in content (that is, provide all the details your reader needs—even if you must fill in the gaps). A minimum of 350 words (apart from the heading, salutation, and closing) is required.

Option 1

1. A formal letter to your boss to let him or her know that you have handled a customer complaint issued against a colleague. This is a dicey situation because you must create the scenario and then decide upon a host of factors: is this a friend? A rival? Was the complaint true or accurate? Egregious? Is your company liable in this case?

Option 2

2. A formal letter to a group of colleagues to request a meeting to create a new policy in response to a recent and unpleasant occurrence. You will need to discuss the sensitive nature of the action and those involved, but you must remain professional and heed the warnings in the resources about litigious actions.

Option 3

3. A formal letter to a client to address his/her complaints against your company. Your client is being unrealistic and demanding exorbitant compensation, but your management team believes that the error was minor (fill in the gaps) and in no way requires major compensation. Here’s the problem: this client is one of your most loyal and most important as far as producing revenue for your company. Worse? This customer’s nephew works at your company and has access to all your correspondence.

Option 4

4. A formal letter to donors informing them that as the director of your university’s annual fund-raising campaign. You discovered that funds were misappropriated and that personal financial information was sold by a former employee to an outside source. You must now notify the donors of this breach, but there is the cause here for greater embarrassment for you: as the director, you previously contacted each of these donors and convinced them to contribute to the wonderful project (you may fill in the details here) underway. More bad news: the press has gotten wind of this breach and will soon publish a story in the local paper about it.

Option 5

5. You are Joan Rivers’ assistant at the Communications and Marketing Department at your university. You have just received 10,000 copies of a brochure that you created and wrote to advertise to the local community your university’s economic and social commitment (and contribution) to the region. Unfortunately, you discovered that two panels of the brochure are blank, and this is the second time your printer (Fastidious Printing Company) has made a major mistake with your projects. You and Joan are very angry, especially since the sales manager promised last time that this would not occur again. Write a formal letter to the sales manager to correct this problem. Oh, and the shipment invoice indicated an increased cost for which you were unaware.


Glatthorn, Alan A. “I Have Some Bad News for You.”
Strategies for Business and Technical Writing 6th ed., edited
by Kevin J. Harty, Pearson Longman, 2008, 127-30.

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