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Strongly Worded Letter

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"My favourite thing in the Sun, ever, is the Sun's letters page, 'Dear Sun', where you tell Britain what you think. Not just any thought though, like 'move arm now' or 'eat breakfast this morning' — preferably a thought that might inspire some hatred and antipathy towards people that are slightly different."

The protagonist has had enough. This is the last straw. That evil empire's in for it now. They're going to... write a strongly worded letter?

An attempt at some brave or heroic action that falls ludicrously short. When played for laughs, it's often applied to timid or nerdy characters who mean well but aren't prepared to do anything useful. When played for drama, it designates a character who ought to be one of the good guys but who places too much faith in "the proper authorities" and will likely hinder the heroes by insisting they do so too.

Often a satire of diplomats. Of course, if the diplomat has a strong country behind them, this actually isn't so weak.

Compare Poke the Poodle, the villainous version. Contrast Disproportionate Retribution as a switcheroo of this.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Pop Team Epic: The one-off gag superhero Twitter Bitching Man solves problems by making strongly-worded tweets about them. When a person notices a mother not paying attention to her child in the subway, he's summoned into the subway car to make a complaint.

  • Peter Cook's character Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling says of World War II: "Absolutely ghastly business. I was completely against it." ("Well, I think we all were.") "Yes, well, I wrote a letter."
  • Glen "That Canadian Guy" Foster has mocked this in one of his routines: "What will happen if we print these words? Oh! We'll get letters! Oh my god, more words with paragraphs and punctuation! Aaah!"

    Comic Books 
  • One of the habits of the Swedish superhero Kapten Stofil ("Captain Geezer"). Many of his first adventures end with his civilian alter ego writing one. However, as a superhero he is so good at it that supervillains fear them!. And the superhero group he is a member of, Vänner Av Ordning, has a name that not just is a pun on the Justice League (it means "Friends of Order") - it also reflects the standard signature of a Strongly Worded Letter. The Concerned Citizens might be a good translation.
  • Played straight in the early issue of The Authority to a villain that has just turned Moscow into a charnel house. The U.N. ups the response by blatantly *cough* not sending in a kill squad.
  • This Punch cartoon from 1935, satirising the League of Nations.
  • In a MAD Magazine parody comic from the late 80s, Captain Picard is unfavorably portrayed as the kind of diplomat who'd ask Starfleet to send a strongly-worded letter to the Klingons... while they're firing on the Enterprise.
  • In the Super Mario Bros. story 'Bedtime For Drainhead', Luigi tells the sleep-deprived Mario (fresh from a 72-hour-long reading marathon of his Dirk Drainhead comics) that Toad has been kidnapped by King Koopa.
    Luigi: And you know what we're gonna do, don't you?
    Mario: Write a strongly worded letter to the Mushroom Times... in the morning!

  • Team America: World Police had UN inspector Hans Blix and Kim Jong-il have this exchange;
    Hans: I'm sorry, but I must be firm with you. Let me see your whole palace or else!
    Kim Jong-il: Or erse what?
    Hans: Or else, we will be very, very angry with you... And we will write you a letter, telling you how angry we are!
  • A Civil Action had an unintentional subversion: the movie was about a corporation that polluted and caused illnesses, and the climax was the good lawyer writing a letter.
  • James Cameron's Titanic (1997).
    Jack: I don't know about you, but I intend to go write a strongly worded letter to the White Star Line about all this.
  • Happens in Snoopy, Come Home where due to a new "No Dogs Allowed" law, Snoopy couldn't go to the beach, so he returns home and has Woodstock dictate a letter to The Editor in protest over this law that gets mailed off.
  • In Blazing Saddles, Harriet Johnson reads a telegram she has written to the governor, expressing Rock Ridge's discontent with Bart, the new sheriff. At first, she starts off in a soft tone, much to the discontent of everyone, but soon after, her voice matches the strength in her letter:
    Harriet: We, the white, God-fearing citizens of Rock Ridge wish to express our extreme displeasure with your choice of sheriff. Please remove him immediately. (everyone cheers) The fact that you have sent him here just goes to prove that you are the leading asshole in the state. (everyone cheers louder)
  • Casino Royale (1967) has Woody Allen in Central America, threatening an angry letter to The Times, as he's stood before a firing squad.
  • Marmee does this in response to Amy's teacher striking her with a ruler in the film version of Little Women.
    Jo: A letter? That'll show him!
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): The Nova Corps's official response to Ronan the Accuser's rampage is to contact the Kree government and request that they issue a statement condemning his actions. They don't even demand anything, they just ask for the Kree to do the most minimal thing possible. And the Nova Corps is supposedly the side that won the war.
  • Discussed in Mary and Max, as Max tells her that he often writes such letters about local issues.
  • Get on the Bus has a variation. One of the black men on the bus relates an anecdote about how he got in deep trouble with his white mother, causing her to lecture him. The rest of the black men are unimpressed, saying their mothers would have surely beaten them for the same offense.
  • In Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, Sheriff Buzby's reaction to Billy Bob's Reckless Gun Usage shooting off the belt to his pants (but doing no damage, aside from causing the sheriff's pants to drop) is to threaten to write the hillbilly a citation. Billy Bob ignores him and shoots out the flashing lights on his car, at which point Buzby retreats, vowing that when he comes back, he'll give Billy Bob two tickets.


  • Adrian Mole: There are many of these in the books, as letter-writing is Adrian's preferred method of communication with many people.
    • In Growing Pains, Adrian writes a series of goodbye letters to the people in his life just before he runs away from home, including a scathing one to his headmaster Mr Scruton, asking him if he knows that his nickname is "Pop-Eye". Later, Adrian is extremely worried about this, and a psychologist promises to write to Mr Scruton to inform him that Adrian was under great stress at the time.
    • Also in Growing Pains, Adrian has been entrusted with looking after the Braithwaites' house while they are on holiday, and he comes across a strongly worded letter from Ivan Braithwaite tendering his resignation from the local Labour party. Seeing a stamped addressed envelope nearby, Adrian posts the letter; unfortunately, Mr Braithwaite had written it, but decided not to post it.
    • In Wilderness Years, Adrian writes a short and scathing letter of resignation to his manager Mr Brown. He writes "for the attention of Mr Brown", stares at it for a full hour, then puts it under his blotting pad. Later, while away from his desk, he finds that somebody has delivered the letter, and his resignation has been accepted, and he is ordered to leave the premises immediately. He never finds out who delivered the letter.
    • In Wilderness Years, Adrian receives a strongly worded letter from John Tydeman at the BBC, telling him he has more neck than a giraffe, after Adrian has contacted him once too many about his manuscript, finally asking him to photocopy it for free.
    • In Wilderness Years, Adrian receives a short letter peppered with F-words from Barry Kent, after he has suggested that Barry funds Glenn's education at Eton; then, it was not known whether Glenn was Barry's or Adrian's son.
    • In Weapons of Mass Destruction, Adrian struggles massively with writing a letter to end his relationship with Marigold Flowers. Daisy takes charge, and sends him her draft of an extremely strong letter, which horrifies Adrian.
  • In Keith Laumer's Retief stories, the diplomats of the Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne (Terran Diplomatic Corps) often spoke of sending strongly worded messages instead of taking effective action. Of course, these "strongly worded letters" are often delivered by the biggest, most powerful warships in the galaxy.
  • Mr. Tyler, neighbor of Adam Young in Good Omens and Tadfield's resident busybody, who will send a very angry letter to the local newspaper about all these young trouble-makers riding motorcycles, littering his lawn, and driving burning cars, just you wait.
    Not for R. P. Tyler the soapbox, the polemic verse, the broadsheet. R. P. Tyler's chosen forum was the letter column of the Tadfield Advertiser. If a neighbour's tree was inconsiderate enough to shed leaves into R. P. Tyler's garden, R. P. Tyler would first carefully sweep them all up, place them in boxes, and leave the boxes outside his neighbour's front door, with a stern note. Then he would write a letter to the Tadfield Advertiser. If he sighted teenagers sitting on the village green, their portable cassette players playing, and they were enjoying themselves, he would take it upon himself to point out to them the error of their ways. And after he had fled their jeering, he would write to the Tadfield Advertiser on the Decline of Morality and the Youth of Today.
He writes so many, in fact, that the newspaper does not have the room to print all of them. This prompts another letter on the degeneracy of the newspaper industry.
  • In P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster novel Thank You, Jeeves, Bertie Wooster is giving serious contemplation of threatening to write one of these to the Times when the local busybody policeman yet again bangs on the door of Bertie's rented cottage in the middle of the night. Only it turns out it's not the policeman this time, and so the whole matter is dropped.
  • In the Blandings Castle series, the Duke of Dunstable is "a great writer of letters to the Times", and the Government "could not move a step without hearing from him". Given the Duke's character, such letters could not fail to be strongly worded.
  • Discworld:
    • Interesting Times: La Résistance does this to rebel against the emperor. As the China stand-in, they have to have revolutionary elements, but as the feudal Japan stand-in, they're just too deferential to go through with it, instead shouting slogans like "we humbly suggest reasonable change within a respectable time frame if that's not too much to ask!"
    • "Gently Push Over The Forces Of Oppression!" Rincewind gets so frustrated with it that he suggests "Slightly Bad Things Please Happen To Our Enemies!"
    • Monstrous Regiment has Nuggan, a god who is described by a diplomat as the divine counterpart of the kind of person who constantly sends such letters to the editor signing off as "Disgusted of Ankh-Morpork". (See "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" in Real Life, below.) This was supposed to convince Sam Vimes that Nuggan is not actually insane.
    • In The Truth, William notes that most of the type of people who write these to newspapers are nuts and/or prejudiced in some way, e.g. an old lady who hates all young people and a letter complaining about dwarves. While William says not to print it, Goodmountain, who is a dwarf, says to print it, and when someone writes in to object to the complaint, to print his letter too. He thinks it'll help bring attention to the newspaper.
  • In Rebel Stand, the cast is looking over new developments in the war. Since the book is written by Aaron Allston, they snark constantly.
    Wedge: I don't like this notion of dovin basal mines that pursue you.
    Han: Me neither. I'm going to draft a strongly-worded letter to the Yuuzhan Vong high commander and insist he stop using them.
  • Honor Harrington:
    • Storm From The Shadows]]: The Manticorans send several letters of varying strongly-worded-ness. Mind you, the first such letter is delivered by a division of destroyers which are destroyed by a squadron of Solarian League Navy warships after a misunderstanding several days later. The second such letter, much more strongly worded and in response to the spoilered-out incident, is delivered personally by a Vice Admiral in command of a squadron of battlecruisers. Rather than accept this letter, the Solarian Admiral moves his squadron to engage the smaller Manticoran unit. After the Admiral's ship is destroyed long before his ships can get close enough to fire at the Manticoran warships, the new commander of the Solarian squadron chooses to accept the letter. The third letter is being delivered by only one destroyer, but after what happened after the delivery of the first letter, and given that the destroyer finds a ridiculously large fleet of Solarian Super Dreadnoughts they decide to turn around and go home to report what they've found before announcing themselves.
    • War of Honor: diplomatic notes from the Republic of Haven become more and more strongly worded as the current Manticoran Government deliberately strings them along. It doesn't help that other parties were deliberately altering some of the diplomatic notes to aid in this.
  • In The Last Unicorn, Captain Cully requests that one of his men sing a song of Cully's heroics. The musician later angrily gets up and reveals that, rather than valiantly fighting off the three villains in the song, he wrote them a letter - which he didn't even sign.
  • In the world of Harry Potter, Howlers are what happen if you could hear the voice of the writer of said Strongly Worded Letter: open them and they scream the message's content at the recipient as loudly as possible. Then Molly Weasley writes one to Ron. The longer you go without opening the Howler, the louder it will shout the message, and if you don't open it immediately, it will explode. And still shout the message.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes case "The Adventure of the Second Stain", a letter written by an unnamed European leader to Britain is described as being so inflammatory that its public release would lead to war. The British Government, wanting cooler heads to prevail and to avoid war, want Holmes to recover the missing letter before it can be put in the hands of third parties who would gain advantage by war. Holmes writes his guess of the leader in question and passes it unrevealed to the client, who admits that's who it is. It's not difficult to figure out who it's supposed to be.
  • In A P Herbert's poem The Saviours, this is what Sir Thingummy Jig, Admiral Bunkum and the Duke of Doodledoo spend their days doing.
  • Admiral from Wings of Fire wants to convince the HiveWings to better the condition of SilkWings like him, and is content with his position as a glorified prisoner since he thinks it gives him the power to create reforms this way. The problem is that all of his suggested reforms are laughably small and only humored by the authorities. Talking to admiral makes Blue, The Hero of the book where Admiral appears, realize how complacent his own idea of changing the world is.
  • The Donald Westlake book Put a Lid On It has a political crony confidently (or rather over-confidently) declare that he's put a stop to a crooked political donor's efforts to sabotage the president's burglary operation (something affecting millions of dollars and all kinds of political favors) by threatening to revoke his invitation to the inaugural ball.
  • In Charlotte MacLeod's novel The Withdrawing Room, one of the new boarders is a prolific generator of letters to the papers about what was wrong with everybody and everything in and around Boston.
    If [any of a number of minor issues arise], Barnwell Augustus Quiffen would leap to take pen in hand and regret to inform.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Stuffed Gopher", Mr. Conklin thinks he's going to be fired as principal from Madison High School. He writes a strongly-worded letter of resignation to Mr. Stone, the head of the school board.
  • In an early MADtv (1995) sketch, "Annie Ho" (a gangsta film as written and directed by Woody Allen), a neurotic gangsta on the way to a drive-by shooting asks his colleagues, "Do we really have to kill this guy? Can't we just send him a nasty note?"
  • Frasier has done this a few times. One time he got his way by accident, but since he was still deluded that this trope was the proper way, he still didn't consider it a victory.
  • From Drake & Josh: "I sent him a very angry letter, with, like, five frownie faces."
  • In an episode of Scrubs, Turk and J.D. believe a nurse has got their patient's file confused with someone else's. J.D. insists on taking the lead in confronting her, and Turk asks if he's going to write one of his strongly worded letters. J.D. replies that he's not because he doesn't have his thesaurus. It's not clear if Turk realises what a lame response the letter would be, or thinks it's going too far.
  • This was a standard response by Sir Humphrey of Yes, Minister fame to diplomatic niggles, on one occasion saying it had not yet been sent because they had not secured an agreement from the people they were sending it to on how strongly worded it would be.
    • Used in Yes Prime Minister when discussing how to deal with the leader of a local council.
      Sir Humphrey: Have you considered a strongly worded letter?
      Jim Hacker: And get an even more strongly worded letter back? Copied to all the newspapers? I think not, Humphrey.
  • Used in Red Dwarf when Rimmer, after having his anger sucked out by a polymorph that feeds on human emotions, suggests that they defeat the creature by hitting it "hard and fast" with a "major leaflet campaign... And if that's not enough, then I'm sorry, it's time for the t-shirts".
    • And in "The Beginning", Rimmer starts writing a strongly worded letter to Geneva complaining that the simulants are violating Treaty 5 as said simulants are launching a barrage of photon mutilators at the Starbug. Subverted when it turns out that he's intentionally baiting them as part of a trap.
  • A Bit of Fry and Laurie:
    • In the last series, a very drawn-out version of their typical "vox pops" scenes had a woman played by Laurie threatening to write "a very stiff letter... on cardboard."
    • Another sketch involves Laurie's character attempting to convince a psychiatrist played by Fry that he was mad. To Laurie's annoyance, the psychiatrist refuses to believe that he's anything other than eccentric, and he announces that he'll be writing a very stiff letter to the Daily Mail about this. That gets the psychiatrist's attention.
  • In the "Summer" episode of The Vicar of Dibley, David Horton writes one of these to the water company that is actually not very strong at all. Subverted by Geraldine's letter, an excerpt of which is "Dear Mr. Useless Babboon's Bottom, It might interest you to know that down our way, you're about as popular as Judas Iscariot at a disciple reunion." It is also implied that she uses the word "dickhead" (or "dick-head, as she's unsure if there's a hyphen.
  • In one episode of Mama's Family when Vint finds out that he's been laid off, Iola decides to write a "scathing letter" to his company.
    Iola: And believe you me, they are not getting the floral stationery!
  • A Double Subversion occurs on The Golden Girls when Rose sends a letter to Gorbachev about nuclear disarmament. She actually receives a response from him, saying he would like to hold a press conference with her, but just before the conference starts Rose finds out that Gorbachev thought a little girl wrote the letter.
  • A common additional punchline to Dude, Not Funny! jokes about current events told by Jay Leno was for Leno to mime writing a letter while muttering "Dear Mr. Leno, I just saw your recent show and..."
  • Part of the regular Self-Deprecation on the The Basil Brush Show.
    Basil: Our viewers have very active imaginations! And colourful language to match. According to the letters we get.
    • Amusingly, it so happens that Basil's original Straight Man from the first series was one Derek Fowlds, who would go on to play Bernard in Yes, Minister.
  • A recurring character in the last season of The Chaser's War On Everything was an angry letter writer who would watch the show, waiting for something offensive to happen so he could write a Strongly Worded Letter to The ABC. He was never disappointed.
  • One episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody has Cody suggesting writing one of these to the city council in order to prevent a park from being bulldozed.
  • In one episode of Black Books, they are building very noisily next door to Bernard's shop and will continue doing so for two weeks, leading to this exchange:
    Bernard: I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll write a letter to the council.
    Fran: Wh-what are you gonna say?
    Bernard: I'll say: "Dear Council, please don't build beside us for the next two weeks."
    Manny: Yeah, but what if that doesn't work?
    Fran: Yeah, yeah, what are you gonna do if that doesn't work?
    Bernard: You wanna know what I'll do?
    Manny: Yeah!
    Bernard: I will... drink heavily and shout at you!
    Manny: Yeah, but I won't be able to hear you, will I? Because I'll be living in Drillsville!
    Bernard: Well, then I'll write you a letter as well!
  • Doctor Who: During "The Monster of Peladon," the ambassador from Alpha Centauri threatens to make their displeasure known by sending an official communication to the Galatic Federation. This is during the middle of an armed uprising against the government.
  • The fondness of the English for these was parodied multiple times in Monty Python's Flying Circus with sketches containing letters complaining about the sketches (and in some cases the previous letter).
  • Parodied in one instance on The Young Ones:
    Rik: I'm going to write to my MP!
    Neil: You don't have an MP, Rik. You're an anarchist.
    Rik: Well, then I'm going to write to the lead singer of Echo & the Bunnymen!
  • In an episode of Ugly Betty when Betty is high on toad venom from a spiked bottle of perfume and acting irrationally, she makes the decision to finally stand up to Gio (a sandwich vendor who she finds irritating but has Unresolved Sexual Tension with)... by writing him a strongly worded note.
  • Rare serious example: in Deadwood, the local residents of Deadwood publish a strongly worded letter in the local paper calling Corrupt Corporate Executive, Big Bad, and all-around evil George Hearst to task. Resident throat-cutter Al Swearengen remarks on what a strange decision it is, but everyone seems to agree that it's the right decision even if they realize that it's not an effective one.
  • On one episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee warns that people who anger the Canadian government "might find themselves on the business end of a very sharply worded letter."
  • Mr. Show has a brief sketch involving Bob and David trying to incite their viewers to send them hate mail. The show cuts to a man played by David writing a letter in which he never gets to the thing he's angry about. "I have never... ever... never... nevenevenev..."
  • In the "Smile" episode of Spin City, this is Carter's first response to someone parking a bicycle in his spot while Stuart mocks his diplomatic approach. When the bike's there again, however, Stuart eggs him on to mow the thing down.
  • The Good Place:
    • Referenced in "The Book of Dougs". After a frustrating meeting with the Good Place Committee, Michael declares "the Titanic is sinking, and they're writing a strongly worded letter to the iceberg!"
    • During season 4, the Good Place Committee return, and this time they literally draft up a sternly worded letter regarding the Judge erasing all human life. Then they decide stern is too much, and the guy writing it quits forever.
  • Crossed with Irrevocable Message, from The Honeymooners. The "Lost Episode" "Letter to the Boss." Ralph thinks he's been fired after being told to turn in his uniform, so he dictates to Norton a hilariously hostile letter where he calls his boss JJ Marshall a "dirty bum" and a "miserable lowlife" and that he "ought to turn in" his "membership card to the human race." Ralph tells Norton to sign it "Respectfully yours, et cetera et cetera." Later, Ralph finds out from a higher-up at the bus company that he's been promoted to traffic manager. Ralph is thrilled but remembers the letter so he and Norton have to run off and find it before Ralph's boss sees it. Oh, and Norton ACTUALLY SIGNED the letter "Et cetera, et cetera."
  • Three's Company: In "Out on a Limb," a food critic comes into Jack's Bistro, takes a quick bite, and leaves, causing Jack to worry that the critic hated the food and is going to give him a bad review. Larry suggests that Jack send the critic an angry letter, with Janet typing it. Larry starts the letter with "Dear Sleazebucket," and it goes downhill from there.note  Of course, the critic loved the food and gives Jack a great review, so the gang has to retrieve the letter before the critic can see it. Oh, and Janet actually toned it down.
  • A Morris Marina Owners Club member's reaction upon the wanton destruction of Morris Marinas in Top Gear was:
    "I will send you an e-mail, and I don't care if you don't read it!"
  • Babylon 5 has a case of a note of protest actually being regarded as a sign of how seriously the sender takes a matter — the Vorlons practically never take any interest in the concerns of younger races (openly, anyway), to the point of often not even bothering to show up to the Babylon 5 council, so even if it doesn't stop the perpetrators, them filing an official protest against the Centauri bombardment of Narn using mass drivers, in direct and open violation of treaties banning mass drivers is something people notice.
  • The habit of even serious news programs actually asking people to send these, at its height during the Web 2.0 / User Generated Content boom but still very much a thing, was lampooned by both That Mitchell and Webb Look - "You may not know anything about the issue, but I bet you reckon something, so why not tell us what you reckon?" (Link here) and, most notably, by Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman, who did a very similarly dismissive take on giving out the Newsnight contact address at the end of one broadcast.

    Newspaper Comics 

  • Characters on The Goon Show would often threaten to write an angry letter to The Times when being robbed, kidnapped, having their country invaded, being hit by a batter pudding, etc. This being The Goon Show, this is often treated as actually being a credible threat. On one occasion, when Neddie Seagoon tried to write a letter to the papers complaining about his hands being tied behind his back, Grytpype-Thynne attempts to throw them off the scent by substituting a "Dear sir, today I heard the first cuckoo" letter.
  • I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: The letters from Mrs. Trellis of North Wales would sometimes veer into this territory; not helped by the fact that she was often unaware of exactly what programme she was writing to.
  • The Mark Steel Solution had a recurring character, Mr. Cul-de-sac, who was constantly writing absurd letters of complaint to anyone and everyone. He would always end by reading one he'd started, that went "Why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why..." before admitting that "That's as far as I've got with that one, but it's coming along, don't you think!?"
  • On The News Quiz, Sandi sometimes reacts to controversial gags with "Oh, there'll be letters!"
  • The Kevin and Bean Show: Much comedy fodder is made out of Bean's habit of writing strongly worded letters to various people and institutions for trivial grievances. He's also carried this over into social media, where he'll tweet at people for such crimes as getting the name of Daylight Saving Time wrong.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Anachronox, the rulers of Planet Democratus respond this way to an alien invasion.
  • in Psychonauts, the gun-toting rebels of Lungfishopolis plan to fight against their tyrannical monster overlord by distributing pamphlets. Not precisely a letter, but equally unimpressive.
  • This is Sam's reaction to discovering that his office is located a few doors down from the gateway to hell.
    Our condo association is going to be receiving a letter about this.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, a blood mage who assisted in taking over the Circle of Magi tries to justify her actions by saying Andraste, the prophet of the game's main religion, changed the world through violent rebellion against the Tevinter Imperium. "She didn't write them a strongly-worded letter," the mage says.
  • Played straight in Hyperdimension Neptunia, where Neptune and her friends send a series of threatening letters as a tactic to lure out Arfoire, Overlord Momus' messenger and separate her from a group of extremists she's leading. The plan actually works, but for a reason none of them expected - because Neptune misspelled Momus' name as "Overlord Moron".
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn has an implicit subversion in the backstory: take a look at the entry for the UN under real life, then realize that in the Tiberian continuity, the UN for years appeared to be exactly as in real life while secretly having (and using) a black-ops team to "solve problems."

  • Aram in Men in Hats: "Don't worry, I'll show him who's boss... THROUGH E-MAIL CORRESPONDENCE!"
  • Completely inverted in Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, where grown men would commit suicide rather than receive a strongly-worded letter from Queen Elspeth.
  • Occurs multiple times in Schlock Mercenary
    • Once the Fleetmind starts interfering in governments:
      President Mancala: I'll send you the full report. This kind of opportunistic militarism cannot be tolerated. The United Nations of Sol and allied planetary Governments will not stand idly by while sovereign galactic powers are overthrown, crushed, or assimilated by the Fleetmind.
      Ambassador Breya: What's our plan, Mister President? Do I need to deliver a declaration of war, and then withdraw the embassy?
      President Mancala: Don't be ridiculous. Your job is to lodge a protest, using the strongest possible diplomatic language.
      Ambassador Breya: Ah. And how is that different from "standing idly by?"
      President Mancala: If we were standing idly by, we would not be lodging a protest.
      Ambassador Breya: Wow. We are fearsome.
    • And just to rub it in:
      Note: The League of Galactics is a millennia-old body of diplomats and other ne'er-do-wells representing almost two hundred thousand different governments throughout the Milky Way Galaxy. It has a rich and varied history, liberally garnished with back-patting tales of heroic diplomacy — studies conducted, sanctions administered, statements released, and reprimands served.

      It has about as much effect on key galactic events as central Asian rainfall has on the mean high tide in the Gulf of Mexico. Brandishing a reprimand from the League of Galactics is only marginally worse than threatening to cut off one's access to the Ron Popeil Shopping Channel.
    • ''I'm here to lodge a protest. I'll let you read it yourself. The formal document uses some of the strongest words you can write in Galstandard West without violating grammatical checksum.''
    • As far as Schlock himself is concerned, the words "temporary restraining order" mean "come back with guns."
    • Subverted on one occasion, however.
      Ennesby: Fine. I've forwarded [the nasty-gram I sent to Xinchub] to you for your expert critique.
      Some time later:
      Tagon: I see you've just been exposed to Ennesby's Weapons-Grade Vocabulary.
  • In webcomic Sluggy Freelance, demons were attempting to take over an alternate universe called "the dimension of lame". Who were so passive and friendly that they had no weapons to fight back with. When the demons had almost finished conquering the Western Hemisphere, the U.N. took action and declared that they would NUKE them. Turns out that NUKE is short for "Notice of Unified Kindness Envelopes", as their missiles contained no explosives, but billions of letters kindly asking the demons to stop being so mean.
    • The NUKE is still considered a WMD due to the high risk of paper cuts.
  • A Mundane Made Awesome version of this occurred in Problem Sleuth, where the titular character uses a mystical automatic rifle that turns into a typewriter to author a strongly-worded letter to the final boss... and then fires it out of the gun for massive damage. It's an "Unpleasant Note", to be exact. Complete with grammatical errors, name-calling, and a nasty sketch. This is the culmination of Problem Sleuth's series-long gag of Aggressive Negotiations, where typical diplomatic solutions for him are a Deadly Euphemism for shooting something to gibs.
  • "I'm writing this note to your mother, telling her everything!" Part of Hark! A Vagrant's on-going fun with Canadian stereotypes.
  • In Something*Positive, after a guest on his radio show pushes Gaspar's Berserk Button a couple of times too many (insulting his daughter's heritage and sexuality) he decides to do the worst thing he can think of to the jerk; a stern letter.
  • In the The Order of the Stick prequel-book Start Of Darkness, Redcloak vows to fire off one these to the Inter-Humanoid Council after his carefully-planned raid is preempted by some Lizard-people. On-going events probably cause him to drop the idea, but this is Redcloak we're talking about here.
  • In Level 30 Psychiatry Gardevoir and Slippy get attacked by head crabs in the middle of a session. Gardevoir's response:
    Gardevoir: Black Mesa is going to receive another strongly worded letter about this.
  • A Sev Trek cartoon spoofing Deep Space Nine asks why former Bajoran terrorist Major Kira never seemed to do any of the Kick the Dog acts that real terrorists do like deliberately targeting civilians or moderate Bajorans. When asked how they managed to throw the Cardassians off their planet; "I wrote strongly worded letters of complaint!"
  • Subverted in Sandra and Woo by Yuna here. When a teacher during a 'Bullying Prevention Day' lesson asks her how she'd deal with incessant chicanery, and Yuna replies that she'd get out her pencil, the teacher immediately assumes that she would send a Strongly Worded Letter to a teacher or maybe the principal. Nope. Yuna's the daughter of an ex-Special Forces operative and a former south-east Asian rebel, who named their kids after characters from Final Fantasy and gave them combat training to match. How 'bout a magic trick? I'm gonna make this pencil disappear...
  • In Polandball, this is the UN's most common reaction to atrocities (well, other than complete indifference). It is occasionally done by other countries and multinational organisations as well.

    Web Original 
  • Ask a Ninja had this question in Episode 17, "Ninja Omnibus".
    Q: What is the best way to begin a strongly worded message to a retailer who has wronged you?
    A: "I'm a ninja."
  • The Cinema Snob alluded to this in his Maniac! (1980) review:
    "I swear, if this turns out to be another story from the mannequin guy from Dr. Sex, then I'm going to write my 34th angry letter to Ted V. Mikels."
  • While not exactly a letter, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series has something in the same spirit.
    Seto Kaiba: I don't take kindly to kidnapping and attempted murder, but you do have a god card, so I guess I'll let it slide. However, try anything funny and I'll issue you a stern warning and wag my finger at you. Then you'll be sorry.
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged, when Sugou announces his intention to marry a currently-comatose Asuna at the start of the second season:
    Kirito: No. I... I will not let this stand! If you thought I fought tooth and nail for two years just so I could kowtow to some assclown like you, then you're in for a rude awakening! Prepare to reap the FUCKING whirlwind that is the UNBRIDLED FURY OF THE HERO OF AINCRAD!!!
    (cut to Kirito in his room, on the computer)
    Kirito's tweet: Some rich scumbag named @NobuyukiSugou is trying to buy/marry my wife! WHO IS IN A COMA BY THE WAY!!!!!! #whereisthejustice #youknowwhattodo
    Kirito: Yeah, take that! "Sugou?" More like... "Su-go-fuck-yourself!"
  • Subverted in Smash Kingdom Melee (a parody of Super Smash Bros. by the creators of Bowser's Kingdom). Several characters are upset that they haven't been announced as playable characters for Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Ridley suggests that they should send a letter complaining about their exclusion:
    Ridley: We should write a letter.
    Geno: Good idea. I'll start. (camera zooms in on Geno's face as he begins talking) Dear Masahiro Sakurai: (camera zooms out to show Geno in space, holding a large energy ball) FUCK YOU! (Geno releases the ball, which completely destroys Japan)
    Mega Man: (flies over to Geno, using Rush as a rocket) Uh, you know, they haven't finished making the game yet.
    Geno: Seriously?! Oh shit!
  • Door Monster's recurring deranged hobo character gives us a subversion in "Comical Road Trip": Apparently, filing a "strongly-worded complaint" consists of mailing them a dead bird.

    Western Animation 
  • On Rocky and Bullwinkle, Boris Badenov is working as a lion tamer under the alias "Claude Badly" at the Bumbling Brothers Circus when he deliberately lets the lion loose to run amuck. The Brothers warn him that if he does this again, they'll write him a nasty letter. This is because they don't know of any other lion tamers.
  • Parodied in The Fairly OddParents!, a particularly stupid alien plays this trope, claiming he will write an angry letter. He then proceeds to write a large red letter Q on a piece of paper and demand that someone mail it. The other high-caliber response he has to the situation is... pouting.
  • In Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Frylock writes an angry letter to the city for a radioactive black man putting the bite on Master Shake. Shake stands near Frylock, helping him to make the letter even angrier.
  • The Simpsons:
    • From "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 1":
      Mayor Quimby: We are all upset by Mr. Burns' plan to block out our sun. It is time for decisive action! I have here a polite but firm letter to Mr. Burns' underlings who, with some cajoling, will pass it along to him or at least give him the gist of it.
    • From "Faith Off", featuring Homer's college nerd friends:
      Benjamin: That Dean is going to get an indignant e-mail.
      Doug: You should do it with bold red letters.
      Gary: My computer has 512 shades of red.
    • In "Blood Feud," this is surprisingly effective. Homer, angry at getting a thank-you note rather than a material reward after a blood transfusion from Bart saves Mr. Burns' life, sends him an insulting letter. After some cajoling by Smithers, Burns decides that the Simpsons do deserve a reward and sends them an expensive (but useless for practical purposes, and presumably not easily re-sellable) Olmec totem. Which, it is pointed out, is still more than they'd have gotten without sending the letter.
    • "Itchy and Scratchy and Marge" features many of the Escalating War kind. Marge writes a somewhat condescending letter to Roger Meyers Jr about the violent nature of his cartoons. Meyers replies with an openly insulting one that makes clear he is not empathetic ("...and the horse I rode in on???"). Marge in turn encourages other parents to write to Meyers, resulting in the studio getting a truckload of hate mail bordering on death threats.
    Meyers: [reading letter] "I will never watch your show, buy any of your products, or brake if I see you crossing the street?" Wow, that's cold!
  • So did the Resistance in Baron Underbite's country in the The Venture Bros.. Their primary means of rebellion was sneaking hairs into his water. In a subversion, it actually really pissed him off.
  • At one point, Hank of King of the Hill is charged a ludicrous amount for a haircut by the US Army, and gets fed up to the point that he stands and declares that he is going to write to his Congressman. Naturally, he doesn't even know how to turn on the computer and writes his letter out by hand. Subverted, when it's revealed that the Congressman obviously never even read Hank's letter.
    • It is actually a bit of a Running Gag with Hank, who will usually threaten someone with a letter of dis-satisfactory.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squidville", Squidward is chased by a mob of angry squids. When they corner him, the mob gives Squidward a well-thought-out grievance letter.
  • On Hercules: The Animated Series, when school rivals pull a prank on Prometeus Academy, student body president Adonis plans to retaliate with a strongly worded letter, "with lots of verbs, action words!"
  • In one episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Zurg attacks the planet of Tangea and kidnaps their king. The Tangean response? To immediately form a committee to evaluate the situation. The "committee" is later seen preparing a letter to send to Zurg and one of them asks if "displeasure" is too harsh a word.
    Buzz: Your people really are capable of defending themselves in ways "my crude mind can't hope to grasp".
  • Used in the Robot Chicken parody of Armageddon (1998).
    Annoyed fan: That's awful! Steve Tyler's been clean for years. I've got to write an angry letter. Dear ass-faces...
  • Gretchen in Recess at one point takes action on behalf of her friend in the form of an "Angry E-Mail". The AI in her pocket computer (the episode was written before the days of smartphones) becomes very excited about the idea. Notable as the angry e-mail does achieve its objective, which is more than any of the pranks the gang pulls during the episode do.
  • In Christmas Carol: The Movie, after her boss is arrested for failing to pay a debt, Belle writes to Scrooge asking for leniency. The mice spend much of the movie trying to get him to read said letter.
  • Played for laughs in a cutaway gag in Family Guy, where Mort Goldman is revealed to write these to different companies, demanding compensation for the most trivial things, such as the letter he's currently writing to Ritz Crackers just because some of the crackers in a box he bought were broken.
    Mort: I am paying for fully formed crackers, NOT butter crumbles!
  • In Central Park, Season 1 "Hot Oven", Owen and Paige don't write an angry letter to Bitsy, they write on her angry letter. After reading the smear letter Bitsy puts in the newspaper trashing Central Park and its management, Owen and Paige's response is to doodle over Bitsy's picture in the letter. They don't even show the doodle to Bitsy and she isn't even aware of it.
    Paige: Cause when you mess with us, this is what happens!
    Molly: You end up with a drawing of a fart cloud coming out of your butt?
    Paige: The fart cloud is just the beginning!
  • Wander over Yonder's Heist Episode "The Big Job" has Sylvia and Wander teaming up with an A-Team-style Caper Crew called the Insurgent Generals to destroy a newly-developed piece of Hater Empire technology called the HT-125-F, otherwise known as Lord Hater's hot tub. While Sylvia's less than impressed when the others inform her of the true nature of the mission, this is about as much as they dare to do.
    Clipper: We don't want Hater mad at us. Have you seen that guy?
    Outrage: He's scary!

    Real Life 
  • The Complaint Tablet to Ea-nasir is considered the oldest known example of this, dating to nearly four thousand years ago. It is a clay tablet from ancient Babylon written c. 1750 BC, containing a message from a noble named Nanni to a merchant named Ea-nasir regarding a transaction in which Nanni sent a servant to purchase a shipment of copper ingots. In the message, Nanni alleges that Ea-nasir was excessively rude to the servant and deliberately provided ingots of sub-par quality, due to a petty grudge over a small amount of money Nanni owed him. As such, Nanni demands a refund and swears to personally inspect any copper he buys from Ea-nasir in the future before paying for it. Even better, the tablet was only one of a small carefully preserved library of similar messages in the basement of what is believed to be Ea-nasir's own house; he was collecting them.
  • Very much Truth in Television in England, the local stereotype being a middle-aged, middle-class, Middle England busybody writing to the editor of the Daily Telegraph, often signing off with something along the lines of "Disgusted, of Tunbridge Wells."
    • Anthropologist Kate Fox describes English complaints as falling into three mostly ineffectual categories: griping to someone who's in the same boat as you, shouting abusively at someone who isn't really responsible, or going home and writing a strongly worded letter to whoever's in charge.
    • American comedian Rich Hall in Live at the Apollo once said of British people that when they are annoyed, their response is typically a tut followed by: "...I'm gonna write a letter."
    • Even more so for Daily Mail readers (although their online forum has replaced the letters page). The difference being that said letters really will be strongly worded. Sometimes to the extent of bordering on bigotry or at least coming across as bigoted.
    • Can be just as applicable to some left-wingers in the Guardian and Independent whose letters and comments can read like a parody of a stereotypical Soapbox Sadie.
    • And both right and left-leaning letter writers are very good at greeting dissent, whether gentle or unjustifiably harsh, with accusations that the other side are being boorish, racist, and vitriolic.
    • A particularly notable example comes around exactly every two years. The Royal Mail alternates its Christmas stamp designs between secular and religious and has done so for decades. Nevertheless, every time the new designs are released in a secular year the exact same letters are printed about the 'War on Christmas' with only the names of the authors being different.
    • Parodied in Private Eye, which often responds to a topical political issue by printing fake versions of the Telegraph (right-wing) and Guardian (left-wing) letters pages in parallel, with the same stereotypical right- and left-wing writers complaining in parallel about the same thing but for opposite reasons.
  • Amnesty International got started this way. The key was that they wrote thousands of letters, so a government holding someone would stop and think "Wow, this guy's got friends" and let him out. They still do this, and sometimes it works.
    • To nobody's surprise, Amnesty started in Britain.
  • The BBC has even made this a TV show, Points of View.
    • Parodied mercilessly (along with online successors like 'Comment Is Free' and 'Have Your Say') by That Mitchell and Webb Look.
      "You may not know anything about the issue, but I bet you reckon something. So why not tell us what you reckon?"
  • In Finland, the stereotypical signoff is "kysynpä vaan " and/or "joukko huolestuneita äitejä" — "just asking" and "a group of concerned mothers" respectively.
  • In Sweden, the sign-off is "Vän av ordning", literally "friend of order".
  • The United States Congress has a tendency to send these, to the point that it's widely mocked in political circles. And it's only fair that they should send them, considering how many of their constituents write their own sternly-worded letters to their Congressmen. (That is, when they deign to send letters. More often they'll send in form emails—or worse, call their Congressman's office, giving the poor unpaid intern on the other end of the line an earful for something about which he/she can do nothing).
  • The Declaration of Independence. Although they did kinda back it up with an army.
    • This is a shoot-off of the old English tradition of writing Strongly Worded Letters, based on a similar letter called The Declaration of Right by the House of Commons in 1689. Later that year adopted by Parliament as the Bill of Rights Act 1689, and (with the similar Scottish Claim of Right Act 1689) helped pave the way for a constitutional monarchy in Britain. When written by the right people, Strongly Worded Letters do work.
      • A Declaration of Independence is a Strongly Worded Letter with an army and a navy.
      • To quote Sam Seaborne in the Very Special Episode: "We jumped out from behind bushes while the British came down the road in their bright red jackets, but never has a war been so courteously declared. It was on parchment with calligraphy and 'Your Highness, we beseech you on this day in Philadelphia to bite me, if you please.'"
  • The United Nations seems to be quite fond of sending angry letters. If you are funding terrorists, violating human rights, invading other nations, creating a fictional version of the UN for a web game, etc, then you can expect your very own Strongly Worded Letter from the UN. Also frequently a point of criticism is that the UN rarely takes any action beyond sending these letters. Note, however, that there is a reason for this — namely, that sometimes, the only thing the UN is allowed to do is send a Strongly Worded Letter. To wit:
    • The UN General Assembly — the part of the UN that includes representatives of all member countries — is forbidden by the UN Charter from issuing resolutions with binding effect (except for resolutions dealing with internal UN matters like the UN budget and nominations for UN bureaucrats), meaning that pretty much everything it does is a Strongly Worded Letter about something or other.
    • The UN Security Council actually can order direct action, but it rarely does so, as the permanent members can veto any resolution, and if whoever is doing Bad Things is a friend of a permanent member (and that is very likely), the Council won't be able to pass any measure that requires action. That said, a lot of the time, what looks like a Strongly Worded Letter from the Security Council is actually the Council giving the countries that can spare the resources permission to take some kind of military action against the country doing the Bad Things, making it not so much a mere angry complaint as a court order (with the court being very politicized and the sheriff being a country).
    • The Secretariat and other subordinate bodies of the UN bureaucracy can and do often condemn the Bad Things, but they cannot order it to stop; they merely manage the UN's innumerable agencies and other administrative responsibilities. That said, many of the UN agencies actually do something; they tend to supply or coordinate humanitarian aid, alleviating the suffering caused by the Bad Things. Everyone seems to forget about this part of the UN's business — which is, truth be told, most of what they do — when saying that the organization "doesn't do anything."
    • Pretty much the exact same criticism was levied against the League of Nations in its time, and just as with the United Nations various associated agencies were actively involved in alleviating the suffering caused by Bad Things (in fact, several UN agencies originated as League agencies).
  • The Zaporozhian Cossacks' letter to the Ottoman Sultan, the writing of which has been eternalized in Ilya Repin's famous painting. To say it was strongly worded is to say nothing.
  • This is, of course, the weapon of choice for many lawyers. It's often a subversion, too, in that ignoring those letters will usually create a great deal of trouble for the recipient.
    • Of particular note is the letter sent in the case of Arkell v. Pressdram. Mr. Arkell had his lawyers send a stern warning to Pressdram (the publishers of Private Eye) because they had accused him of taking bribes. Pressdram and their lawyers, meanwhile, were certain that their evidence was good, and sent a reply, quoted here in full: "We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr. J. Arkell. We note that Mr. Arkell's attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off."
  • "Open Letters" to one's personal bugbears have always been a popular means of spleen-venting on the internet. Unfortunately for those who create them, making authors feel a little bit better about themselves is about the only thing they ever really accomplish.
  • The most famous open letter in history, "J'accuse...!" ("I accuse...!") by Émile Zola did produce an effect, namely, blowing the antisemitism, incompetence, and cowardice that led to the Dreyfus Affair wide open and eventually resulted in Alfred Dreyfus getting a full pardon and a Légion d'honneur medal as an apology. The document is still considered required reading in many French schools.
  • Sean Penn's response to Team America: World Police (which allegedly espoused political viewpoints he opposed) was to send Trey Parker and Matt Stone an angry letter telling them just how angry he was.
  • Alan Moore wrote a 16,000 word letter that blew off steam at a list of things that offended him, the comics industry, Grant Morrison, comics fandom, Grant Morrison and finally, yes, Grant Morrison.
  • Timur the Lame and the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I exchanged this kind of correspondence with each other until the Sultan was finally fed up and wrote a letter that opened with "Know, O ravening dog named Timur" and threatened to have him captured and forced him to see his entire harem raped before his eyes. Bayezid would deeply regret that, as Timur replied by attacking him with a massive force and taking him captive.
  • Josip Broz "Tito" once sent Stalin a telegram which read:
    "Stop sending people to kill me. We've already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle... If you don't stop sending killers, I'll send a very fast-working one to Moscow and I certainly won't have to send another."
  • Notorious animator John Kricfalusi, already infamous for his rather hostile writings, often employed letters like these as a desperate last measure to get network executives off his back. When production on The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil was hindered by Creative Differences, he wrote to the producers, saying that "The time for diplomacy is over" before laying into them about how they were ruining the show. It got him fired. Later, when Nickelodeon came down on him for repeatedly missing deadlines and wasting the station's money on (often unnecessary) retakes on The Ren & Stimpy Show, he sent them a letter (through his lawyer) stating that the episodes would "cost what they cost and take as much time as they needed." That letter also got him fired.
  • Isaac Asimov described a personal ritual for cooling off when he had a grievance with someone: write a nasty letter, put it in an envelope, address it, affix a stamp... and then tear it up (being sure to destroy the stamp in the process) and write a more reasonable letter. In his autobiography, he mentions that in one case the second letter came out even more harsh, so he gave up and mailed it.
  • China's final warning is an old Soviet meme, referring to the People's Republic of China's habit of making very empty threats when America did something in territory they considered theirs.


Video Example(s):


Points of View

Points of View gets a strongly worded letter about the amount of sport being shown on the BBC.

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Main / StronglyWordedLetter

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