Do's and don'ts of writing early collection letters

Debt collection letters are invariably associated with angry, aggressive language and threatening words, but this method doesn't always work when it comes to getting back the money that's owed to you. The secret of debt collection is to vary the style and tone of the letter, depending on how overdue the debt is - a letter written to a debtor regarding an invoice that is a couple of days overdue should not be duplicated for one that is 60 days overdue.

Here are the do's and dont's of writing early collection letters to help you with this dreaded but essential task of making initial contact:

Do provide the context of why you're writing to the debtor by briefly summarising the situation upfront, e.g. the specific amount owed to your business, the date of the invoice, the product/service ordered and any invoice/product numbers.
Do come across as polite and professional, yet firm. You don't want to damage the relationship with your customer but still want to get your invoice paid.


  • Do keep it short -one page is enough to get your point across.
  • Do make the point that further action will be taken on overdue debt if it isn't paid immediately.
  • Do keep your letter consistent with your records and with any verbal communications made to the debtor.
  • Do provide various payment methods


  • Don't sound apologetic, as this is money owed that hasn't been paid to you yet, but maintain a respectful tone.
  • Don't threaten the debtor or use offensive/discriminatory language.
  • Don't embarrass a debtor publicly, e.g. by sending letters to a shared postbox, to the debtor's workplace.


Also read:

Managing bad debtors

How should I collect debts without damaging the business relationship?

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