300 Days of Better Writing

April 10, 2013

Guidelines for apologizing in a business letter.


You or your organization did something wrong. You overcharged a client. You missed a deadline. Something. And now you need to apologize. Whether or not you apologize in person, I recommend that you apologize by a formal letter. With this in mind, here are 11 guidelines for a formal apology.

  1. Use company letterhead.
  2. Send the mail to the actual person, and name that person by name and position.
  3. Start the letter with the apology, using the word apology.
  4. Follow with a description of what you did wrong. This lets the recipient know that you understand the nature of the error.
  5. Provide a brief explanation of why the problem occurred, but don’t pass the blame or make excuses.
  6. Take responsibility.
  7. Provide a solution or steps that you will take to remedy the current problem.
  8. Describe how you will prevent the same problem from occurring again.
  9. Close with a brief apology (e.g., “Again, I apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you”).
  10. Sign the letter with your personal signature. If you are sending the letter as an e-mail attachment, scan the document with your signature or, better yet, add your electronic signature to the document.
  11. Don’t wait to apologize. Be proactive.

Think about your goal here. You want to keep that client. Do the work necessary.


This is the strategy for day 203 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

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