An apology letter is an important document that helps you own up to and recover from a mistake at work or in life. The best kind of apology is an authentic one; providing your regrets in writing gives physical backing to your words and offers of repair. By taking responsibility for your actions and working to make amends, you restore trust as well as your reputation.
Many people fail to adequately acknowledge their errors or relay sincerity in apology letters out of discomfort. Unfortunately, this only creates more damage and puts jobs and relationship at further risk. To set yourself up for success, we suggest reading, studying, and using our apology letter templates to get an idea of how to craft a genuine message of regret. Get additional guidance from our writing tips and recommended etiquette.
Apology Letter Templates
Professional Apology Letter
It’s not easy to own up to mistakes in a professional setting. Being late to an important conference or missing an interview can put your status and job in jeopardy. When you issue a professional apology letter, you take the first steps toward repairing the damage and moving forward. Crosscheck our professional apology letter templates for ideas.
General Apology Letter
Even the experts sometimes make mistakes. When you need to make a general apology for a bad decision or something you said that hurt a relationship with a peer, offering a sincere letter of regret can help to control the fallout. Rely on our general apology letter templates to craft a compelling message.
Apology Letter for Customer
Whether you accidentally overcharged a customer for services or made a joke that offended someone, there are many occasions in which a genuine apology letter can alleviate the damage and restore the relationship. If you need help crafting this critical message, review our apology letter templates for customers for inspiration.
Apology Letter for Mistake at Work
Even a simple mistake at work may be a costly one. If you made a typo that resulted in heavy costs or lost your temper in a meeting, writing an apology can get you back into good standing with your boss and team. Reference our apology letter templates for ideas of how to recover from a mistake at work.
Apology Letter Writing Etiquette
1. Consider your audience
When writing an apology letter, it is best to keep the document to one page of text. Although you may have a lot to say, limiting your letter to one page ensures the recipient gets the important details. Alternatively, writing too few details is a quick way to make your regrets seem insincere. Select your words carefully and stick to the point. You should also be respectful when addressing your reader. For a professional apology letter, never start with colloquial greetings such as “Hi” or “Hey.” Opt instead for “Dear” or “To” followed by the reader’s title and last name.
2. Convey sincere regrets
As shown in our apology letter templates, the opening statement of your message should address the core purpose of your intentions while expressing authentic regret. An example of an opening statement to address a work-related mistake could be, “I wanted to express my sincere apologies for showing up unprepared for our conference.” These sentiments cut directly to the point and make it known that you are sorry for the misstep.
3. Explain what happened
Whether you offended your boss, a customer, or a peer, put yourself in the other person’s position. You would want an explanation of exactly what went wrong and why. In your apology letter, let the reader know what happened. Make it clear that you understand the situation and provide specific details, whether your mistake was due to a minor miscommunication or a major lapse in judgment. If you lost your temper in a meeting, for example, you might say, “I felt that none of my suggestions or ideas were being heard and became extremely frustrated in the moment.”
4. Own up to your mistake
According to research, taking responsibility for a mistake is the most important component of a good apology. When saying you’re sorry, acknowledge that you were at fault; never pin the blame on somebody else. Instead of saying the passive, “I apologize if you were upset by my actions,” which suggests the recipient is guilty of reacting, go with the active, “I’m sorry I acted inappropriately.” This statement shows you take ownership for your behavior. Always avoid using passive-aggressive language, even if you do not believe you were at fault.
5. Reiterate repentance
After explaining what happened and accepting responsibility for your words or actions, it is best to follow up with a statement of atonement. In this message, convey that you intend to make the situation right. If you made a mistake with customers, let them know your service fell below standards or did not meet expectations. Then, express that you would like the opportunity to correct the problem. This sets you up perfectly to make a gesture of repair.
6. Offer consolation
The second most important part of an apology is to make amends with an offer of consolation. If you can undo the damage, for example by offering a refund or replacement, do so and explain in your apology letter the steps you will take to make the situation right. Unfortunately, some damage is permanent. While you may not be able to undo your words or actions, you can take measures to alleviate the consequences. Outline exactly what you plan to do in order to lessen the harm.
7. Ask for a second chance
Although research suggests the least effective part of an apology is requesting forgiveness, it is still helpful to include this component. You can close your letter with a sentence or two that asks your reader to accept your regrets and thanks them for the opportunity to correct the problem, for example, “I sincerely hope you will accept my apology. Thank you for the chance to make the matter right. Please let me know if you would like to discuss the situation further.”
8. Follow through
Issuing a heartfelt apology is only half the battle. After submitting your letter and outline of the actions you will take to correct the mistake, it is critical to follow through. There is no quicker way to ruin a good apology than by failing to honor your promises. This only makes matters worse and makes you seem even less authentic. If you want to convince your peers, customers, or colleagues that you are truly sorry, stay true to your word and take the steps you said you would to make amends.
9. Be authentic
By now, it should be clear that authenticity is one of the most important aspects of a good apology. If at all possible, try to express your regrets in person first. Then, follow up with a letter. It is more difficult to gauge sincerity in writing than it is face to face, where your audience can take body language cues to see and hear that you are serious. When addressing the problem in person, be sure to make eye contact, speak clearly, and remain calm. Even if you are bitter, you do not want your tone to reflect it or take away from your message.
10. Embrace the uncomfortable
We all make mistakes, but it can be extremely uncomfortable to acknowledge them, particularly in a professional setting. However, the key to restoring faith and repairing relationships is to take responsibility for shortcomings and make an effort to do better. Even though you may feel uneasy and anxious when apologizing for something you did wrong, know that you are taking the first step in the right direction.