Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. When your error has negative consequences for your colleagues, clients, or business, then you need to make a formal apology to begin the process of rectifying the problem. Generally, this comes in the form of an apology letter. It is essential to craft a sincere and well-written note.
A poorly written letter could make your initial blunder turn into something much worse, as you might offend slighted parties. Avoid this by reviewing our guide on how to write an apology letter. You can also look at our samples for ideas on the style, language, and format to use.
How To Write an Apology Letter
Finding the right balance between sincerity and explanation in an apology letter can be difficult. Through following our guidelines, you will learn how to write an apology letter that is effective and genuine.
1. Use the right salutation
As with most formal letters, the effectiveness of the document begins with the format, including the salutation. For an apology letter, it is best to start with a standard and formal greeting such as “dear” followed by the person’s full name. If she or he has a professional designation, such as “Dr.” or “Professor,” you can use it, but you should avoid using “Mrs.” or “Mr.,” as it is easy to assume incorrectly, which would only make things worse.
2. Detail why you are writing the letter
Do not leave the recipient wondering why you are writing, especially if she or he is already unhappy with you. Begin the letter with stating you are writing to apologize for the action that took place. For example, you could begin by saying, “I am writing to apologize for the mistake I made with your account.”
3. Address your mistake
Go beyond simply stating you are writing to apologize for your mistake; address what you did. However, be careful with this section of the letter. You want to address your mistake without sounding like you are trying to explain or excuse your actions. Keep to the facts of the problem, not the actions that lead up to the mistake.
4. Take full responsibility
It is not enough in an apology letter to simply say you are sorry and address your mistake; you must take full responsibility. Even if some of the events that occurred were outside of your control, you still must accept the role you played in the error. It is better to accept full responsibility rather than try to place the blame elsewhere. When you try to excuse your actions or point the finger at another person or situation, it reduces the sincerity and efficacy of your apology.
5. Acknowledge the effect
Another important step in how to write an apology letter is to acknowledge the effect your mistake or error had on the wronged party. This includes things like hurt feelings, offense, and financial consequences. The affected person or company is sure to appreciate knowing you recognize the impact your actions had on them.
6. Propose a solution
Not all apologies require action to fix the situation; in some instances, the apology is the only necessary solution. In situations where a problem occurred that requires a solution, it is important to state how you plan to take action in your letter. This generally includes a sentence or two about the ways in which you will fix your error, such as providing a discount on future services, paying to replace a broken machine, contacting vendors or clients, or some other necessary action.
7. State your intentions for the future
Before you close your letter, include a statement of your future intentions. Do not expect everything to go back to normal right away, even with the best letter of apology. However, do express your desire to restore your professional relationship and work hard to prevent making a similar error in the future.
8. Express your gratitude
Do not forget to express your gratitude to the recipient for reading your apology. When appropriate, also acknowledge your appreciation for the actions she or he has done for you in the past and how that makes you feel worse about your actions. The close of your letter is the perfect place for saying thank you. Finish with an appropriate closing, such as “thank you” or “sincerely” and sign your name.
9. Remain sincere and respectful
One of the most important components of a strong apology letter is sincerity. You want to avoid making it appear as though you are going through the motions of writing the letter. Remain respectful to the recipient and use language that imparts sincerity without becoming disingenuous. Including statements of remorse, admission of responsibility, actions for atonement, and promising to change for the future are the first step. You must back these up with actions to ensure your apology remains sincere.
Additionally, avoid statements that become non-apologies, such as “I’m sorry if what I said upset you” or “I’m sorry my joke offended you.” This is not an apology, because it focuses on the result of the action rather than what actually caused the issue. Your apology should concentrate on actions that created the problem. For example, write “I am sorry I made an offensive joke” rather than “I am sorry my joke offended you.”
10. Keep it short and to the point
Finally, an important factor to consider when learning how to write an apology letter is the length. You want to keep it to one page or less. Hit all the above points in a concise manner that imparts your sincere regrets and actions to fix the mistake without going into excessive details. If the recipient wishes to discuss it further, you can set up an appointment to do so.
Here is an example appointment letter. Pay close attention to the wording for ideas on how to craft your own.
I am writing to apologize for the mistake I made with your account. Because I entered your order incorrectly into our system, you did not receive the product you and I designed during our initial consultations. This caused a delay in your business and a loss of clients because you did not have the right products in the timeline necessary to perform your transactions. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I hope I am able to set everything right.
I have worked with our production department to expedite the new production of your products with the corrected dimensions. You should expect to receive the new order in two weeks. Despite the rush, you can still expect high-quality merchandise to pass on to your clients. We are also providing you with a 20% discount on this order and one future order as an additional way to express our apologies. I recognize this does not undo the damage caused to your business, but I hope it is a start.
I hope you will continue to work with us in the future. I am happy to continue to work on as your account advisor, or I can reassign you to one of my capable colleagues if you prefer. Our businesses have a long history of collaboration, and my wish is that this will continue in the future. I will take care in the future to prevent this mistake from happening again by always triple checking the input of designs into the computer.
I thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I recognize you probably do not wish to hear from us right now. We appreciate your long-running support and business, and I truly regret any damage my mistake caused to the partnership our companies have had for so many years. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to continue to atone for my mistake.