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We all make mistakes. And no matter how brilliant and competent you may be on the job, there’s a strong chance you’ve made (or will make) a bad decision at least once or twice during your career. Since you can’t undo the past, reach out to those you’ve hurt and do your best to set your threatened relationships back on the right course. An intelligent, thoughtful message — similar to what you’ll find in these free apology letter samples — can strengthen your connections, repair your reputation, and provide some damage control after a blunder on your part.
Review the apology letter samples presented here, and make note of the tone and word choices that support an effective message. Imagine how a recipient may feel after reading these words, and then start drafting a letter of your own that accomplishes the same central goals. After taking a look at the samples, review the tips and information that follow.
How to Write an Apology Letter
Depending on the circumstances, your apology letter should include about one page of text. If you say too much, the most important details may be lost; conversely, if you write too little, your apology may not seem sincere. Think before you write and choose your words carefully.
Get to the point: Don’t ramble your way into the primary message of your letter. Make sure your most important statement (“I want to apologize for É”) occurs within the first or second sentence.
No cop-outs: Apologizing can hurt our pride, and at some point we’ve all felt obligated to make amends for something we don’t actually regret. It’s also tough to apologize for something so embarrassing (or painful) that we aren’t ready to admit that we’ve done it. But don’t weasel-word your way out of taking responsibility. Watch out for passive voice (“The vase was smashed” instead of “I smashed the vase”) and subtle blame shifting (“My team behaved irresponsibly” instead of “My management led my team to behave irresponsibly”). These are grade-A message killers; in the end, they tend to make things worse, not better.
Don’t wander off course: Stick to the point. Don’t mix issues or start talking about other topics that shift the focus away from you, what you’ve done, and how you plan to make it right.
Be respectful: There’s a time and a place for casual language, text-speak (“I hope U R not upset”) and silly jokes. As you can see from these heartfelt apology letter samples, this is not that time.
Take action if possible: Some mistakes can’t be corrected easily (or at all). For example, if you put someone your recipient loves in danger, you can’t simply make this right with a few easy gestures. But if you broke something that can be fixed or ruined something that can be recovered, share exactly how you plan to do this and explain what you’ve already done to remedy the situation.
How to Format an Apology Letter
Your letter will need a greeting, body, and conclusion. The greeting should be respectful and ought to include the recipient’s full name and title, if appropriate (“Dear Dr. Stearns É”). As mentioned above (and demonstrated by these apology letter samples), your opening statement should directly address the core purpose of your message. (Example: “I wanted to apologize for my noisy interruption during your presentation.”)
Follow this with one to three paragraphs that demonstrate how clearly you understand the situation (“I know you worked very hard on that presentation”) and how deeply you regret your mistake. (“As you may know, my puppy is in training to become a therapy animal, and that was why I had her with me in the office. Her training process is obviously not complete. I should have recognized this and acted in consideration to your needs, and I deeply regret not doing so.”)
If bullet points may support or clarify your message, you can include these in the body of the text. After you’ve made your statement clear, close your letter with one or two respectful sentences and a sign-off. (“I hope you will accept my apology, and please let me know if you’d like to discuss the matter further. Thank you for your understanding. ”)
Common Apology Letter Mistakes
Here are a few simple DON’Ts that you should avoid if you want to create a strong apology letter:
Don’t make demands: Don’t ask or require anything from your recipient, and don’t insist that he or she forgive you.
Don’t be sloppy: Keep your letter clear and free of typos, which can imply disrespect. Read the letter out loud before you send it.
Don’t make things worse: Whatever you did wrong (or said), don’t repeat the error within your apology.
Don’t exaggerate your crime: Overstating the harm you caused can, by implication, overstate the vulnerability or weakness of your recipient. Be careful and tactful.
You’ve Written Your Apology Letter. Now What?
Once you’ve reviewed these apology letter samples and created your own document, you’ll be ready to take the next step. Depending on the gravity of the situation, you may want to submit your letter by email (for a relatively minor blunder) or as a handwritten message delivered to the recipient’s desk or mailbox. Keep in mind that the most effective and sincere apologies are delivered in person whenever possible.
Don’t expect an immediate response, or any response: Your recipient is not obligated to forgive you Ñ not immediately, in the near future, or ever..
Don’t wait to take action: If you intend to make things right, don’t wait for a green light from the injured party. Start making amends immediately.