It's a part of daily life to make a mistake and seek forgiveness from family, friends or colleagues. One method you can use to apologise for mistakes is to write an apology letter. Knowing how to apologise effectively and sincerely is a crucial life and workplace skill. In this article, we explain how to write an apology letter and provide three sample apology letters.
Why is an apology letter important?
Learning how to write an apology letter is an important career skill. A letter of apology is a physical document or email that acknowledges a mistake, expresses remorse and asks for the recipient's forgiveness. Formal apology letters are important to every workplace, as they are a physical or digital record that shows you admitting to and rectifying a mistake. Writing an effective apology letter for a mistake can be a challenge. However, employees who humbly recognise their shortcomings and attempt to fix their errors are valuable additions to any workplace.
How to write an apology letter
Here's a step-by-step guide on how to write an apology letter:
1. Acknowledge your mistake
The first step in how to write an apology letter is explaining what you've done wrong and acknowledging the consequences of the mistake you've made. Immediately acknowledging your error helps you appear sincere and humble. Confronting the mistake and reaching out to the affected person directly will ensure you resolve the issue quickly.
For example: “James, I need to tell you I was the person responsible for emailing you the wrong flight information for your most recent business trip. I understand my mistake made you miss your flight and caused you unnecessary stress.”
2. Apologise sincerely
Next, apologise sincerely and express regret for the consequences you caused. A genuine apology means you don't blame others or offer excuses.
For example: “I'm sorry I forgot to email you the marketing report you requested. I felt awful when I heard you had to reschedule your meeting because of my negligence.”
3. Share how you'll fix the problem
Assure your letter's recipient you'll improve the situation by sharing the specific steps you'll take. Having a detailed plan shows them you're serious about rectifying the situation.
For example: “I realise my mistake made you look inept in front of the regional manager. I have already called his office to schedule a meeting to explain I'm the one at fault.”
4. Ask for forgiveness
The last step to take when constructing an apology letter is to conclude with a direct request for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness shows that you realise to resolve the issue you ultimately need to repair your relationship with the recipient. It also invites the recipient to contribute to resolving the issue.
For example: "I need to ask for your forgiveness. I know my mistake upset you, but I hope we can repair our relationship and continue to work well together.”
5. Deliver the letter
Now you successfully know how to write an apology letter, you need to deliver it. Depending on the situation and your relationship with the recipient, this could be via email, by post or in person. An email will usually suffice, but if your mistake affected management or your entire team, delivering the letter personally to your superior's office is preferential.
Related: How to End a Letter
FAQS on how to write an apology letter
Here are three commonly asked questions concerning how to write an apology letter:
What are the three parts of an apology?
The three key parts of any apology are to acknowledge your mistake, express remorse and seek restitution. It's important to include these three components in your letter of apology. These elements of an apology can work together to help you compose an effective apology.
How do you apologise professionally?
The first integral step to a professional apology is to acknowledge your error as soon as possible after the incident. Then, ensure your apology is sincere by taking accountability for your mistake and validate how the person might feel. Next, explain how you'll rectify your mistake and make sure you follow through.
How do you write an effective apology letter?
There are three things to consider when writing an effective apology letter:
- Be sincere. The most important thing to communicate in an apology letter is genuine emotion. A person is unlikely to appreciate the gesture if your letter is impersonal. Imagine how the other person is feeling and respond appropriately. You may find it beneficial to read your letter out loud before delivery, to ensure it sounds natural.
- Be succinct. People often find it hard to stop apologising once they've begun. However, attempt to limit your word count to one or two sincere and emotive paragraphs. With a genuine apology letter for a mistake, you should be able to concisely and effectively communicate your message in a few sentences.
- Be selfless. When writing an apology letter, it's tempting to deflect blame on others. However, it's imperative you take full responsibility for your actions, even if it damages your reputation or hurts your pride. Focus on the consequences of your actions and how you contributed to the problem. It's also important to make any necessary personal sacrifices to make things right with the apology letter's recipient.
Apology letter examples
Here are three successful apology letter examples for various scenarios:
Example 1: Direct apology letter
Write a personal apology letter when you're directly accountable for the mistake, to convey your sincerity and empathy.
I want to apologise sincerely for excluding you from the company happy hour I hosted last week. In neglecting to update my email directory, I accidentally forgot to invite you and several other recent hires. I feel terrible about my mistake and assure you the exclusion was unintentional.
Being a team player in our workplace is important to me, and I typically reach out to new employees to make them feel welcome. I am truly disappointed in my oversight and I regret any pain or stress I caused you. To ensure this never happens again, I immediately updated my email directory.
I sincerely ask for your forgiveness, and I hope my misstep hasn't damaged our relationship. I look forward to getting to know you better at the next work event.
All the best,
Example 2: Third-party apology letter
When employees make detrimental mistakes, supervisors or management often step in to resolve the issue. A third-party apology letter shows the customer or client that you're taking their complaint seriously. It's important that you take responsibility and do not deflect blame on the team member in question, as your employees' behaviour inevitably reflects your leadership. Ensure you also acknowledge any improvements you've made to rectify the mistake.
Please accept my sincere apology on behalf of E.M. Motors. We're sorry to hear that the recent auto parts we delivered to you did not meet the specifications you sent us. Our design and manufacturing teams should have studied your request more thoroughly and asked for your approval prior to shipping. We understand this mistake and subsequent delay has frustrated you.
We take full responsibility for our fault in this situation and would like to replace the incorrect parts and offer you a $100 company gift card. We hope you will accept this gesture of apology. Our development team will be in contact soon to discuss your order to ensure the replacement parts suit your needs.
We want to assure you this type of issue will never present itself again. We have taken initiative with our manufacturing team to ensure we fill special orders more carefully in the future. We truly value you and your business and we hope to continue our professional relationship.
If you have questions or wish to discuss the matter further, please contact me directly or reach out to our Customer Service team.
Example 3: Group apology letter
Sometimes, you need to send a group apology letter if you've upset many people, such as your customer base or colleagues. This could be because of a personal decision or business reason, like technical difficulties. It's important to send out a timely mass email to apologise and offer an explanation.
To our valuable customers,
We're sorry to report that at 3 pm yesterday, we experienced technical difficulties on our website. Unfortunately, not all our customers could finish their online orders and enjoy our End of Financial Year Frenzy Sale. We didn't realise the mistake had occurred in a timely manner because of Monday's public holiday.
To rectify the mistake, we've extended our sale for 24 hours. We're also undergoing a full analysis of the issue to ensure it doesn't happen again.
We understand it must have been frustrating waiting for a resolution to this problem, and we're sorry we placed you in that situation. We know we're fortunate to have you as a customer, and yesterday we didn't meet your expectations.
Thank you for your continued patience with us and our team.
Faraway Clothing Co.