How to Write an Apology Letter

How to Write an Apology Letter

The word” mistake” is applicable in every aspect of human life; be it at work, home, or during our interactions with others. Mistakes are bound to happen during conversations, when carrying out a given task, or when drafting a report. What do you do when you make an error that proved costly to the organization? How do you appease your employer after making the company miss out on a contract for instance? Although some mistakes or errors may be unintentional, it is vital to apologize whenever you let your organization or individuals down. However, apologizing for a mistake goes beyond saying sorry in official settings.

Often, the employer expects you to write a letter of apology for your actions or inaction. These letters are often documented for future reference. Also, an apology letter arguably allows you to not just say sorry, but to give an explanation of the event that occurred. That being said, you are expected to be professional when preparing such a letter. Moreover, an apology letter can get you off the hook if constructed properly. Thus, you will be required to be sincere, honest, apologetic, and humble when writing a letter of apology.

Similarly, an individual’s ability to know how to apologize and ask for forgiveness sincerely, effectively, and efficiently is an essential skill to have at work. Importantly, a written letter of apology might be the only way to atone for your mistake in most settings; although an in-person apology may convene sincerity, organizations and businesses prefer a formal apology in writing. In addition, you must be ready to accept responsibility for your part in the error, and acknowledge and show understanding for the other party’s hurt. Thus, this article will provide tips on how to write an apology letter.


Meaning of an Apology Letter

An apology letter is a letter written to simply apologize to someone for one’s mistake. A letter of apology is also a means to mend a broken or troubled relationship between two people or organizations. In some cases, you may be unable to apologize in person because of rules or personal issues. In such situations, an apology letter can suffice. Similarly, an apology letter shows how genuine your approach is as you have put an effort into writing it. Apology letters can be written to mend business relationships; these are termed formal apology letters. In contrast, when a letter of apology is written to enhance personal relationships, it is called a personal apology letter.


How to Write an Apology Letter

Below are tips on how to write an apology letter;

  • State what your letter is about
  • Acknowledge your mistake and be nice
  • Acknowledge how much you have hurt the individual or organization
  • Apologize sincerely without reservation
  • Accept responsibility
  • Share your plan to fix the problem
  • Express a desire to have better interactions in the future.

State what the letter is about: After writing the address, the first sentence in the first paragraph should clearly state what the letter is about. It is brilliant and essential to let the receiver of the letter know that this is a letter of apology from the beginning. This will enable them to prepare mentally and emotionally to read the rest of the letter. It is important to not get the reader confused about why you are writing the letter. Also, stating what the letter is about can make the reader be in sync with the other content of the letter. You can say something like “I want to write you an apology letter to say sorry for my mistake that put the company in jeopardy”.

Acknowledge your mistake and be nice: Now that the reader knows what the letter is about, you should acknowledge and state the mistake or error in the next sentence and why it was incorrect.  In addition, explain in detail what you did wrong and recognize the consequences that your error has had. By describing the exact mistake, the person that you are apologizing to will know that you understand what you did. Relating, admitting your mistake from the onset will make you seem humble and sincere; confronting your mistake and reaching out to the affected party directly will help you to resolve the issue promptly.

Acknowledge how much you have hurt the individual or organization: Next, recognize and acknowledge the damage and hurt your mistake has caused to the individual or organization. Show remorse by acknowledging that they have been hurt and that you understand just how hurtful it was. This is usually a good time to mention that you never intended to cause damage to them. For example, you can say something like “my coworkers told me that my actions ruined not only the company’s chances of getting the contract but also nipped the company’s reputation in the mud”.

Apologize sincerely without reservation: Do you know what a sincere apology can do? Have you imagined what a real apology can do to you and your career? Well, a sincere apology can potentially be a game-changer. Your employer may soften their stance if they find your apology to be remorseful and sincere. A sincere apology will involve saying “I am sorry” without any excuses or caveats. In most cases, a genuine apology does not attempt to shift blame to anyone else and is sufficient in earning the recipient’s forgiveness.

Accept responsibility: This is one of the most important parts of an apology letter but can be the hardest to say. Even if the other person did make some mistakes, acknowledgment of that does not belong in this letter. What you need to do is to admit your responsibility for the mistake openly and without reservation. You might have had good reasons for doing what you did but that shouldn’t keep you from saying that your actions caused the organization to get bashed for instance.

Share your plan to fix the problem: You’ve apologized and taken responsibility for the error and mistake; what do you do next? You will need to try and fix the problem and improve the situation. Assuring your recipient that you will do everything you can to make the matter right is a good place to start, but it will be even better if you can share the specific steps you will take to do so. Having this kind of plan will show the recipient that you recognize you owe them in some way and that you have put serious thought into how you can make the situation better.

State a desire to have better interactions in the future: After asking for forgiveness, you should conclude by expressing a desire to interact better in the future.  Express your desire to do better and not repeat the same mistake.


Things to Consider When Writing an Apology Letter

  • Be sincere
  • Be concise
  • Be selfless
  • Don’t promise change unless you are sure you can deliver
  • Watch your language and tone
  • Keep expectations and assumptions out of your letter
  • Start and end the letter gracefully


Depending on the situation and your relationship with the recipient, you might choose to send your letter by post, in-person, or perhaps by email. If your mistake was an accident and if the recipient and you are equals in the workplace, a simple email would probably suffice. In contrast, if your mistake was a result of poor judgment and if it affected your supervisor, manager, or the entire team, it would be better to print the letter and deliver it to a supervisor’s office in person. Regardless of the particular situation, the most important things to focus on are sincerity, humility, and honesty.

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