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The Art of the Apology: How to Say Sorry With an Email


We are all humans, and therefore sometimes we make mistakes. We hurt or annoy someone, accidentally set up our colleagues at work, delay the delivery of an important report, and do not meet someone’s expectations. But all this is fixable if you know how to say sorry in email. The choice in favor of the electronic “Sorry” is sometimes forced, while this method is very effective. Apologizing by mail is often typical for business correspondence, but it is also great for informal communication.

In this guide, we will talk about how to apologize professionally in an email. So those you have caused some discomfort to will immediately forget about offenses. And your business or personal relationship will become stronger and more trusting.

The 3 Components of a Good Apology

There is no single recipe for the perfect apology. All situations are different, it all depends on the circumstances. But we would like to assure you: there are 3 elements that should be in any letter asking for forgiveness:

  1. Recognition. Whatever one may say, but you have to admit you did something wrong. It will let your interlocutor know that you realize the complexity of the situation. After speaking about the details of an unpleasant incident, you will surely feel relief yourself. This is a classic psychology trick to use..
  2. Repentance. It is much more important than sincere regret for what happened. Without this, it will hardly be possible to destroy the wall of misunderstanding. Be as open as possible and think about how this gesture will help improve the relationship.
  3. Repatriation. This element includes a description of your vision on how to remedy a sensitive situation. There should be facts about how you’ve already improved something.

Let’s delve deeper into each of these points to make your Sorry sound more than convincing and have a positive impact.

Prepare the right introduction

The introductory part includes an appeal to the one whom you offended or let down, as well as the reason for the appeal. All this should be not only in the subject line, but also duplicated in the message. Let’s say, yesterday you had to submit an annual accounting report, but did not meet the deadline. Since Friday was the deadline, the meeting had to be postponed to Monday. And your delay of several days has greatly tarnished the company’s reputation not only in the eyes of investors, but also of the fiscal authorities. All that remains is to submit the report on Monday and offer your sincere apologies to the boss for the delay. Since a professional apology email is of a business nature, we advise you to use the phrase “Dear, (name, surname of the boss)”. But it also happens that a friend got the offense. Then you can start with the informal “Hi, (friend’s name)”. In the body of the message, you can write something like: “I am very sorry”, “Please accept my sincere apologies”, “I sincerely want to fix the current situation”.

Admit your mistake

You must be able to admit mistakes. In any case, do not shift the blame to someone else, even if the mistake occurred not only because of you. Do not try to hold much against the circumstances, broken equipment or a frozen laptop, health or family problems. Make an effort and frankly admit the mistake. This will make it clear that you accept the responsibility for what happened, that you really want to fix the bugs and ready to improve. This is an essential point that a smart boss will definitely take note of.

Express regret for your mistake

In apologies mail, there must be regret for the deed. Before you write something, put yourself in the shoes of the person you caused negative emotions. Think what was the price of your mistake for him or her. By fully understanding the depth of the error, you can write a truly sincere text. Remember, the main goal is to restore trust, warm relations, and not recognition by the opponent that you are right..

Do it right

Words are not deeds. Reflecting on how to end an apology letter, list specific actions that have already helped / will help in the future in solving an unpleasant situation. If you do not know what to do, ask: “How can I be of help?” “What can I do to fix this?”

The most important thing is to reassure the other person that you will not make the same mistake again. You should also write how you will achieve this, give some guarantees.

What to write at the end?

The final part of apologies in email is your last chance to gain adherence to the one you’ve wronged. At the same time, it is important to maintain the same tonality that you had previously. Here you should express your gratitude to the reader for their time and wish him or her a good day.

An excellent option is an invitation to a one-on-one conversation. Thus, you demonstrate that a positive outcome of the situation is very important for you. You are ready to discuss all the unpleasant moments in a personal conversation, and you realize the importance of relationships.

Is email the best way to apologize?

In the digital age, email is the optimal basis for an apology message. But this is the true difficulty of such a letter, because it should be as concise as possible, while its main task is to convey the sincerity of your intentions. So, before you start composing a letter with the phrase “Sorry”, think about how email is suitable for this, whether it can really rehabilitate lost trust with it.

The electronic “Sorry” has one important advantage: speed. It is not always possible to meet with someone you offended immediately after an unpleasant situation. But thanks to email, you can “freshly” make a sincere apology, express regret without unnecessary monologues and asides, talk right away on the case and achieve what you want. In addition, there is no need to react to the words of the opponent, which naturally occur in a personal meeting.

Finally, we add that there are situations when “Sorry” by e-mail can seem cowardly. If you are sure of this, then do not waste time on scribbling, but immediately call your boss, friend or your beloved one and arrange a personal meeting to apologize.

You can read more about how to apologize in an email on the blog of the online validator Proofy. Remember, saying “Sorry” correctly is an invaluable experience that will help you become better in both your business and personal spheres.

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