Apology Letter: Types, Steps and How to write

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Apology Letter

It hardly needs to be said how natural it is to make mistakes. It can be as small as stepping on someone's foot to as big as hurting someone’s culture, values or beaching of trust. As important as it is in personal life, it is in your career too. So, it is important that you master the skill and surprisingly, it is as positive as it is negative.  

What is an Apology Letter?

The simplest definition of an apology letter is a letter that says sorry. But often saying sorry isn’t actually meaning it. An apology letter, therefore, is the letter for not being able to do something or for having done something wrong, owning it completely and showing genuineness in the acceptance of fault and suggesting solutions if possible.

Types of Apology Letters

Apology letters can be classified into four broad categories. The first two are fairly common, while the third and fourth might be unfortunately required to be written. They are:

  1. Personal Apology Letter: The apology letter written to friends, family, neighbor, relatives, acquaintances or even strangers, that do not serve or include a commercial purpose.
  2. Business Apology Letter: The apology letter written to business clients, partners, firms, suppliers, retailers and other stakeholders of a business.
  3. Third-party Apology Letter: The apology letter written on behalf of someone who is responsible for the mistake but is supposedly under your supervision. This can be both personal and professional.
  4. Mass Apology Letter: The apology letter written to a group of people wholly.

Personal apology letter includes:

  1. Student apology letter
  2. Friend apology letter
  3. Neighbor apology letter
  4. Apology for a missed appointment with the doctor, etc.

Business apology letter includes:

  1. Hotel apology letter
  2. Missed interview apology letter
  3. Customer complaint apology letter
  4. Business client apology letter
  5. Delay apology letter
  6. Company/Employer/Boss/Supervisor apology letter
  7. Maintenance hazard apology letter
  8. Customer service/Customer support apology letter
  9. Denial apology letter, etc.

Third Party Apology letter can be any of the types of personal and business apology letters.

Mass apology letter includes

  1. Misunderstanding apology letter
  2. Cancellation of event apology letter
  3. Damage of property apology letter
  4. Miscommunication apology letter
  5. Mistake/Disrespect apology letter
  6. Misconduct apology letter, etc.

Steps - How to Write an Apology Letter

Feeling guilty and hesitant to write an apology letter makes us totally ignore writing it. And this is equally worse, if not more, than the mistake itself. Writing this opens up a door of communication and yes, it does reduce the pain of the recipient.

Here are the formats of different types of apology letters.

Personal Apology Letter:

  1. Include your information, the date, and information of the recipient. If it is to a really close acquaintance, the date-their name-content-your name should do. If it isn’t, say, it is to a neighbor in your locality, include your name-address-date-their name-address and proceed.
  2. Clear-throat and introduce the topic. Start with a polite salutation: “Dear……….” and in the first paragraph, add something like, “I want to discuss so-and-so day/event/happening.” Outline the situation as briefly as possible and immediately take responsibility without making excuses. Now, apologize without hedging your words. Don’t just say that you’re sorry for the trouble it caused them (I’m sorry you felt bad/whatever), be sorry that you were the one responsible, but failed (I’m sorry I made you feel bad/whatever).
  3. In the next paragraph, let them know what you could have/should have done or can do now in the situation. Your sincerity will show here.
  4. Ask for forgiveness again as you end your letter and ask them not to cut ties or stop asking for help based on this occurrence. If this seems not appropriate according to the situation, include here your reassurance of not committing the same mistake again. You can also ask them to meet at a non-threatening place to ease things up further.
  5. Sign off.

Note: The relationships in such letters are more important to mend, make sure you write keeping that in mind. Also, a handwritten apology letter works wonders in the personal context.

Business Apology Letter:

  1. Use the block/semi-block format.
  2. If this in on behalf of the company, you can use the company letterhead, if from yourself, add your name-post-company name-address-contact detail then the date. Follow this with the information of the recipient, the subject line and proceed.
  3. Start with a friendly salutation and in the first paragraph identify the purpose of writing the letter. Don’t over analyze the situation and add unnecessary details, especially if your client is aware of what exactly went wrong. If they are unaware, clearly state the problem. Without sounding defensive, apologize directly but sincerely.
  4. In the following paragraph, offer a solution that might meet customer needs. If you have offered poor hotel service, a discounted complimentary breakfast is more of the deal than shopping coupons. If the issue is something that can’t be resolved, offer a refund.
  5. Lastly, let the client know you won’t repeat the mistake again and say sorry one more time for the inconvenience. If you know the client will not conduct business with you for your mistake, let them know you accept and respect their decision and end on goodwill.

Note: If your client is unaware of the situation, be ethical and honest in the details to avoid future complications.

Third-party Apology Letter:

The format will depend on whether it is personal or professional, but instead of taking charges on yourself, you’ll :

  1. Acknowledge the fault of and blame the person responsible for the disservice and apologize on his behalf.
  2. In the next paragraph, state how it goes against the (company) norms and policies, and state what consequence the culprit will face for violating them.
  3. Lastly, thank them for bringing it to your attention and apologize again.

Mass Apology Letter:

In such a letter, the recipient is everyone. If at a house warming party you said something that hurt the feeling of a group and killed the ambiance, or at an office party said something offending the culture of someone, you can follow the same basic format of remorse-apology-refund/consideration-repeated apology, but in the starting, instead of addressing it to one person, you’ll have to write “Dear All…”

Tips to Remember

  1. Choose your words wisely. When you have made a mistake once, be careful not to make another while trying to resolve the first.
  2. Don’t beat around the bush.
  3. Be sincere, but don’t grovel. Everyone makes mistakes. But don't let this tip justify your half-heartedness in writing the letter.
  4. Write it as soon as you realize your mistake.
  5. Excuses will only offend further.

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