How to write an Apology Letter

Photo: aradaphotography

Photo credit: aradaphotography

Sometimes, if you’ve upset someone with your words or actions, an apology in person is the best option. However, more often than not, an apology letter is a good alternative method, or a useful option when you’d like to apologise to somebody who doesn’t want to see you. Writing a letter of apology gives you time to sit and reflect on what it is you have done wrong, and what your relationship with the recipient really means to you. When you send your letter, the recipient will then also have time to reflect on your apology, and what your relationship means to them.

A letter could also be useful to have with you when apologising in person; many people find a face-to-face discussion of this nature very flustering, and it can be easy to forget the points you were wanting to make when you’re in conversation. You can then leave your letter with the person you are apologising to when you part ways. After all, it can be hard to remember all that has been said when emotions are involved.

So, how do you write an apology letter?

Tips for writing an apology letter

  • Don’t try to use ‘fancy’ words that you wouldn’t usually use – this is a common mistake, but it makes your apology come across as impersonal and insincere. Be yourself.
  • Don’t even consider emailing your apology, unless it is to a business colleague or acquaintance. Handwritten and posted, or given in person, is the best option otherwise.
  • Think about the relationship you have with the person you are apologising to, and let that set the tone. For example, an apology letter to a close friend will be very different in tone from an apology letter to a work acquaintance. Be careful not to be too formal with a friend, or too casual and friendly with someone you know through your work life.
  • Keep it short – don’t write more because you feel you should. Just say what you need to say, and finish it there.
  • Accept full accountability for your behaviour. This is important, as there is no point in writing an apology letter if you are not sorry for your actions.

An example apology letter layout

  • Dear [name]
  • I wanted to write you a letter to apologise for my recent actions. I am so sorry for [your actions]
  • [Explain why your actions were wrong. Be descriptive, which will show the recipient that you do truly understand why you were in the wrong. Accept responsibility]
  • [Show that you understand how your actions affected the letter recipient]
  • [Explain what your relationship with the recipient means to you. Add in some gratitude if you like, such as why you are grateful for them having been in your life]
  • [Offer a solution to the problem]
  • [Talk about your hopes for the future, regarding your relationship with this person]
  • [Sign off the letter in an appropriate manner for your relationship with the recipient]

An example apology letter

“Dear Amy,

I wanted to write you a letter to apologise for my recent actions. I am so sorry for telling Steve that you are in love with him. It was not my place to tell him. At the time I thought I was doing you a favour, but I can see now that I was truly in the wrong, and I deeply regret my actions.

I know you have been through a very tough time with Steve since I spoke to him. Your Mum told me that he isn’t returning your calls, and is avoiding you. This must be both frustrating and deeply upsetting for you.

Your friendship means the world to me, Amy, and I was an idiot to wrong you like I did. I treasure the time we spend together, and I’m so grateful for the support you have given me over the past ten years.

If you like, I will go to Steve’s house and speak to him, explaining that I got the wrong end of the stick, and it was all a huge misunderstanding. I will understand if you don’t want me to speak to Steve again, but the offer is there, as I would love to help rectify the situation and make things better between you and Steve, as I know how much his friendship means to you.

I understand how angry you must be with me right now. I hope in the future we can be friends again and rebuild our broken trust.

Sorry again for my stupid decision, and the negative impact it has had on your friendship with Steve.

Love from Stephanie xxx”

Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

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