How to Write An Apology Email
The apology email is becoming one of the most common ways of apologizing and saying sorry. It's a perfectly acceptable medium for delivering an apology in most cases, however it still doesn't have the same impact as a printed apology letter.
The impact of holding a physical piece of paper with a sincere apology, whether printed or handwritten, has a certain gravitas that our smart phone and computer screens just can't replicate.
Below you'll find tips on format, guidelines, samples and an apology email template for you to use as a basis for crafting your own apology email—always remember that the most important part of ANY apology is that it's sincere & comes from the heart.
The 3 Parts of An Apology Email
→ THE SUBJECT LINE: In a sense, this will make or break your apology. If it doesn't compel the recipient to open and read the content of your email then the whole apology is wasted.
→ THE CONTENT: The actual apology. What you write in your email and how you convey your regret and remorse.
→ FORMAT & STYLE These are the elements that surround the apology and play a role in how effective your email apology can be.
With email, we have less options in terms of format however style signals like opening the email with Dear Mr/Mrs. Jones, closing the letter with Respectfully Yours, and writing without contractions (e.g do not as opposed to don't) does effect how your apology is received by the recipient.
THE ALL-IMPORTANT EMAIL SUBJECT Line
Marketers know that the most important part of any email campaign is the subject line. The same is true for an apology email.
Based on their research we suggest the following:
1. Make it short and be clear about what your email contains.
2. Don't mislead and promise or infer things that aren't included within the content. e.g. Apologizing in the subject field and making excuses in the email body content.
3. Avoid emojis which can make your apology email appear to be more light-hearted and less sincere.
The following examples of an apology email subject line are clear and concise and tell the recipient immediately what to expect in the body of the email.
For Personal Relationships: [ Friends & Family ]
I owe you an apology.
I made a mistake, I'm sorry.
I need to apologize to you.
I'm sorry. I messed up.
Please accept this apology.
For Professional Relationships: [ Customer, Client, Boss, Professor... ]
We owe you an apology.
We made a mistake. We're sorry.
We apologize for.... ( include the specific infraction )
Please except our deepest apologies for...
We messed up. Here's what happened & how we will make it up to you.
*** In business, whenever possible, always include the infraction / error / mistake in your apology email subject line. Learn more about business apologies or see our list of sample business apology letters including an apology letter to a boss which works equally well in an email.
Apology Email Template: Content
For clarity, we'll cover the 4 main components that need to be included in your apology email. These are the primary concepts that constitute the bulk of your email.
It doesn't matter if you're sending your apology to a friend, family, customer or client, professor or boss, the same elements should be included.
1. Apologize and provide a detailed account of things. It's important that the recipient of your email understands that you are completely aware of what happened, and where you (or the situation) went wrong.
It's easy to do both in the opening of your email. For example
Please accept my sincere apologies. I'm sorry. I should have never [... explain the infraction in detail...] and would like to apologize.
2. Take full responsibility and acknowledge the hurt or damage done. The recipient needs to know that you can place yourself in their shoes and see things from their point of view.
This becomes the main body of your email.
I know I hurt you and placed you in an awkward situation. I (un)intentionally [...embarrassed / offended / betrayed etc...] you and made everyone uncomfortable. More importantly I hurt you.
I'm sorry, it was never my intention.
The truth is I was [... wrong, angry, jealous, being vindictive etc...] and I directed that anger at you. There is no excuse for my behavior and I really am sorry.
3. Express your regret and ask for forgiveness. They need to feel your regret and remorse through the email. And, by asking for forgiveness you give them back the power to determine the future of your relationship—it's important to give them that control.
I regret how I [ acted / lied / cheated / missed interview / missed meeting etc...], and am remorseful for the things I said. I feel [ sad / terrible / ashamed / embarassed etc... ] about the way things turned out and that I released my [...anger, frustration, negativity etc...] on you. It had nothing to do with you. Please forgive me.
4. In the closing of the email, promise that it will never happen again. Without promising AND changing your behavior there's no point in emailing the apology.
Finally, offer some form of restitution if it makes sense and ask if there's anything else you can do to make things right again.
I put our relationship at risk and you are too important to me to ever have this happen again. I promise it won't. If there is anything else I can do to make it up to you, please let me know.
I hope you know that this apology comes from my heart and I will wait patiently for the day you are ready to forgive me.
With deep regret,
APOLOGY EMAIL TEMPLATE SUMMARY...
1. Be clear and concise. Let the recipient know from the Subject Line that your email is an apology.
2. Open the email content with the apology, saying you're sorry while describing what happened.
3. In the email body let them know that you understand the hurt you caused and how much you regret it.
4. Ask for forgiveness. Promise it won't happen again and describe how you plan on fixing the situation. Convey how important the relationship is to you and ask if there is anything else you can do to make it up to them.
How to Start an Apology Email
The hardest part of writing an apology email is just getting started. Below are some examples of openings from some of the best apology letters submitted to our site.
Hopefully they will inspire your own apology email.
I'm so sorry for acting out. I don't know how to express my sincere apologies for the pain caused and the tears shed because of me.
To my love... Please accept this heartfelt apology. If I could turn back time and take back everything I said, I would.
I just can't convey how truly sorry I am and how much I regret my actions. I don't know how I could have done what I did. It was idiotic and I let my frustration and anger get the best of me.
I'm so very sorry, please accept my apology. I know you probably hate me right now and I don't blame you. I haven't forgiven myself and I'm not sure I ever will.
I've been really stressed about emailing you. I know you don't want to have any contact with me and I very much want to respect your wishes. But, for the sake of our past relationship please just let me apologize. You don't need to respond or even acknowledge receipt of this email.
For more detailed information on what to include in an apology letter & email, read our article on how to say sorry.
How to End an Apology Email
After the apology itself, you want to leave in the recipient's mind your strong desire to make amends.
Let them know that you care about them and your relationship, and that you're trying to fix things and are open to listening and really hearing what they have to say.
Here are some ideas on what to include prior to the final closing.
Please know that I racked my brain and have done everything I can think of to make sure this never happens again and correct my mistakes. I deeply regret it happened at all. You're so very important to me. If there is anything I can do to regain your friendship and trust, please let me know. I am truly sorry and humbly ask for your forgiveness...
I promise you that this will never happen again. It's important for me to regain your trust so that we can rely on each other in the future as we have in the past. If there is anything else that I can do, just let me know...
I'm so embarrassed by my words. I can't take back those hurtful words or pretend the whole situation never happened. It happened. It was completely my fault and as I said above, I take full responsibility. If there is anything I can do to make things right, please let me know.
I cherish our relationship more than you will ever know and am devastated at the thought of losing you. Losing you in this way has shaken me to my core and I promise you that I will never act or speak in that way ever again—you're too important to me...
Standard letter closings like 'Yours Truly' will work with apology emails. However, we like 'Sincerely' or 'Yours Sincerely' when it comes to apologies—it helps reinforce the message.
'Respectfully' and 'Yours Respectfully' are best suited as a closing for more professional email apologies, or when you've been disrespectful or are apologizing to an authority figure.
Dos & Don'ts of An Apology Email
✔ Do... Make sure your email is clear and concise. Be honest. Let your sincerity shine through.
✔ Do... Show them that you know why they are angry and hurt.
✔ Do... Ask for forgiveness however don't expect or demand it.
✔ Do... Tell them how much you enjoy having them in your life and why it's important for you to apologize—whether or not they accept it.
✔ Do... Make sure that your apology email describes in detail why and how much they were injured by your actions. Saying 'I know you were hurt' is not the same as saying I know how offended and angry you were by my actions and/or words...'.
X Don't... Use qualifiers like 'if' or 'but' anywhere in your apology email. 'I'm sorry if I hurt you' and 'I apologize but I was in a bad mood that day' sounds like you're making excuses or trying to justify things.
X Don't... Try to evoke sympathy as part of your apology.
X Don't... Share blame. Take full responsibility.
Apology Email FAQ [Frequently Asked Questions]
Our apology email FAQs are designed to help reduce the barriers we all face when we stare at our computer screens not sure how to get started.
One of the main obstacles is often a reluctance to admit that we're to blame for the situation—that it was our fault.
Seeing the words 'I was wrong. I'm sorry and I apologize', on our screens gives it a sense of permanence and causes us to feel vulnerable.
It's that feeling of vulnerability that prevents us from writing from the heart.
What are the benefits of writing an apology email?
An apology email gives you time to think about what to include in your apology and gives the recipient time to think about it before responding.
On the other hand, verbal apologies require you to think on your feet, be prepared for the recipient's reaction (negative or positive) and be ready for the conversation that follows.
How do I write an apology email?
Write your email from the heart. Be sincere and begin your email with the apology itself. Say you're sorry and describe what happened.
In the main body of the email communicate your regret based on the understanding of the hurt you caused. Ask for forgiveness, express your desire to fix the situation and explain why the relationship is important to you.
This article on apology emails gives detailed instructions, a template email, Dos & Don'ts, for apologizing in an email, and more...
Should I use 'I apologize' or 'I'm sorry' in my email?
'I apologize' and 'I'm sorry' are not directly interchangeable. Saying 'I'm sorry' expresses a level of regret or remorse. It tells the recipient that you've been affected emotionally by what happened, that you feel bad.
'I apologize' on the other hand is only a statement of admission. You're admitting that you were wrong but you are NOT necessarily sorry about it or feel bad about it.
For personal situations we recommend including both statements in your email.
How do you apologize professionally in an email?
There are a few things to take into account when looking at how to format a more professional appearing apology email. Format your email, as much as possible, like you would a formal apology letter.
Open the email with Dear___________, address the recipient as Mr. or Ms. Use more formal language throughout your email and never use contractions like I'm sorry instead of I am sorry or couldn't instead of could not. Close your email with Sincerely yours, or Respectfully yours,.
Learn more about apology letter formats.
When should I NOT send an apology by email?
You really need to consider the recipient, the relationship, and the infraction.
The elderly, for example, would likely not appreciate an apology email in the same way they would a proper letter. They don't view email the same way, so a handwritten or even typed apology is much more effective in showing them your sincerity—it's what they expect.
Remember that your apology always needs to meet the recipient's expectations and not yours.
With intimate relationships email is not the way to go. A handwritten apology on a card or in a letter is much more effective when love is involved.
The severity of the infraction, regardless of the recipient or relationsip, is also a key driver in determining whether an apology email is the way to go. For severe infractions and serious matters, a letter of apology on paper is always best. It adds formality and underscores how seriously you are taking things.
Finally, never choose to email your apology solely because it's easier.
What to avoid when writing an apology email?
Never use qualifiers in an apology email. Words like if and but always comes off like you're trying to justify things and that you aren't taking responsibility. I'm sorry but.... If only...
Don't try to evoke sympathy and don't link your apology to ANY other issues in your relationship. Finally, don't share the blame with others or demand a response.
How long should my apology email be?
As always, the length of your email and apology will be determined by the how badly you messed up. As long as the guidelines of what to include in a proper apology are met, the length of your apology will determine itself. It can be a single short paragraph or as long as a few pages.
What makes an apology email sincere & effective?
Sincerity comes from being honest, specific and direct while providing a detailed account of the entire situation.
This means that your email needs to take responsibility and acknowledge the hurt you caused clearly and objectively. Always apologize for your actions and NOT how they made the recipient feel. Make sure to express your regret, ask for forgiveness, promise it won't happen again without making excuses.
When we're asked about apology emails we always respond in the same way. Writing an apology email is no different from a standard apology. Know what you need to say and how to say it—basically everything we've covered on this page.
However, even though it's an email you should still consider the format of your letter. Although there is not much we can do in terms of format in an apology email, small differences (like closing with "Respectfully" for a more professional feel) can have a big impact on how your apology is received.