How To Write An Apology Letter

Having trouble figuring out how to write an apology letter? It's a common problem. It's not something we do often and we're never sure how or where to start.

Below you'll find tips on format, guidelines, samples and an apology template so that you can craft your own apology letter—but remember—the most important element for ANY apology is that it comes from the heart and that it's sincere.

Pen and paper on a wooden desktop with the words I'm Sorry written on it.

 

The 2 Parts of An Apology Letter

   THE CONTENT: This is the actual apology. What to say and how to say it. We cover what to include in our template and sample letters below.

   FORMAT, STYLE & DELIVERY: These are the elements that surround the apology and play a role in how effective a written apology can be.

Apology Letter Template: Content

To make it easier, we've narrowed things down to 4 main components for you to use as your template. These are the critical concepts that need to be included in the content of an apology, and easily integrated into a letter.



1.  Apologize and provide a detailed account of what happened. It's important that the recipient knows that you clearly understand what went on, and where you went wrong.

You can easily do both in the opening of the letter. For example,

Dear______________,

I'd like to apologize for my words and actions on Wednesday at the club. I should have been more supportive of both you and your ideas when you presented them.

Being the last person to join our group, I saw that you were unsure of yourself and I used that to undermine your confidence. You were obviously well prepared and I shot down your ideas before even giving you the chance to explain them fully.



2.  Acknowledge the hurt or damage done and take responsibility. You need to be able to show the person you're apologizing to, that you can see things from their point of view, can place yourself in their shoes, and take responsibility for your words and actions.

This becomes the main body of the letter.

I could see the hurt in your eyes and yet I continued to criticize. I placed you in a bad light in front of our friends and other members and I had no right or reason to do that. I intentionally embarrassed you and made you and everyone else there uncomfortable. More importantly I hurt you.

I'm sorry, it was never my intention.

The truth is I was stressed about work and in a bad mood, and I took it out on you. There is no excuse for my behavior and I really am sorry.



3.  Express regret and ask for forgiveness. You need to let them know how much you regret your actions and by asking for forgiveness you give them the power of deciding on the future of your relationship.

I regret how I acted and every word I uttered. I feel terrible about bringing my work stress and family stress with me to the club that day and releasing all that tension on you. It had nothing to do with you, your ideas, or your ability. Please forgive me.



4.  In the closing of the letter, make a promise that it won't happen again. Without promising AND changing your future behavior there's no point in apologizing. Finally, if appropriate offer some form of restitution and ask if there's anything else you can do to make things right again.

I respect you too much and cherish our friendship too much to ever have this happen again. To make sure that it doesn't, if I ever feel that type of stress or if I'm in a bad mood in the future, I will simply stay away from those I care about until the feelings pass.

Meanwhile, I want to let you know that I've spoken to everyone who attended last Wednesday about my behavior. I've also asked them to open up the floor to you next time we meet, if you feel up for it.

If there is anything else I can do, please let me know.

I hope that over time you will learn to trust me again and know that in the end, I am always on your side.

Yours sincerely,

 

TEMPLATE SUMMARY...

PA Logo1. Open your letter by apologizing, saying you're sorry and describing what happened.

2. In the main body of the letter let the person know that you understand the hurt you caused and how much you regret it.

3. Ask for forgiveness, let them know how you plan on fixing things and promise that it won't happen again. Let them know that the relationship is important to you and ask if there is anything you can do to make things up to them.

 

How to Start an Apology Letter

The hardest part of writing an apology letter is often just getting started. We showed you a sample opening above, but it may not be a good fit for your situation. With that in mind, we're including a few more examples of openings from some of the best apology letters submitted by our website visitors.

Hopefully these examples will help jump-start your own apology letter.


I'm truly sorry for mistrusting you. I don't know how to express my sincere apologies for the pain caused and the tears shed because of me.

To the love of my life... Please accept this heartfelt apology. If I had the ability to turn back time and take back everything that happened I would do it in a flash and never think that what we have, and had, could never be taken away by my selfish acts or my demeanor.

I know no amount words could express how truly sorry I am and how much regret I feel. I do not know how I could have been so foolish and for so long. I was blind and let my ego and pride get the best of me.

I'm truly sorry. I know you probably hate me right now and I don't blame you. I still have not forgiven myself and I don't think I ever will for acting how I did the last time we spoke.

Dear Kim...I've been really worried about writing. I know you’ve asked me not to. I will always respect your wishes. But for my sanity please let me apologize without my emotions doing all the talking this time.

Get more detailed information on the content of an apology letter in our article on how to say sorry.

How to End an Apology Letter

After apologizing, a strong desire to make amends is what you want to leave in the recipient's mind.

This includes letting them know that you care about them and your relationship, that you're trying to fix things, and that you're open to any ideas they may have to remedy the situation.

Here are some samples and suggestions for what to include prior to the final closing.


Please know that I have done everything I can think of to make sure this never happens again. I deeply regret it happened at all. You are very important to me and I am willing to do whatever it takes to correct things. If there is anything I can do to regain your trust, please let me know. I am truly sorry and humbly ask for your forgiveness...

I promise you that it won't happen again. It's important to me that I regain your trust and we're able to rely on each other in the future as we always have in the past. If there is anything else that I can do, just let me know...

I'm embarrassed by both my actions and words. I can't take back those words or pretend the whole incident never happened. It happened. So, if there is anything I can do to make you feel better, please let me know. I cherish our relationship and friendship more than you can imagine and am devastated at the thought of losing either. I promise you that I will never act or speak in that way ever again, you are too important to me...

Standard letter closings like 'Yours Truly' can be easily applied to apology letters. However, we like 'Sincerely' or 'Yours Sincerely' when it comes to apologies in general because they help reinforce the message.

'Respectfully' and 'Yours Respectfully' are particularly good for when we've been disrespectful or apologizing to an authority figure be it parent, teacher, boss etc.

Dos & Don'ts: How to Write An Apology Letter

Do... Write clearly and accurately. Be honest and show true sincerity.

Do... Let them know that you understand why they are hurt and angry.

Do... Make sure your apology letter describes why and how much the person was injured by your actions. Saying 'I know you were hurt' is not the same as saying 'I know how insulted and angry you were because of...'.

Do... Request forgiveness but don't expect or demand it.

Do... Let them know that you appreciate the role they play in your life and why the apology is so important—whether or not they accept it.



X Don't... Use qualifiers like 'if' or 'but' anywhere in your apology. '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.

 

Tip on how not to bring in other issues into your apology

 

Sample Letters of a Written Apology


DUI Apology Letter
Apologizing to a judge or employer is often a part of being charged.

Apology Letter to a Teacher
Learn how to write an apology letter to a teacher or professor.

An Alcoholic's Apology Letter
A sincere heartfelt apology to those you hurt is part of getting sober.

An Apology Letter to my Parents
Saying sorry to your parents is never easy but always worthwhile.

Apology Letter for Child's Behavior
Apologizing to the Principal sometimes comes with parenting.


Apology Letter FAQ [Frequently Asked Questions]

Our apology letter FAQs are designed to help eliminate some of the barriers we all face when we sit down and write out an apology.

One of the primary obstacles is often a reluctance to admit that we're to blame for the situation. To state clearly and unequivocally that it was our fault.

And, by putting pen to paper and writing the words 'I was wrong. I'm sorry and I apologize', gives it a sense of permanence and causes us to feel vulnerable.

It's that vulnerability that is the most scary for many of us. So much is at stake when it comes to our relationships. Our minds begin to reel.

What are the benefits of writing an apology letter?

An apology letter gives you time to think about what you're writing and gives the recipient time to think about your apology 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 ready for the conversation that follows.

Does 'I apologize' & 'I'm sorry' mean the same thing?

Many people are surprised to hear that 'I apologize' and 'I'm sorry' don't mean the same thing and are not directly interchangeable. Writing 'I'm sorry' expresses a level of regret or remorse. It says to the recipient that you feel badly about what happened—that is has affected you emotionally.

'I apologize' is simply a statement of admission. You're admitting that you were at fault but you are NOT stating that you are sorry about it.

In most cases we recommend including both statements in an apology letter.

How do I write an apology letter?

Open your letter by apologizing. Say you're sorry and describe what happened. In the main body of the letter communicate your understanding of the hurt you caused and your regret. Ask for forgiveness, express a desire to fix the situation and promise that it won't happen. Finally, explain why the relationship is important to you.

Read our article on how to write an apology letter for more detailed instructions, a template letter, Dos & Don'ts, and more...

How do I format an apology letter?

There are many things to take into account when looking at how to format an apology letter. The predominant considerations are length and style.

In most cases, when all the elements of a sincere apology are included, the severity of the offence you're apologizing for will naturally determine its length.

In terms of style, handwritten apologies are best for personal and intimate relationships. Typewritten, emailed and more formal approaches are best suited for business and non-personal relationships (e.g. teacher, club member, shop owner etc.).

Learn more about apology letter formats.

What are the best practices for an apology letter?

Write from the heart. Being honest and sincere are critical to an effective apology. Use direct statements that can only be taken at face value.... I'm sorry... I was wrong... I apologize.

Be as specific as you can about the mistake, and as clear as you can about your responsibility. Describe why and how much the person was injured by your words or actions. Saying 'I know you were hurt' is not as effective as saying 'I know how furious and insulted you were by ...'

Make amends through actions and not just words and ask for forgiveness but don't demand or expect it.

Read through our complete list of DOs for Apologizing.

What to avoid when writing an apology letter?

Never use qualifiers in your apology letter. Words like if and but always comes off like you're trying to justify your actions. I'm sorry but.... If only...

Don't try to evoke sympathy and avoid expanding on the apology by linking it to ANY other issues in your relationship. Finally, don't share the blame with others or demand a response.

Can I send an apology letter by email?

Email has evolved over time and has become an acceptable form of communication. Emailing an apology letter is perfectly fine however you still need to consider the recipient and the relationship. For example, an elderly person will rightly respond differently to your apology if it's handwritten on a card as opposed to receiving it via email. Even someone younger reacts differently to something they can hold in their hand as opposed to reading something on screen. So be mindful of who the recipient is and take that into consideration. Don't email your apology only because it's easier.

How long should my apology letter be?

As we state above, the length of your apology letter will be determined by the how badly you messed up and the situation. As long as the guidelines of what to include in a proper apology are met, the length of your apology will determine itself.

How should I deliver my apology letter?

There are only a handful of ways to deliver an apology letter. Priority Mail should be used when the transgression is serious and time is of the essence, especially in business.

Regular mail is always appropriate and email is fine if that's the way you normally communicate with the recipient.

Finally, don't forget that an apology letter can also be hand delivered. This is particularly appropriate for close personal relationships. It allows you the time to make sure that you include in writing everything you have to say while being able to say how sorry you are face-to-face.

What makes an apology letter sincere & effective?

Sincerity comes from being honest, specific and direct while providing a detailed account of the entire situation.

This means that you acknowledge the hurt and damage you caused clearly and objectively, and take full responsibility. You apologize for your actions and NOT how they made the recipient feel. You then express your regret, ask for forgiveness, promise it won't happen again and provide a way to make amends without making excuses.

When people ask us how to write an apology letter we always respond in the same way. Writing an apology letter is easy when you know what to include, what you need to say and how to say it—basically everything we've covered on this page.

But it doesn't quite end there. You also need to consider the elements that surround your apology, like the format of your letter.

The format and style of your letter, when applied correctly along with the ingredients of a perfect apology, will help show your sincerity and achieve your goal of forgiveness.


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