How to Write an Apology Letter

Envelope by pencil and plant branch

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Knowing how to write an apology letter is essential in your business and personal life. For one thing, no one is perfect. We all say or do things we later regret.

It’s important to own your mistakes and take steps to correct them. The first step is to apologize to anyone who might have been adversely affected by what you said or did.

Purpose of an Apology Letter

After you do something that needs an apology, it’s important to acknowledge your mistake and then to show how sorry you are. Otherwise, you come across as someone who doesn’t care or can’t be trusted. Sending a letter asking forgiveness is the first step in repairing your relationship.

Apology Letter to a Friend or Family Member

In order to maintain a friendship or family relationship, you need to take action as soon as possible after you do something that might jeopardize the bond you share with the other person. Doing nothing isn’t an option if you want to restore trust, either with your pals or at home with the family. 

Here are some steps for apologizing to a friend:

  • Acknowledge the fact that you messed up and you want to apologize.
  • Explain how you plan to rectify the situation.
  • Make it clear that you won’t do or say that again—and mean it.
  • Come right out and ask for forgiveness.
  • Remind your friend that you value the relationship.

Example Apology Letter to a Friend

Dear Emily,

I am so sorry I lashed out at you about your children’s behavior. It was uncalled for, and I realize now that I had no business saying what I said. I’d like the opportunity to make it up to you and your kids by hosting the next play date at my house. I promise I’ll relax and enjoy the visit. 

I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me. Your friendship means the world to me, and I don’t want to lose what we have. I’ll call you in a couple of days, but if you want to talk sooner, please don’t hesitate to call me sooner. I’m eager to put all of this behind us.

Friends always,

Example Apology Letter to a Family Member

Dear Joanna,

I feel terrible about losing your favorite scarf. I shouldn't have taken it without asking permission to begin with, and I want to apologize, and I hope you'll accept this new scarf and gift card. In the future, if I want to borrow something, I’ll ask first. I hope you forgive me for my thoughtlessness. You’re the best sister a girl could ever hope for, and I’d like to earn back your trust.


How to Apologize in a Professional Setting

When you spend more waking hours at the office, shop, or other place of work, your colleagues and clients are likely to see you at your best and worst. After you make a mistake or say something that should have remained unsaid, it’s good form to confess and apologize verbally and in a follow-up letter.

Keep the note brief but show that you mean the apology. Here’s a basic outline of a professional apology:

  • Take responsibility for your mistake and apologize.
  • Show how you plan to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
  • Ask for forgiveness.
  • Show appreciation for your coworkers and anyone else affected.

Here are some examples of professional letters of apology:

Example 1

Dear Project Team,

The moment after I turned in that inaccurate report, I felt awful. I’d like to apologize to the team for my mistake. In the future, I’ll double-check every report and have someone else look at it before I give it to Ms. Holcomb. I hope you forgive me for this careless oversight. I appreciate this team, and I don’t want to let any of you down again.


Example 2

Dear Fellow Accountants,

I want to apologize for wearing a tasteless costume to the party. I obviously wasn’t thinking clearly when I decided to wear that, or I would have known how offensive it would be. I was trying to be funny, but I now see that I did the opposite. Please forgive me for being so thoughtless. I respect and appreciate each and every one of you, and I hope that I can win back your respect. I’ll make it a point to talk to all of you individually to reassure you that I don’t ever want to make any of you uncomfortable again.


What Not to Say in an Apology Letter

When you want to sincerely ask for people to forgive you, there are some things you should never say. Here are some of them:

  • Don’t give excuses. This weakens your apology.
  • Don’t blame the other person for your actions or words.
  • Don’t bring up something the other person did.
  • Don’t try to make your actions seem like they were no big deal.
  • Don’t make a joke about what you said or did.

Give It Time

Depending on the offense, the other person or people may need some time to warm up to you again. Accept this and do your best to show that you mean every word in your apology letter. Offer the other person (or people) the personal space they need and be patient. Eventually, most people will come around.