How Not to Write an Apology
Sincerity is the key to writing a good apology letter, and if you don't have that then your missive will come across as more of a letter of obligation. If you can't drum up sincerity or actual apologetic feelings, you should at least know what to avoid (obscenities and name-calling are a few you should already know.)
If you don't want to offer someone a backhanded apology, make sure that you leave the following out of your letter:
- Once you've written a beautiful, moving apology, try to avoid the temptation of adding the word "but." While you may think you're just trying to explain the circumstances that contributed to your poor behavior, it actually sounds as though you are trying to shift the blame away from yourself and avoid taking responsibility for your actions.
- "If", "May", "Might"
- If you're apologizing for something, you probably know what you did and the effect it had. If you preface the consequences of your behavior with "if" you question the necessity of the apology. "I'm sorry if I made you upset." That makes it sound as though victim had a choice in their emotions, and was overly sensitive.
- Always be specific about the behavior for which you are apologizing. If you killed someone's fish, don't say "I'm sorry for my carelessness and inattention." Tell them, "I'm sorry I killed your fish. It was careless and inattentive of me to leave the chainsaw lying around." If you aren't specific, the recipient won't know if you're aware of what you're apologizing for.
- "That You"
- Never apologize for the way someone feels; it makes it sound like their response to your behavior requires the apology, rather than your behavior itself. Avoid phrases like "I'm sorry that you were offended" or "I'm sorry that you feel that way."
- The Word "Apologize"
- Avoid anything that causes distance between your words and the actual sentiment. Don't say "I'd like to apologize," just say "I'm sorry." It sounds more sincere.
Index of letter of apology templates