How to write an apology email

We have all been in the wrong here and there in life. But what happens when you’re in the wrong in a professional setting? You’re on the job and realize you’ve made an honest mistake and writing an apology email to address it can be nerve-racking. There are many ways you can successfully apologize in email and save face.
Woman sitting at desk resting forehead on laptop keyboard
Make a mistake that’s causing problems for others? Use our pointers to write an apology email

by Montanna Owens

When to write an apology email

An apology email is no different than if you were to be apologizing in person; however, the challenge in an email is you want to convey the same sincerity that is usually heard from your voice. When you apologize for a mistake that was made and communicate your regrets for making the mistake, you should also try to rebuild the trust that may have shifted in light of the mistakes. All of these aspects are important in a sincere apology email.

Let’s say for instance you fail to meet a deadline, there were errors in a previous email leading to confusion, or something that you produced was unsatisfactory. These are just a few common scenarios in which you would want to take accountability for the mistakes or errors and sincerely apologize. Depending on the context, another trust-building aspect included in an apology email could be an action plan to ensure the same errors or mistakes do not happen again in the future. In some cases, it might also be useful to explain what went wrong. This would be most valuable for an unsatisfactory product or service.

How to structure an apology email

Apologizing in an email can take multiple forms depending on the severity of the mistake and how much of an inconvenience was caused. To set your apology email up for success, it needs to have these elements:
  1. Start on a positive note: Begin and your apology email with a positive and professional tone. This will ensure it is received by the recipient in a positive way. All defensive and negative language should be avoided.
  2. Sincerity is key: Your apology should be clearly stated in your email. Make sure your apology is coming from the heart and a place of sincerity.
  3. Take accountability: Acknowledge your mistake or error and take responsibility for it. This also leaves little to no room for there to be any misunderstandings of your apology.
  4. Prevention plan: Include a plan or resolution to make sure the same mistake doesn’t repeat itself in the future causing similar issues.
Additional depending on the situation:
  1. Make things right: For small business owners and entrepreneurs, a situation can occur that requires a solution for a customer such as a refund, discount, or some other action to make things right. This would also be included in your professional apology email.

How to apologize professionally in an email without saying sorry

Although saying “sorry” is the most straightforward way to express an apology, you can also convey an apologetic nature without directly using the words “I am sorry.” Here is how:
  1. Reassure: Provide assurance that you acknowledge the issue and that you will be more cautious to ensure the mistake is not repeated, e.g., “Moving forward I will add an extra verification step to ensure this does not happen again.”
  2. Take responsibility: acknowledge your role in the mistakes or errors and amplify that to your recipient, e.g. “I do understand my role in this situation, and I now see that I could have handled this better.”
  3. Give a solution: Come up with a resolution or solution to solve the problem at hand, e.g. “To correct these mistakes, I would propose that we have a weekly meeting to resolve the issue of deadlines being met.”
  4. Express regret: You can express regret without saying “sorry,” e.g., “I regret the inconvenience and frustration this situation has caused you.”  

How to write an email correcting a mistake

This type of apology email is the most common in the professional setting. Sometimes you send a wrong email or incorrect figures, or accidently publish information that was not supposed to be. Regardless of the details, the structural elements do not differ too much for composing an email correcting the mistake:
  1. Apologize first: Start your email acknowledging the mistake and taking accountability for it, e.g. “Since our last correspondence I have noticed a mistake on my side, and I would like to apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused you.”
  2. Explain what happened: Clearly communicate what the mistake was and how it occurred. Being transparent and honest is key, e.g., “Unfortunately, I provided last year’s projections instead of the ones updated for this year.”
  3. Fix your mistake: Give the correct information that was needed or take steps to correct the mistake, e.g., “I have subsequentially attached the correct projections to this email for your review.”
  4. Reassure your recipient: Due to the inconvenience of the mistake, it is helpful to let your recipient know that you are taking steps to prevent this from happening again in the future. This also helps your recipient reestablish trust in your abilities, e.g. “I have created a separate email folder to separate the information for different years and time periods going forward.”
  5. Thank your recipient: Your email should be positive and professional throughout, but to drive it home you should thank your recipient for their time, understanding, and patience, e.g., “Thank you for bringing this mistake to my attention. I appreciate your understanding and patience while I corrected it.”

How to apologize professionally in an email sample:

A professional apology email is made with sincerity and honesty. As stated previously, there are many ways to write a professional apology email even when you do not want to directly say “sorry.” Here are some examples:

Professional apology email

Subject: Apology for [Missed Deadline]

Dear [Recipient],

I am writing to apologize for the error I made in [briefly describe the nature of the error] on [date or time]. I realize that my mistake may have caused inconveniences for you, and I take full responsibility for it.

I would like to assure you that I am taking steps to prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future. I have reviewed the situation carefully and identified the root cause of the problem. Going forward, I will be more diligent in my work and take extra care to ensure that all requested tasks are completed accurately and on time.

I understand that my mistake may have impacted your work, and I apologize for any disruption this may have caused. If there is anything I can do to help mitigate the impact of my mistake or assist you with your work going forward, please let me know.
Thank you for your patience and understanding while giving me the opportunity to address this situation.

OPTIONAL: I am committed to earning back your trust and confidence.

[Your Name]

Professional apology email without saying sorry

Subject: Acknowledging the Shipment Confusion

Dear [Recipient],

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to address the recent incident of [shipment confusion] that occurred between us. After reflecting on the situation, I realize that my actions may have caused you inconvenience or frustration. While I cannot go back and change what happened, I want to acknowledge the impact that it had on you and express my regret.

Moving forward, I am committed to making things rights and preventing similar incidents from happening in the future by [making a system of checks and balances]. If there is anything I can do to help rectify the situation, please do not hesitate to let me know.
Thank you for your understanding and patience in this matter.

[Your Name]

Group apology email

Maybe you are still working on breaking your bad email habits and accidently hit “reply all” with information that everyone was not supposed to received. While now you have to send an apology email (however, try using the CC and BCC functions to save you the headache next time).
Subject: Apologies for the Mistaken Response

Dear [Company name] Colleagues,

I am writing this email to express my sincerest apologies for the confusion I caused by mistakenly responding to the group email. As soon as I realized my mistake, I felt embarrassed that I had made such an error.

Please know that it was never my intention to send a response to the entire group. I understand that my error may have caused inconvenience and annoyance, and for that, I am truly sorry.

Moving forward, I will be much more careful when responding to group emails to ensure that such a mistake does not happen again. I value the communication and professional relationships within this company, and I do not want to jeopardize it in any way.

Once again, please accept my sincerest apologies for any confusion caused by my mistake.

[Your Name]

How to say sorry for wrong information in email

Subject: Apology for Incorrect Information in Email

Dear [Recipient],

I am writing to apologize for sending you incorrect information in the email I sent on [date or time]. I realize that the information I provided was inaccurate, and this may have caused confusion or inconvenience for you.

I take full responsibility for this mistake and want to assure you that I am taking steps to ensure it does not happen again. I have reviewed the information and will send a new email with the correct information to you shortly.

I understand that my mistake may have caused an inconvenience and for that, I am truly sorry. Thanks for your patience as I make this right.

[Your Name]

Apologizing via email does not have to be so difficult. As long as the apology is well thought-out, sincere, and honest, you can’t go wrong.

Before you go off testing your new email apologizing skills, sign-up for a free email account with us today!

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