Apology letter samples
and writing guide

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Apology letter basics
Should you write one?
Apology letter dynamics
What's in it for the recipient?
What's in it for you?
Writing your letter
Sample apology letters
Letters 1-7 (this page)
Betrayal of trust
Damaging personal property
Deliberately not inviting someone
Disturbing neighbors
Late for work
Unable to attend
Using false educational credentials
Letters 8-19
Absent without notice
Arguing with co-worker
Arguing with family
Bad behavior by child
Bad service by business
Being a bad parent
Being drunk
Cheating on spouse
Dog bite
Feud in family
Firing long time workers by small business
Inappropriate personal info on the Internet
Letters 20-31
Late rent payment
Late personal loan payment
Lying about background to boyfriend
Lying about gambling
Missing a deadline at work
Parents fighting at children's sports event
Passing on a genetic disease
Shoplifting (charges dropped)
Shoplifting (charges pending)
Spreading rumors
Using obscene language


Apology letter basics

An apology is a statement of regret and sorrow for wronging someone.  An apology letter is simply a written apology in the form of a letter.

To be of much use an apology letter needs to elaborate on the situation.  While not necessarily lengthy, it should spell out the offense and explain why it occurred.

Very importantly, the letter should contain an admission of responsibility and a promise not to repeat the mistake.  It should also show contrition, ask for forgiveness, and, if appropriate, include recompense.

Generally a letter is not needed for a minor faux pas, but rather for something major.  Of  course, what seems harmless to one person could be earth-shattering to someone else.

Should you write one?

Before starting a letter you should ask yourself whether writing and sending one is the best approach available to you. There are other ways to handle a mistake:

  • Essentially ignore it
  • Verbally apologize in passing
  • Send an "I'm Sorry" card with with little or no elaboration
  • Meet with the offended party and cover the situation face-to-face

Unless a letter accomplishes more than the alternatives there is little need to send one.  Of course, a letter can serve as prelude to meeting one-on-one, and it may be your only choice if you cannot apologize in person.  

It is also worth noting that writing a letter can be useful even if you do not intend to send it.  This is because the writing process forces you to reflect and helps you adjust to the realities and consequences of what you have done.  The worse your mistake, the more benefit there is to this.

Finally, keep in mind that you should refrain from sending someone a letter if you are concerned about legal consequences.  In some situations your letter could amount to a confession of guilt or an acceptance of liability.

Apology letter dynamics

If a letter of apology is needed, a serious wrong has occurred.  A letter offers you the chance to correct the problem, so don't waste your opportunity.  To this end, try to make your letter as effective as possible by systematically exploring the dynamics involved.

What's in it for the recipient?

As a rule the recipient is looking for three things.  First, he wants contrition, which has value as emotional payback.  In other words, he feels pain from what you have done and he wants you to feel some too.  The recipient knows apologizing is painful.  So by apologizing, you help balance the scale, at least emotionally.

Second, the recipient may expect material payback.  If your misdeed caused financial injury, it is only fair that you compensate for losses.  Even if money is not involved, it may well be appropriate to give a gift of some kind.  This is especially true when your penitence alone does not outweigh the grief you have caused.

Third, the recipient is very much looking for signs that you will not repeat your mistake.  To demonstrate that you will do better, your letter should show:

  • You know that what was done was wrong
  • You believe it was your fault
  • You understand why you did it
  • You have a concrete plan that will prevent it from happening again
  • You are committed to making your plan happen

What's in it for you?

Whenever someone writes an apology letter they write it in their own self-interest.  Whether it's alleviating guilt, salvaging a relationship, keeping a job, or staying out of jail, definite benefits accrue to the writer.  Don't kid yourself about this.

To write a letter that maximizes the benefit to both you and your recipient:

  • Be honest with yourself about what you hope to gain, no matter what it might be
  • Understand your recipient's goals and the fact that they deserve to be met; resolve to meet them
  • Realize that your letter is ultimately an act of trading (for example, trading remorse for guilt relief)
  • Try to create a fair trade.  If you give too much, you will feel resentful.  If you give too little, your letter will not accomplish what you hope.

There are other reasons for approaching your letter in this practical manner.  It forces you to take an objective look at what you did and the hurt you caused.  It makes it less likely you will over promise and as a result not deliver.  Finally, it makes your letter more honest and therefore more believable.

Writing your letter

Because apology letters are personal, they should be heartfelt and plain-spoken, not subdued or muddled by corporate speak.  Nevertheless, they should also be organized, easy to read and logical. 


While letters of apology do not lend themselves to rigid structure, most include: 

  • A recap of the misdeed
  • An admission of guilt
  • An explanation for why the offense occurred
  • A statement of remorse
  • Reasons why the wrongdoing will not happen again
  • A request of the recipient (for example, for forgiveness)

These items do not fall in a formal order, and sometimes not all are needed.

Letter length can vary dramatically.  Depending on the circumstances, a good letter may need from a couple of hundred words up to a thousand or more.


  • Be sincere.  Your letter should reflect your personality and writing style.
  • Be coherent.  Your letter will discuss important things.  The recipient should be able to understand what you're saying.
  • Be deliberate.  Do not include unnecessary material.  Stick to content that helps achieve the goals of the letter.
  • Be honest.  If you describe situations, do so factually.
  • Be logical.  Conclusions you reach in your letter should rest on common sense rather than depend on wishful thinking.
  • Be consistent.  For example, don't take responsibility for something and then backtrack later in your letter.
  • Accept the real possibility that writing your letter will be painful.  Let what you say demonstrate your pain.
  • Apologies are are serious business.  Only inject humor when you are sure it will help.
  • Use correct grammar and check your spelling.
  • Write your letter as soon as possible.
  • Make a first draft and let your thoughts flow.  Wait several hours and read it, then edit as needed.
  • Put your letter on quality stationery and send it by mail.
  • Handwrite it unless you have legibility issues.
  • Make a copy and keep it.


Letters 1-7

Betrayal of trust

Dear Henry,

I asked the maintenance supervisor about you and he said you were fired last month.  He said one of the neighbors told the manager about the incident involving your daughter.

As soon as he said that, I realized that I had played a part in your losing your job here.  The information about your daughter could have only reached the manager because of me and my big mouth.  I'm sure you realized I was the one who betrayed you.

I certainly appreciated your spending your own time investigating my complaint about the security lights.  I also appreciated your telling me that because you lived here you were concerned, too.  But what really made me feel grateful was the honesty you showed about what you discovered.  Namely, that your daughter and her boyfriends had been unhooking the lights so they could have sex in back of the building without being seen.

You were shocked and upset and guaranteed me that you would put a stop to this.

I told you I would not betray your confidence.  Clearly, I did not keep my word. I could go through a lengthy explanation as to why I broke my promise.  I realize that any explanation I give would just be an excuse. In all truth, there is no excuse.  All I can do is resolve never to cause a problem like this again.  From now on I will always think before I speak.

I am very sorry for the part I played in the loss of your job.  I was told that because of your firing you lost your employee discount on your rent and were forced to move.  I can never undo the damage I have done to you and yours.

I was glad the maintenance supervisor had an address where I could reach you.  I was relieved when he said you landed another job and were getting a fresh start.

Again, I apologize for betraying your trust.  I hope that as time passes you will find a way to forgive me.  Please take good care.  Good luck with your new job.


Mrs. Miller


Damaging personal property

Dear Jack,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this morning I ran over your son's bicycle as I was backing my pick up truck out of the driveway.  It is damaged beyond repair.  I am extremely sorry for this.

I was impressed that Tyler agreed to lend Joe his new bike while Tyler went to summer camp.  Joe enjoyed riding it around the neighborhood yesterday.  Unfortunately, instead of putting it somewhere safe last night he left it behind the truck.  I never saw it.  I wish I had.

I blame myself for what happened.  His mother and I have tried to teach him to respect people's property.  Even so, he's only eleven years old.  It was my responsibility to look behind the truck.

I called several stores and searched online to get an idea how much a replacement would cost.  I had no idea how expensive that bike is.  I'm embarrassed to admit I'm having money problems.  I won't be able to pay you for the bike for a couple of months.  Please accept this letter as my personal promise to reimburse you.

Joe is upset about what happened.  He understands that his failure to look after the bike was the underlying reason for what happened.  I told him how much I would have to pay for a replacement.  He will go without his allowance until the cost of the bike is covered.

Joe realizes that Tyler trusted him when he lent him his bike.  He knows your son will be angry and hurt.  When Tyler gets home, Joe said he plans to go see him and apologize himself.  Joe has learned some valuable lessons here.

I hope this incident won't stand in the way of the friendship between the boys.


Dan Hawkins


Deliberately not inviting someone

Dear Ricky,

As you know my wedding is coming up soon.  What you do not know is that I am not inviting you, Lucy or your son, Julian.  I thought it only fair to let you know my decision before I mail out the invitations next week.

This was not an easy decision to make and it was not made lightly.  I discussed this at great length with Mom, Dad and our sisters, Sue and Diane.  In case you are mystified about the reason for not being invited, let me explain.  Every time the family gets together for holidays, birthdays or other occasions the three of you create tremendous problems.  You and Lucy invariably end up drunk and quite disorderly.  Julian is twelve and old enough to at least behave in public.  Sadly, this is not the case.  The boy always makes a scene over something.  Then, you and Lucy beat Julian and scream obscenities at him. Repeated promises to get your act together have been broken time after time.  Need I say more?

A wedding is supposed to be a happy celebration of love and commitment.  John and I want our day to be filled with memories we will treasure in the years to come.  If you and yours attend, any prospect for a wonderful day will go up in smoke.  You know I speak the truth.

I leave it to you how to explain your absence to others.  If you want to say you weren't invited, that's fine. If you choose to make up a plausible excuse, that's OK.  It's your call.

I apologize for this decision.  Personally, I never thought I would feel compelled to write a letter such as this to anyone, much less my own brother.

I am sorry that you will not be there to help me celebrate such a special moment in my life.  When I get the wedding photos there will be no pictures of you, Lucy and Julian standing at the altar with the rest of us.  Those photos will be a sad reminder that you weren't there.  It will always tug at my heartstrings.

I do not feel good about this choice.  I am sorry for the hurt I know this causes.  I hope you will not turn this into a grudge that drives a wedge between us or between others in the family.

I also want to make it clear that the three of you will not be excluded from other family events.  We are family and all of us will always care about you.  However, please gracefully honor my wishes and give me and John our once in a lifetime moment.

Love always,



Disturbing neighbors

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson,

You two deserve a real apology from us.  Since we moved into our apartment you've had to endure a lot of bad behavior on our part.  Our frequent parties have not only been loud, but have lasted into the early morning hours.  Our guests have left bottles and trash on the parking lot in front of the building.  To make matters worse, the trash has sometimes been knocked from our balcony onto yours.  Since you live directly under our place our inconsiderate behavior has affected you the most.

You and the other neighbors have complained to us about the partying.  The apartment manager has put warning notices on our door as well.  As you know, the police have come by several times and lectured us about the noise.  We had parties like this at our last apartment and got away with it, so we figured we could get away with it here.

Well, what happened last night was a real eye opener.  It was clear that someone at the party dropped a lit cigarette off our balcony.  It fell into the landscape mulch around the bushes in front of your apartment.  It was horrifying to see how quickly the mulch ignited and the bushes began to burn.  Fortunately, we were able to put out the fire without having to call the fire department.  We were relieved that no one was injured and the only property damage was to the bushes.

Obviously, we needed to be taught a lesson and this frightening event did the trick.  We know we have no right to expect you to forgive us, but we sincerely apologize.  We promise to limit our parties to one per month, hold them only on Friday nights and end them by midnight.  We will also supervise the behavior of our guests and clean up any trash that results from the parties.

We are going to each apartment in this wing and apologize face-to-face.  In addition, Megan and I will go to the manager's office and offer to pay all costs associated with the bushes.

We hope you are willing to give us another chance to be not just neighbors, but good neighbors.


John and Megan Stanton


Late for work

Dear Mrs. Peterson,

I'm sure you are getting fed up with my excuses for being late.  I know I'm trying your patience, and I'm in danger of losing my job.  I really like working here, and being a single Mom with a two year old son, I cannot afford to be unemployed.

Clearly, my lack of punctuality is unacceptable, and I have finally taken steps to address the problem.  For example, I used to rush in at a minute to 8.  Now my goal 7:30.  By striving to get here early I can pretty much guarantee being ready when the shift starts.

I'm also taking control of my childcare problem.  The woman who comes to my home to watch my son also has a problem being on time.  Whenever she is late, I'm late.  My son adores her and I have been dragging my feet about replacing her.  Last week I put an ad in the paper in hopes of finding someone more reliable.  I have several likely prospects I plan to interview at my home this weekend.

Finally, I'm thinking ahead about what might make me late.  I'm reminded of the time I ran out of gas on the way to work.  I couldn't call to explain or even call someone to help me.  Why?  Well, my cell phone was dead.  I had forgotten to charge it the night before, just like I'd forgotten to gas up the car.  Two problems that were easily preventable, and will be prevented in the future.

All this being said, I again apologize for the problems I have caused you, my co-workers and the company.  I hope you have noticed that I have been on time everyday this week.  I promise that I will continue to be on time everyday.


Brittany Jacobsen


Unable to attend

Dear Mike,

I had been looking forward to our annual "Dad's Weekend" with our kids at the theme park.  Unfortunately, Jack and I will have to skip the trip this year.  I realize the planned weekend is still a month away, but I felt I should give you as much notice as possible.  There is no reason why you and Sam should miss out on all the fun just because we can't attend.  Maybe you can ask another friend if he and his children would like to go.

Naturally, Jack was upset when I told him we weren't going. He asked for an explanation and I just told him the truth-- we can't afford it.  I was relieved when he didn't say anything and just went to his room.  I decided to write instead of calling.  I didn't want to take a chance that Jack would overhear our conversation.  Children should not have to worry about adult problems.

I don't need to tell you how bad the economy is.  Like many businesses our company is downsizing to survive.  The powers that be have been going through one department after the next and looking for cuts.  Unfortunately, they are now in my department. Rumors are flying and it's just a matter of time before I'm handed my pink slip.

You're a responsible family man.  I know you would agree with me that now is not the time for me to spend the money if I don't have to.

I sincerely hope we'll be able to set up another weekend trip with the kids next year. Don't worry yourself about us.  Jessica, Jack and I will be fine.  Please give our warmest regards to Katie and Sam.

I promise to keep in touch.



Using false educational credentials

Dear Mr. Mayo,

I apologize for the outright lie I told you when I interviewed for the position of General Manager. I figured my opportunity to advance had arrived when the company decided to fill from within. With my bachelor's degree in business and seven years of proven experience as Operations Manager, I thought the job was mine for the taking.

The only problem was that candidates were required to have an MBA and I didn't. I decided to "fix" this problem by simply lying on my resume and in our interview. Because I have been here seven years and have performed well I assumed my credentials would never be checked, much less challenged. A few days after our meeting I was surprised when your office called. I was told I was no longer in the running because I lied about the degree.

When I hung up I was horrified and humiliated. How could I have been so arrogant and dishonest? Besides, it was presumptuous of me to think that I could successfully meet the multifaceted challenges of the position without an advanced degree. If I had managed to gain the job with such a blatant ruse, I would have deprived a qualified candidate. A candidate who had spent the time to earn his or her MBA. In addition, I would have done a disservice to the company.

My actions to falsify my educational credentials have exposed a serious character flaw. I have been berating myself ever since my lie was exposed. Somehow, the news has trickled out. While no one has said anything to my face, I've received a lot of dirty looks. It's been especially difficult to bear the cold shoulder of the remaining candidates, each of whom really has a master's. I deserve their anger, and I intend to apologize to them once a selection is made.

I do hope you won't hold this transgression against me as I continue my employment here. I enjoy my work and hope to put my abilities to good purpose further helping the company. In the future, I promise that when I want to advance up the ladder I will possess the additional education required.

Again, my utmost apology,

Jason Lankfort


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