Apologizing in the English speaking world is very important, especially in business or professional situations. If somebody isn't happy with you or even angry with you, an apology may be able to save the situation.

In this online exercise (with an example and a quiz at the end) we will look at how to apologize in English in a business email or letter and the vocabulary that you can use to do so professionally.

In English, 'apologize' can also be spelt 'apologise' (outside of America).

Click here to see more of our free online exercises on writing emails/letters

Example & Exercise: An email of apology

Read the following letter of apology from a supplier to a commercial customer regarding problems with a delivery of components.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Dear Mr Smith,

Further to your email of the 17th December 2009 regarding your order (ref no. 34ED12QP). First of all, please allow me to apologise for Peter Taylor not responding to your email. I can confirm that Peter has been on sick leave for the whole of this week. And although this explains the issue, it does not justify it.

It transpires that there was a miscommunication in his department and the person who should have been taking care of this issue, did not. I have already taken all the necessary measures to ensure that this does not happen again in the future. Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.

With regards to the issues about your order, I have taken personal charge of them. First of all, let me apologise for the late delivery. We should have made you aware about the delay at the time.

Regarding the damaged components, I can confirm the following:

It is normal policy here that we do not accept liability for problems with components if we are not notified within 7 working days of delivery. And due to the fact that you did not notify us until after 15 working days of the delivery, the Customer Service Department followed procedure.

But as we view you as a valuable customer, and we have worked together for over five years, rest assured that I will sort out this issue as a matter of urgency. I have already spoken to the Production Director here and he will confirm tomorrow when we can send the replacement components to you. I will update you about the situation with the components by the end of tomorrow at the latest.

Could you please confirm if this is adequate?

I do hope that this situation has not damaged your confidence in working with us.

Once again, please accept our apologises for any inconvenience caused.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me on mobile 07995 348236

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Sally Boswell
Rugger Sales Director

Now do the QUIZ below to make sure you know how to write this type of email.

10 ways to write better business emails/letters

Quiz: Email of apology

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, an Additional Information Icon "" will appear next to the answer. Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation.

1. A formal way of saying that you are not responsible for something gone wrong, is

We do not accept liability for:
(phrase) A very formal way of saying 'it's not our fault or problem'. When you use this phrase, it means that you're not going to do anything to resolve or fix a problem/situation. In Spanish: "Negamos la responsabilidad de".


2. When you re-apologise, normally at the end of the email, you say

Please accept our apologises for any inconvenience caused:
(phrase) A formal phrase. This is placed at the end of an email or letter. In Spanish: "Disculpen las molestias que les hayamos podido ocasionar".


3. A formal way of saying, 'for telling me about it', is

Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention:
(phrase) A formal expression commonly used in both emails and letters of apology. In Spanish: "Gracias por traer este asunto a mi atención".


4. A formal way of saying I hope it 'hasn't hurt our working relationship', is

Has not damaged your confidence in working with us:
(phrase) In general, this phrase is not necessary. Apologizing two or three times is sufficient. This phrase is normally placed at the end of an email or letter. In Spanish: "no ha dañado su confianza trabajando con nosotros".


5. A different way of saying 'I'm the manager of this situation' is

Have taken personal charge:
(phrase) A phrase used when a senior manager takes over responsibility of an issue. Its purpose is to reassure the person complaining that they are doing everything possible to resolve it. In Spanish: "se ha hecho cargo personalmente de ello".


6. A formal way of saying 'don't worry, I'm going to fix the problem quickly', is

Rest assured that I will sort out this issue as a matter of urgency:
(phrase) A formal phrase which means 'don't worry, we're doing everything possible to fix/resolve it quickly.' In Spanish: "está seguro de que resolveré el problema con carácter de urgencia".


7. A very formal way of apologising, is

Please allow me to apologise for:
(phrase) A formal way to apologize that is normally used as the first apology in a letter or email. It is normally followed by the situation/problem the apology is for, e.g. 'Please allow me to apologise for the delay in the delivery of your order'. In Spanish: "permítanme disculparme por".


8. A polite way of saying your money is still important to us, is

View you as a valuable customer:
(phrase) A formal way of saying you're a very important customer/client. In Spanish: "vista que como un cliente valioso".


9. A formal way of telling somebody that the problem is fixed and won't happen again, is

Have already taken all the necessary measures to ensure:
(phrase) Normally, this phrase follows the initial apology and explanation. It is used to reassure the person complaining that this problem or situation will never happen again. In Spanish: "ya se han tomado todas las medidas necesarias para garantizarlo".


10. A verb that is used to explain the cause of a problem, is

It transpires:
(verb) The infinitive is "to transpire". In this context it is used to explain what the cause or reason of a problem or situation was. It is an intransitive verb which requires 'that' after the verb, e.g. 'It transpires that they never checked the documentation'. In Spanish: "ocurre".



Now that you understand the vocabulary, practice it by writing your own email of apology in English with the new words/phrases.

Blair English online classes