Not being able to or not wanting to attend a business meeting, presentation, appointment etc... happens all the time. And although the people who have invited you may be unhappy that you aren't going, they will be a lot more annoyed if you fail to turn up (be there) without informing them before.
So it's both polite and professional in English to inform them you can't attend/go as soon as you can. And it is recommended to provide a brief and non-detailed reason why you can't attend/go. The reason needs to be something that will not offend the person receiving the email. So don't say that you have an invitation to something more important. Also, it's professional to try to re-arrange the meeting for a different date.
In this online exercise on writing emails in English, we will look at 3 different ways of saying in an email that you can't attend a meeting in business English. We will look at both formal and informal phrases that can be used.
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Examples & Exercise: Can't attend a meeting emails
Read the following three short emails where the writer is informing the person they can't attend/go to a business meeting. Two are written in a formal style and one in a neutral style. One of the emails is turning down (not accepting) an invitation to meeting, whilst the other two are informing someone they can't attend after they have accepted the invitation.
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,
Thank you for the invitation to the review meeting on the 12 July. Unfortunately, due to a prior commitment that I am unable to change, I will not be able to attend the meeting.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me on my mobile, 6902341899.
I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
I hope that everything's going well over there?
I'm afraid that I can't make tomorrow's meeting. Something very important has just come up and I'm going to be very busy tomorrow.
I'm sorry for the short notice, but I just found out this morning.
Is there any chance we can put the meeting back until Friday?
Let me know if it's OK for you.
Dear Miss Garland,
With reference to the upcoming review meeting on Thursday the 13 November, I am afraid that due to personal reasons I will not be able to attend.
Would you object if we postponed the meeting to next week? If this is appropriate, what day would be convenient for you?
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me on my mobile, 1902341892.
Allow me to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Now do the QUIZ below to make sure you know how to write this type of email.
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Quiz: Can't attend a meeting email
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, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.
Listen to the English pronunciation of the above words/phrases in bold by clicking on the below icon.
Now that you understand the can't attend/go to a meeting vocabulary, practice them by creating your own email in English with the new words/phrases.