Apologizing with Class
"Please forgive me because when I," not quite right yet, thought the mother, "Please forgive me because I forgot to pick up your child's papers after school yesterday. I was in such a hurry, it slipped my mind. I promise not to forget again."
"We regret we had to make change to," oops, that's wrong, thought the clerk, "we regret we had to change your travel arrangements on such short notice. We did not know you had already made further plans."
"We are making up excuses," no, that wasn't correct. The businessman scratched his head and thought. "Please excuse us for making an error on your charge account. We value your business and will see that your account is corrected."
Mistakes can be embarrassing, but apologizing with grace is an art worth learning. A graceful apology softens the error, perhaps earning forgiveness for you. The trick is matching the words to the mistake, while paying attention to the level of formality, detail, and intimacy necessary.
Some apologies begin with an acknowledgment an error was made. Formal statements may begin "we regret our mistake." Less formal, but standard statements might start "We are sorry." Very informal, slangy statements are "We goofed," or "We messed up," or just "Oops!" or "Oh, oh!"
The next part of the apology may be descriptive about the error. Formal language to describe an error made in travel reservations might be, "Your booking included incomplete information..." The same error stated less formally would be "We neglected to mention..." The informal version might be "We didn't let you know about..."
Sometimes, when both the person who made the mistake and the victim of the error know what the mistake was, it is not mentioned in detail. When a company sends out the wrong product to fill an order, and the customer complains, the corrected shipment may include a card with the words "Sorry, it was our fault! Please accept our apology," or "We're not perfect! Please forgive us."
The next part of the apology may be an excuse, a way for the person who made the mistake to "save face," or keep their dignity even though they erred. Pointing the finger or placing blame on others is not necessary in making an excuse. To express personal responsibility the common words used are "it was my fault," or "I am to blame." If much effort was spent but the mistake still occurred anyway, you can say "I tried, but something went wrong anyway," or "no matter how hard I tried, it still didn't work out," or "in spite of my best efforts, it still failed."
If there is a way to correct the error, this can be described in detail, or in vague terms. A financial error might include specifics of how the account will be corrected, "The balance of your account will be corrected in the following way." Vague terms might be more appropriate for informal mistakes, as in "I'll make it up to your somehow," or "I'll make it right."
Finally, most apologies end with a promise. It may be formal, "We guarantee better performance in the future," standard, "We promise to do better next time," or informal "Cross my heart and hope to die, it'll never, ever happen again!"
So, the next time you need to apologize, whether because you, in slang terms, "boobooed," or "messed up royally," or "really pulled a boner," you can "‘fess up" with class and keep your family, friends, classmates, co-workers, and customers happy.
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