I Asked ChatGPT How to Apologize Professionally in an Email — Here’s What I Got

Apologizing is hard. Apologizing professionally for a mistake you made at work? Even more challenging.

We’ve all had to write an apology email at some point in our careers — whether to a coworker for missing a deadline, to a manager for making an error in a report, or to a customer for delayed shipping.

Learning how to apologize professionally for different scenarios is a skill that everyone should hone.

The hardest part about writing a difficult email is getting started. To help with this, I asked ChatGPT to write a professional apology email for me. I also created my own apology email template to compare.

We’ll take a look at these examples and the elements that go into crafting a sincere and professional apology email.

Download Now: 17 Professional Email Templates

How to Apologize for a Mistake Professionally

What ChatGPT Wrote for Me

How to Write an Apology Email

How to Apologize for a Mistake Professionally

Apologizing professionally in an email starts with taking responsibility and ends with outlining a plan of action to remedy the situation.

Whether you’re apologizing to a coworker or writing an apology letter to your customers, follow these steps to ensure your apology is professional and effective.

1. Acknowledge the mistake.

The first step is to address the error and say you’re sorry. Don’t beat around the bush — let the recipient know right away that you’re writing to apologize for your mistake.

Taking responsibility for your role in the situation, whether you’re speaking as an individual or on behalf of a company, shows that you’re accountable and aren’t going to make excuses.

Accountability is closely tied with trust when it comes to building relationships, so lead your email by owning up to your mistake before diving into an explanation.

2. Provide an explanation.

The recipient of your apology email deserves an explanation of why or how an error was made. This step is especially critical when you’re talking to a customer who doesn’t know the inner workings of your business.

Explain what went wrong, but be sure not to make excuses or blame others. Instead, briefly describe what happened and reiterate your responsibility in the scenario.

The recipient doesn’t need to hear a drawn-out story about how the mistake occurred. In my experience, the longer and more detailed your explanation is, the more it sounds like an excuse.

3. Personalize your apology.

An apology email doesn’t have to be stiff. We’re all human, after all. You can remain professional while still letting the person on the other side of the screen know that you’re genuinely sorry for the inconvenience you’ve caused them.

Personalize your apology email by being empathetic and addressing the recipient’s pain points. Empathy is one of the most important soft skills to hone in the workplace, and an apology email is the perfect time to communicate this.

4. Provide a plan of action.

After “How did this happen?” the next question the recipient has is usually, “What are you going to do to fix this?”

Reassure them that you have a plan by outlining clear next steps. Tell them what you’re going to do in the short term (i.e., “get this report to you by EOD today”) and how you plan on avoiding making the same mistake in the future.

Sharing your next steps helps to regain their trust, improve their outlook on you or your brand, and show them that you’re responsible for handling the consequences of your actions.

What ChatGPT Wrote for Me

Everyone has to write an apology email at some point. I was curious to see if ChatGPT could help in this process by writing some emails for me, so I fed it different prompts. The results are below.

1. General Apology Email

I started by asking ChatGPT to write a generic apology email for me. I wanted to gauge how well the chatbot understands these types of email scenarios.

Here’s the first apology email ChatGPT generated:

This response from ChatGPT follows the standard apology email structure. It covers all of the bases — starting with an apology, explaining what happened, and wrapping up by outlining the next steps.

However, it’s verbose. “I am writing to offer my sincere apologies” isn’t as straightforward as saying “I apologize.”

It’s better to lead with a strong and sincere statement instead of using too many filler words that ultimately weaken your message.

What I like: I like that the email signature includes your name, position, and contact information.

If this email were being sent to a colleague you haven’t interacted with before or if it was a personal apology email to a customer, this would be helpful information they’d need to have.

2. Apology Email: Missing a Deadline

For my next prompt, I asked ChatGPT to write an apology email for a more specific scenario. I also asked the chatbot to make it shorter:

Here’s the apology email it generated:

While ChatGPT followed my request for a shorter email, in my opinion, some of the copy is still unnecessary. If I were writing this email, I’d get to the point sooner. An apology email doesn’t need to include fluff.

All that does is force the recipient to skim the email to look for the information they need (like what your plan of action is).

I also think this email could use a bit of personalization, but that’s to be expected when you’re using AI. At the very least, this email provides a framework that can be edited to fit your voice and tone as needed.

What I like: Like the last apology email, this one follows an appropriate framework for an apology email. It starts with an apology and a brief explanation of the error, followed by accountability and next steps.

3. Apology Email to Boss

I want to see if the tone or structure changed if I asked it to write an apology email to my boss.

Here’s the next prompt I created:

This time, I included a request about the tone. After seeing the last two AI-generated emails, I can see that ChatGPT uses the same tone and style if it doesn’t have any direction.

Here’s the email ChatGPT came up with:

As far as tone and length, this response is much better. The apology is succinct and to the point while still demonstrating ownership and accountability for the error. The only thing I’d add is a sentence with a little more empathy.

Addressing that you understand how an error affected the recipient shows that you’re considering their feelings, too.

What I like: I like this line: “I take full responsibility for the oversight, and I understand the importance of accuracy in our work.” To me, this emphasizes that the person understands the ramifications of the error and is taking accountability.

4. Apology Email to Customer

For my next prompt, I wanted to see if ChatGPT could make the apology email more personal. I also created a different scenario for this apology email:

When writing an apology letter to customers, your message should focus on taking accountability for the mistake. It should also acknowledge the customer’s pain points and potential frustrations with the situation.

I think this AI-generated email does both of those things well. I also appreciate that it ended the email with the customer support team’s contact information to assure the customer that they’re there to help.

What I like: I like that the email creates an opportunity to offer the customer a discount to make up for the mistake. This can be a good way to regain loyalty from a customer who may have had a not-so-great experience with your company.

5. Apology Email to a Large Group

Another scenario where you may need to write an apology email is when there’s an issue that affects a large group of people.

For example, if your software company experiences a mass outage and none of your customers can use the product for a certain period.

I used this scenario for my next prompt:

Here’s what the chatbot came up with:

In this scenario, customers will expect a thorough explanation, which I think this email does well. While this email follows best practices for writing a professional apology email, it’s too long, in my opinion.

Here’s how I’d rewrite this one:

Dear valued customers,

We sincerely apologize for the recent service outage.

For approximately five hours, our systems experienced unexpected technical issues that resulted in downtime for all of our customers.

We understand the significant impact this outage had on your operations, and we deeply regret any inconvenience or frustration it may have caused.

We have implemented additional measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

As a gesture of our apology and appreciation for your patience during this challenging time, we would like to offer [mention any compensation or gesture, if applicable].

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience or disruption this outage may have caused to your business. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please reach out to our customer support team at [Customer Support Email/Phone Number].

Thank you for your understanding and continued partnership. We value your business and remain dedicated to providing you with the highest level of service and support.

How to Write an Apology Email (Using My Template)

Now that we’ve seen what type of apology emails ChatGPT can generate, let’s see if I can write something better.

Here’s an apology email I put together based on a common workplace scenario: missing a deadline.

Hi [First Name],

I apologize for missing the deadline for [project name] — this was an error on my part, and I take full responsibility.

I understand the impact this has on your team’s timeline. I plan to make up for that by getting this to you by EOD tomorrow.

Please let me know if this new deadline fits within your timeline. If there’s anything else I can do to support the project in the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Again, I’m sorry for the delay!

Thank you,

[Your Name]

Let’s break down the elements I used in this apology email so you can emulate it in your next apology email.

Take ownership.

While you don’t need to grovel, you should take full responsibility for your actions. Don’t point fingers or come up with excuses.

The first thing I wrote in my email was, “I apologize.” I followed that up by saying, “…this was an error on my part, and I take full responsibility.” Writing this lets the recipient know that I’m owning up to my error and I’m not blaming anyone else.

I also ended my email with another quick apology because it doesn’t hurt to express it one more time. However, two times is probably enough for this scenario — any more than that could come across as groveling.

Lead with empathy.

Yes, you should provide a quick explanation so the recipient isn’t left in the dark, but you don’t need to go into detail about the reason you missed a deadline. Ultimately, an error was made, and you can’t change that fact.

Instead, approach the apology email with empathy for the recipient. I did this by saying, “I understand the impact this has on your team’s timeline.”

This lets the recipient know that you’re being accountable for the consequences of your actions. If you want to rebuild trust, whether with your coworker or a customer, accountability is essential.

Communicate next steps.

After you apologize and take accountability, let them know what your next steps are. How are you going to rectify the situation? In this scenario, I reassure the recipient that I’m handling the mistake by providing an amended deadline.

By letting them know that I will get the project to them “by EOD tomorrow,” I’m communicating that I have a plan to make the situation right. This also shows that I’m taking ownership of the mistakes rather than putting the next steps on them.

Saying Sorry the Right Way

There were a few differences between the apology emails ChatGPT generated and the one I wrote. For starters, my apology email was more straightforward. I started my sincere apology right out of the gate and led with empathy.

I also outlined a clear and specific action plan, so the recipient knew what to expect next.

While ChatGPT followed a similar structure, it usually added a lot of unnecessary filler words. In my experience, this weakens the overall message.

If you need to write an apology email to a large audience like your customers or email marketing list, then using ChatGPT can help you figure out what to say faster.

An AI-written apology email can save you time, but it would need to be edited to align with your company’s voice and tone.

If you need to write a quick yet professional apology to a coworker or client, then I suggest using my template or writing your own email to make it more personable.

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