How to Apologize for a Missed Email
By Christa Titus
As much as we try to keep on top of our email inboxes, sometimes we don’t respond to a message as quickly as we’d like to — within 24 hours is a commonly accepted standard — or we simply didn’t see it because there were so many other emails to scroll through. Not replying to a message can cause tension and bad feelings in business sectors, in particular sales and publishing where deadlines are paramount and quick turnaround is vital. It’s more professional to apologize to the offended party than to avoid acknowledging the error.
Send your regrets as soon as possible. The sender could already be irritated that he hasn’t received a reply from you, and the longer you put off acknowledging that you missed his message, the more angry he may get. This is particularly important if the original email contained crucial or time-sensitive information, and your failure to read it has caused negative repercussions.
Write the apology as a reply to the original missed email. Instead of leaving the sender wondering if the message got lost or if you’re ignoring it, replying directly to the missed email demonstrates that you indeed received it. Read the email thoroughly before answering it.
Apologize sincerely and explain why you missed the email. Take responsibility for the error, if necessary. A sufficient statement could read, “Hello Mary. I am very sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner regarding your inquiry about the real estate documents. I accidentally deleted it when cleaning my inbox.” Keep your comments brief. An elaborate apology, or repeating how sorry you are, isn’t necessary.
Inform the sender that you will immediately fulfill whatever request was made of you in the original message, and that you will follow up with them if needed. Saying, “I forwarded the documents you sent me to my supervisor this morning, and I will let you know this afternoon if he’s reviewed them” reassures the recipient that you are working to rectify the situation.
Remain calm and professional. If you feel embarrassed that missing the original email caused problems at work or in your relationship with the recipient, don’t cover your feelings by making jokes or by trying to deflect the sender’s anger with a comment like, “I don’t see any reason to be upset about this.”
Close the message with another statement that conveys your regret and that you’ll make an effort not to repeat the mistake in the future. A simple line like, “Once again, I apologize for any inconvenience this caused,” will suffice.
Tips & Warnings
- If missing the email is causing such serious consequences as a client threatening to withdraw his business or the sender telephoning your supervisor to complain, reach out to the offended party by telephone to discuss the matter. Situations like these warrant personal conversation to demonstrate that no offense was intended on your part.