How to Write an Error Letter

by WriteExpress Staff Writers

Made a mistake? Reduce the damage with a properly and carefully worded letter.

  • If you have made an error, write your letter as soon as possible after the unfortunate incident. Focus on actions you will take or have taken to rectify the situation rather than the damage you may have caused. Accompany your apology with a promise of compensation or restitution. A sincere apology can go a long way to winning back a disgruntled customer.
  • The tone of your letter should be very considerate and respectful because you have probably caused some inconvenience.
  • Words such as "oversight" and "error" help keep the mistake a minor issue.
  • When writing this letter, be concise and polite.
  • Don't apologize unless you plan to take full responsibility, and don't blame anyone.
  • Do not blame your reader.
  • If you have sent a collection or similar letter by mistake, you should apologize for your error and acknowledge any inconvenience you may have caused. You should also state the current condition of the customer's account.
  • When a customer complains about an error, or if an error affects several people, it is wise to take the time to explain and to apologize to all involved. The letter needs to be detailed enough to explain what happened, but it should not be lengthy.
  • The person who corrects the error or makes the revision should notify others involved so that everyone has the same information.

How to write an error letter when someone else made the error:

  • This letter should be brief and straightforward, and it should give sufficient detail to support your contention that an error has been made. Explain how the error should or will be corrected.
  • Keep in mind that most errors are unintentional, and remember that most businesses want to address and clear up their customers' complaints quickly. Also, understand that the person who reads this letter may not personally be responsible for the problem.
  • If a customer has made a mistake in stating a supposed error, explain why the person's claim or assertion is incorrect, and at the same time seek to retain the customer's business and goodwill.
  • Since you probably want to resolve a problem rather than simply disagree, avoid making accusations. Refrain from using aggressive language.
  • Remember to communicate facts, not anger or frustration, and don't insult the reader. Remain courteous and stick to the point.
  • Your letter should communicate clearly, but respectfully, that you are dissatisfied with the service you have received. If the company has repeatedly given you bad service and refuses to correct the situation and you feel your only recourse is to pursue legal action, voice your feelings in a tactful but firm way.
  • If two or three letters sent to lower level managers do not resolve the problem, send one to the president or CEO of the company or organization.
  • If the problem remains unresolved, you may wish to state in a later letter what action you will take, but only if you are prepared to follow through.