When delivering bad news, include the following:
- A sincere greeting that does not relate to the bad news. If you open with the bad news, you may lose your reader immediately.
- Explanation of the circumstances that led to the bad news. Bad news is harder to accept when it does not make sense. Explain as much as possible/appropriate.
- Deliver the bad news with an apology if appropriate.
- Immediately after the bad news, include a statement that fosters goodwill. If possible, offer a compromise.
*NOTE: No amount of strong or fancy writing will make bad news sound good. However, a well-crafted message helps the reader understands and accept the message.
Tone – When writing bad news messages, use a tone that is clear but not accusatory.
|Vague||Accusatory||Clear and polite|
|This assignment wasn’t quite what I was looking for.||You failed!||This assignment did not earn a passing score.|
|Your instructions were unclear.||I have no idea what you want. These instructions don’t make any sense.||Looking at the instructions you sent, I wasn’t able to get a good sense of what you were looking for.|
When writing apologies, you should:
Analyze your audience by asking:
- How serious is the issue?
- How much damage has been done?
- How valuable is the future relationship?
Pay close attention to your tone:
- Establish a serious, sincere, but not overly dramatic tone.
- Offer a sincere apology, but don’t overdo it.
- Use diction (word choice) carefully: often how you phrase your apology matters more than what is actually stated.
Pay attention to your format:
- Provide an explanation where appropriate, but don’t make excuses or blame others.
- Offer to make amends or rectify the situation when appropriate.
- Close by maintaining good will.