Most of us know what it’s like to experience email overload. As your inbox becomes more and more crowded, and your life more and more stressful, it’s all too easy to delay your email responses. You may find yourself putting off that much-needed reply email for a couple of days, a couple of weeks… perhaps even upwards of a month.
When you finally do get around to writing that response, it’s normal to feel a little guilt over the delay. And whether it’s a professional correspondence or something more personal, it’s probably not the worst idea to acknowledge your faux pas with a word of apology.
But is simply saying “I’m sorry this took so long” sufficient? Depending on how important the subject matter, and how long the delay, you may feel compelled to go a bit further. We’ve got you covered. Here are a few tips on writing an effective apology for a delayed email response.
You Don’t Always Have to Apologize
First, we’d recommend pausing to consider whether an apology is really needed at all.
We’re all busy, and if it takes you a couple of days to respond to something that is clearly non-urgent, you can probably just assume that the person you’re emailing with gets it and doesn’t begrudge you the slight lag time. In these situations, there’s really no need to make things awkward, or to make your response more cumbersome, with a token apology. Just get straight to the substance of your email.
Try to Be Helpful
What if somebody asks you for something specific, and it takes you a little bit too long to acknowledge their request? In these situations, we would typically recommend owning up to the delay and also doubling up on your efforts to be helpful.
For example, let’s say someone asks you for a specific report, and it takes a little time to get back to them. You might try a response like this:
I’m sorry for the delayed response. It took me some time to find the report, and I wanted to also offer some supplemental information that you might find to be useful. The documents are all attached here.
If you’d like to schedule a few minutes to discuss this information together, I’d love to help however I can. Please just let me know if we can schedule a phone call, or if I can assist in some other way.
What we love about a response like this is that it owns up to the delay, but also makes it clear that you are not trying to be indifferent or unhelpful; if anything, the opposite is true.
Don’t Procrastinate on Delivering Bad News
Sometimes, you may find yourself in the tough position of telling someone that they didn’t get a job, or that you’re not moving forward with their proposed project. It’s always good to send these unhappy tidings sooner rather than later… but if you do wind up with a delay, try a response like this:
I’m sorry for the slow response. I had hoped to get back to you much sooner. We really enjoyed discussing your proposal with you, and felt like you brought a lot of great ideas to the table. Unfortunately, at this time, we have decided not to move ahead with the project.
With that said, I really appreciate your time, and think you have a lot of value to offer. I would be happy to keep you in mind for future projects, and to refer you to other contacts whenever possible.
Again, there’s no point in drawing out your apology or offering a pile-up of excuses. Just fess up, then get to the heart of the matter.