Oops! Sorry…. (Writing a Mea Culpa Email)

7.30.15 oopsYup, you made an email error – you pressed ‘send’ too soon (oh, let’s blame the computer for doing that, shall we? That machine simply has a mind of its own)… or you Yup, you made an email error – you pressed ‘send’ too soon (oh, let’s blame the computer for doing that, shall we? That machine simply has a mind of its own)… or you sent it to the wrong person (the person right above or right below the right person)… or maybe you inappropriately sent it as a reply all (and unfortunately it wasn’t entirely complimentary to all…) – but hey, you’re only human!

It can’t be helped; with the number of emails you send, an error is bound to happen occasionally.  Mistakes happen, especially when we’re going too fast, and then an ‘oops!’ – an explanatory email – needs to be sent explaining and apologizing…

So learning the basics on writing a great ‘Oops!’ email is a good tool to have, since it will undoubtedly be needed, several times.

First, let’s be clear that the size of the error under consideration should not be major, which would require more than just an Oops! email to set a major mistake straight.  The best test for error size is answering the question: did the error cause anyone to lose money or was there any resulting physical harm done? If no to both, then read on, as an ‘oops’ by definition indicates minor situation surgery is needed, not major.

So consider the degree of the severity of the offense and include the following elements in your mea culpa:

Own the error, in the subject line, then again in the opening sentence.    Get right to the point.  “Oops, I owe you an apology.”  “Yikes!  an ‘I’m sorry’ is in order…”  “I just realized my faux pas…”

Explain concisely what happened and why you’re apologizing.  No beating around the bush or long winded details.  Really not necessary to go on at length.  Just enough to explain the ‘what’ without the ‘why’.

Be genuine.  All communication should be genuine, but sometimes it’s not.  Don’t let that be you, or it will be discovered and rightfully resented.

Be humorous; it shows good humanness to poke fun at yourself.  Another good way to express humor is with images (pix of babies + animals = score!) Adding an apology theme is memorable, but again it depends on the severity of the offense; If you go all in and spend the time creating a meme, is it warranted or is it overkill?

If the offense is severe, proffer a peace offering.

Another consideration – is this error a repeat occurrence?  Is it an, ‘Oops, I did it again’ situation? Or is it a first time mistake situation, with this person?  Apologize a few times if this has happened more than once.  You can’t really overdue the apologizing, but don’t lambast yourself either.


EXAMPLE apology email:

Subject Line:  You: unintended victim; Me: embarrassed

sorry puppy

I know I’m in the doghouse for sending that reply all email that was critical of your idea.  I hope you know that my bark is worse than my bite and sometimes I really need a muzzle…

I owe you for this one.  Please remind me of the debt whenever you decide to cash in.

Really sorry.



Share your own OOPs! experience – you know you’ve made (at least) one 🙂


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