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Condolences to Friends in Australia

Australians remembered the victims of the tragic bushfires today in a national day of mourning. I send condolences to our neighbors on the other side of the globe. I am sorry for your heartbreaking losses of loved ones, property, and community.

Fionna wrote asking for help to write a condolence message to friends:

"I want to send a card to friends who lost their home in the recent bushfires in Victoria, Australia. Luckily they were away when the fires hit, but with the loss of their home and its contents and the damage to the community, I would like to commiserate with them. Any ideas on what to write?"

Yes, Fionna. I do have ideas. Since Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Southeast in 2005, I have been sharing examples and suggestions for notes of sympathy and commiseration in my Writing Condolences category. In fact, the examples in response to Hurricane Katrina fit the bushfires well. You need only change the details from hurricane to bushfire.

But here's a sample message for you to adapt:

Dear Simon and Samantha,

I am so sorry about the loss of your home and the devastation of your lovely community. You have been in my thoughts since the blaze struck. I was relieved knowing you were away from home, but I share your sorrow in all that you have lost.

Please know that I am thinking of you in your time of sadness and loss.


This example is for someone who lost a family member:

Dear Stephen,

Please accept my condolences on the death of your brother Nigel. His sudden death at the hands of the bushfires is tragic and heartbreaking. We all wish we could undo what happened and bring him back as his funny, wisecracking self. The world is a lesser place without Nigel in it.

I wish I had words that could make your pain less. But at least you know my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you grieve.

In sympathy,


I extend my sympathy to all who suffered a loss in Victoria. I hope these examples are helpful.

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

2 comments on “Condolences to Friends in Australia”

  • Lynn,
    These are wonderful examples, and so simple to create. Thanks for sharing them.
    It amazes me how few people are able to due the decent thing in sending a thoughtful card to someone who’s experiencing a difficult time. The best note I’ve ever received came from a close colleague shortly after I’d been unceremoniously laid off from my job. It read, “Words do not suffice. -Gail” I knew precisely what she meant and she didn’t have to agonize over her word choice in order to send the very kind thought.

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