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Condolences to Norway

I know condolences can be very difficult to write. That is why I am sharing a condolence message I sent to our friend Ingrid, a Norwegian American, after yesterday’s horrific events in Norway.

Dear Ingrid,

We were so sorry to read about the terrorist murders in Norway. What a terrible, shocking situation. We are hoping that none of your family members, friends, or acquaintances was hurt in the day’s terrible events.

Please accept our condolences on the sad, unspeakable events that took place in the country so close to your heart. We know how peaceful Norway is, which makes these events even more horrible.

We are thinking of you and your family.

As you can tell from the message, I do not know whether Friday’s senseless tragedy touched Ingrid’s family members or friends closely. If someone you know did lose a loved one or acquaintance, you might write a message like one of these:

Dear Rolf,

Please accept our condolences on the tragic death of your friend Elsa. The terror of the events of July 22 touched all of us, but your loss is deep and personal. We cannot imagine how you feel, but we are very sad that your dear friend is gone.

Know that you are in our thoughts during this sorrowful time.

Sincere sympathy,

Dear Anika,

I was very sorry to learn that one of your coworkers died in the shocking events of July 22. Please accept my deep sympathy for your loss under such tragic circumstances.

You are in my thoughts as you cope with this awful experience.

In sympathy,


The messages above are appropriate for business and personal relationships. I hope you do not need to use them.


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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.

6 comments on “Condolences to Norway”

  • Hi Lynn,

    Very informative and usefull to us.I like this below sentence very much in this content.

    “I hope you do not need to use them.”

  • Hi Lynn,

    I am a regular reader of your Blog and thanks a bunch for sharing a very informative information.

    I am looking to your valuable suggestions, to know which of the below line is correct? Why? I need to print this line in my wedding invitation card.

    1) And the celebration of a happy beginning will be more complete when you share with us this special day

    2) And the celebration of a happy beginning will be more complete when you share with us ON this special day

  • Hello Lynn

    I have just stumbled across your blog, and am finding your tips very helpsful. However, your condolence notes threw me a little and I hope you don’t mind discussing why and offering an alternative view. As someone who has recently lost someone, I found that notes similar to your examples were some of the more upsetting ones. The more comforting notes focused less on the tragedy/sadness/horror and much more on the departed’s courage/happy memories/ compliments on their character. The recipient of a note like this doesn’t need recent events politley regurgitated to them – they need comfort, reassurance and strong, happy memories of the one(s) they have lost. Being in someone’s thoughts is comforting, but reading their personal and heartfelt response to your loss (should they feel they need to express that) is even more touching.

  • Dear Anonymous,

    Your point makes excellent sense. I agree with you, and I appreciate your raising the idea, especially since it came out of your own painful experience. Thank you for sharing.

    In my examples, I did not focus on the deceased person’s courage or character because I wrote them as though I did not know the deceased person. That is often the case when business associates send condolences.

    You may want to read some of my other examples under the category “Writing Condolences” (at right). Some of them include remembrances of the departed person.

    Again, thank you for sharing your insights.


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