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March 14, 2017


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Wouldn´t it be rude to ignore the message? I would acknowledge the apology as a token of appreciation and respect for the person´s good intentions.
My two cents.


Interesting question! I would not feel the need to acknowledge a simple apology for the late response. However, if the apology were followed by an explanation, I would briefly respond to the explanation rather than ignore it. Here's an example.

"Hi, Stephanie. Sorry to take so long getting back to you. Here are those meeting notes you asked for last week."

I would not feel the need to acknowledge the apology, as it is itself really just an acknowledgement of the delay. However, I would feel differently about the following example:

"Hi, Stephanie. I apologize for the delay in replying to you. I was out of the office last week with the flu. Here are those meeting notes you requested."

With an explanation given, I would acknowledge that in my reply, something like, "Thanks for the notes. I hope you're feeling better!"

In the example provided where the writer mentioned the son being home for spring break, I would not mention the delay, but rather include a sentence in my reply saying, "I hope you're having a wonderful visit with your son!"


I agree with Stephanie. If the apology is followed by an explanation, I would take that explanation as a great opportunity to connect with the writer at a more personal level. In the example provided, I would go on to ask the writer to tell me how he/she had spent the busy with his/her son.

Business Writing Blog

Thanks for your comments, Maria, Stephanie, and Louis.

Maria, I didn't mean to imply that the message should be ignored. I was just focusing on the apology and the reason for the delay. I agree that it would be rude to ignore the message.

Stephanie, thanks for providing excellent examples. I love your reply about the son's visit. I haven't responded to that email yet, and you and Louis have given me good ideas.

Louis, thanks for mentioning the opportunity to connect. Ignoring the lateness and building on the reason for it is a wise approach.

I'll elaborate tomorrow.



If one to one message, I usually add a short note such as "thank you for your reply and ...." to show my acknowledge and appreciation of her/his reply

Tamara D. Davis

There were great, clarifying examples. I agree with Stephanie on this. I think acknowledging the reason, especially if it's personal, is good enough.

Brigette Hernandez

I always reply saying, "No apology required." That is my standard.

Bart Rosenberg

The person offering the apology views themself as out of integrity or accountability or untrustworthy. My questions would be: How is that working for you? How does your tardiness affect the recipient? How does it affect you? How is this like the rest of your life? What act of intention will you perform to demonstrate that you can be a person of integrity, accountability and trustworthiness?
The apologist needs to examine his/her motivation for making other things more important. That all sounds tough, and you probably wouldn't couch it in those terms to most people. Tough love.

Lisa Marie Mutchler

I would agree with Stephanie's response, with one additional caveat: I would likely not respond to the explanation for the late reply if it read more like a vague excuse attributed to being really busy, like "I've been slammed this week" or "Too much on my plate these days." I think too many of us wear being busy as a badge of honor today, and I wouldn't be inclined to acknowledge that kind of response. This is likely partially due to my own personal pet peeves, but it still stands :)

Business Writing Blog

Thanks for weighing in, Mimi, Tamara, Brigette, Bart, and Lisa Marie.

Mimi, I agree about acknowledging the reply.

Tamara, I'm with you.

Brigette, I avoid using "No apology required" as a standard response. Although it does fit in some situations, at other times I believe it focuses on the apology rather than the desired reply.

Bart, what an interesting response! You took things in another whole direction. I believe all of us have to weigh the importance of the things on our to-do lists. In the example I gave, the email I sent was not urgent, whereas the son's visit was taking place now. To me, it makes perfect sense to choose the son and then apologize for the delay in responding.

Lisa Marie, great addition. I believe Stephanie would agree with you too.



I think focusing on the reason is an excellent idea! Perhaps I should offer a humanizing glimpse into my own world more often.

It seems to me there also be a closely related conversation about when an apology is warranted to begin with. I generally have a 48 hours response policy for email, but it's not a hard rule. If I'm a bit later than that or the email obviously isn't urgent, I usually don't apologize.

On the other hand, if I agreed to respond by a certain time and didn't, or we were arranging a close date that passed or something else urgent, I would apologize (or expect one from a late person).

I try to acknowledge the impact of my tardiness, or theirs. "I'm sorry the time you suggested passed, and we need to start over. Thank you for the effort. Here are some new times I suggest."

More often, I get apologies that I don't think are necessary, and I say something like, "Thanks for getting it to me, your timing didn't cause any issues for me." (Or maybe even, "perfect timing," because I'm busy too!)

Finding warm (not angry sounding) ways to convey that it did impact my work is the trickiest response. Even if I'm not upset, it's important for them to know how their actions affect the world. (At least that's how I want to be treated!)

There even, is a chance for me to reflect and see if I needed to follow up more or be clearer that I needed it by a certain time.

Business Writing Blog

Hi Laura,

I like your wide-ranging reflections on the topic.

"Perfect timing" is an expression I use too.

Regarding your desire to communicate the impact, here are a few ideas to play with:
"I was able to rearrange my schedule to accommodate the delay."
"I'll see what I can do to make this work."
"I'll find out whether X can expedite this to get us back on schedule."

I love your closing paragraph. I find that people are often not clear about what they want by when, and I need to guess or follow up with a question.

Thanks for sharing.


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