Get your message across without damaging your reputation
Raise your hand if, at this very moment, you have at least one email you should’ve already sent—a day ago, a week ago, even (eek!) a month ago.
I know there’s several messages I’m currently late in sending. Yet, they always conveniently slip my mind until right before I go to sleep—at which point I promise myself that I’ll send them first thing tomorrow morning.
Then time passes, and passes some more, and before I know it, I’m facing a situation where it’s almost embarrassing to respond. Isn’t it just better to pretend that it got caught in spam?
No. And to make finally sending that email a little easier, I’ve created a couple templates that will both salvage your professional reputation and make your recipient more understanding of the delay.
1. For “Friendly” Emails That Don’t Technically Require a Response
It’s really easy to procrastinate on replying to these types of emails, because your daily responsibilities usually take precedence. But trust me, it’s better to send a late response than never send one at all. Just make sure to extend a heartfelt apology and prove that despite your tardy response, you’re interested in the other person’s life.
Thanks so much for your kind note last month! Yep, it was definitely exciting for our team to get theWall Street Journal mention—things have been crazy here ever since, which is why I’m so late in answering your email. (I apologize!)
I saw your company recently announced its launching a new marketing division. That’s so awesome, congratulations! How’s everything been going over there?
Thank you again, and I hope to see you at another meet-up in the future.
2. For Request Emails
When someone asks you for information or help and you forget to respond (or put it off because it’s never the right time), you can feel pretty guilty. Show the person who reached out that you’re not a jerk by doing the best you can to help him or her now.
Last month, you asked me if I knew anyone who worked at Carol Smith Agency, and I apologize for not answering sooner! Are you still hoping to find a contact there? I just looked through my connections and discovered a couple people who might be helpful. Let me know if you want me to make some introductions.
And if there’s anything else I can do for you, just ask. I promise I’ll try to be quicker next time!
3. For Bad News Emails
It’s incredibly easy to put off breaking bad news (and find one million reasons to do it). However, you have to rip that Band-Aid off eventually. First, apologize, then try to explain the situation, and finally, actually make an effort to help!
I hope you’re doing well and that your last semester at Colgate is off to a great start. My sincerest apologies for not getting back to you about the remote internship sooner.
After thinking it over, our team doesn’t think this will work out—so much of our communication happens in person, and we’d hate for you to miss that. However, you’re clearly talented and motivated, and I’d be more than happy to see if I know anyone at another company who could use a remote intern. Let me know if you’re interested.
4. For Every Other Email
For all those miscellaneous, oh-gosh-I-really-have-to-reply emails, you can use this template as a starter.
As I was looking through my drafts, I realized I had never [emailed/responded to] you about [subject]. I am sincerely sorry for letting the ball drop on this one—in the future, I’ll double-check that I’ve sent my messages to you so it doesn’t happen again.
After meeting with the Dev Ops team, we’ve decided to move forward with the original plan discussed at our March meeting.
Answering a late email always requires a little willpower. But you know you’ll feel better once you do—and now that you have these templates, there’s no excuse not to push “send.”
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