Routine Messages: It’s Never Too Late To Say Sorry…Correctly

Email Etiquette

Email Etiquette (2013)

In this tech world, face to face interaction has competition; and its email. While email may not be as medium rich as face to face interaction, it’s easy, quick and accessible through our computers, laptops, i pads, tablets, and mobile devices.

According to Mark Murphy (2015) in Email Can Hurt Your Career: Develop Better Communication Skills With These 5 Other Tools, “…for most leaders, email is how they largely interact with employees, peers and bosses” (p. 1).

Technology has changed the way individuals communicate but it hasn’t altered the need for communication.

Whether you’re a student, professor, CEO, accountant, lawyer, or secretary, it’s essential that you communicate with others. Joe Taylor Jr. (n.d.) in Routine Messages in Business Communication stated, “Routine messages in business communication serve to document the ‘who, what, where, why, and how’ of daily operations.” (p. 1).

There are routine messages that we send via email to accomplish tasks, notify others or express feelings / thoughts. Although we may take them for granted, it’s important to know how to form these routine messages to effectively achieve your goal (e.g., notify someone, make a request, or even apologize).

According to Cardon (2016) in Business Communication: Developing Leaders for a Networked World, “Most routine messages are simple. Yet, routine messages should not be treated as unimportant or inconsequential. They are the glue that holds together most coordinated business actions” (p. 251).

Therefore, this blog will discuss an important routine messages a brief standard format for all routine messages and how to write an apology; a type of routine message. Then, I will provide an example of a company that doesn’t effectively make an apology to show how important it is to know how to write this type of routine message.

What you need to know in order to develop routine messages: the components.

Routine message components.

According to Cardon (2016), the routine components of routine messages include:

  1. State the key message in ten words or less
  2. Provide details regarding the key message in 80 words or less
  3. Rephrase the key message more specifically
  4. Conveying good will (p. 253).

To sum this up briefly, when writing any type of routine message, make sure it’s brief and direct with the key message in the beginning. This is to ensure that readers understand the main point of the message with little difficulty. Instead of rambling in the beginning, get straight to the point. For example, “I am writing to request new computer software….”

According to Taylor Jr. (n.d.) “Authors Mary Ellen Guffey and Richard Almonte state that routine messages should “deliver the most important information first” (p. 1).

Additionally, make sure to provide important details that supplement your main message (e.g. why you need the computer software and by when?). Then, by restating your main point at the end of the message, it becomes reinforced by the reader. Lastly, having a professional yet kind tone is important. Can you imagine that way you would respond if someone sent a rude email to you?

Routine messages: making apologies

Whether we mean to or not, we all make mistakes that may require an apology. Although it may be uncomfortable or awkward for some, it’s important to improve / sustain relationships with managers, colleagues, peers, etc. (Cardon, 2016, p. 266). Yet, without these four elements, it’s very difficult to create an effective apology. An effective apology includes:

  1. Acknowledgment of the offense
  2. Expression of regret
  3. Acceptance of responsibility for offense
  4. Promise not to repeat the offense (Cardon, 2016, p. 268).

In order for an apology to be effective and accepted by others, it should actually address what you did wrong. Don’t hop around the issue because it’s uncomfortable or embarrassing. Additionally, may sure your audience knows that you are sorry. In other words, don’t say “I know I was said you’re an annoying person, but it’s true”. You may be acknowledging the offense but you don’t sound regretful.

Also, when apologizing, take responsibility for your actions (“it is my fault because….”). Don’t’ beat around the bush. Lastly, make sure you ensure that you’re not going to commit this offense again so that the apology is believable.

My personal thoughts.

For me, apologies are always hard because sometimes it’s uncomfortable for me to admit when I’m wrong. However, my best experiences were when I actually included all four components of an apology in my apology. Sometimes I struggle with “accepting responsibility for the offense” because I don’t want to acknowledge that it’s my fault and take the blame, but it’s necessary for personal growth and to maintain relationships…my ego will have to wait.

If you’ve apologized to someone recently and it wasn’t effectively, ask yourself if you included all four of these elements.

Case Study: An example of an ineffective apology.

Maurice E. Schweitzer, Alison Wood Brooks, Adam D. Galinsky (2015) in The Organizational Apology, used a real life example to demonstrate what an ineffective apology is.

“Facebook had allowed academic researchers to manipulate the news feeds of 689,000 users for one week. The experiment, in which half of the users saw fewer positive posts than usual and the other half saw fewer negative ones than usual, was designed to determine whether the changes would cause people to write more positive or negative posts themselves” (Schweitzer, Brooks and Galinksy, 2015 p. 1).

To react to the public’s anger, Facebook said that there were informed consents in its word user agreements that they could’ve communicated more about the study, that they were unprepared for the negative reaction and that they could’ve done things differently and of course the public didn’t take this apology week. (Schweitzer, Brooks and Galinksy, 2015 p. 1).

In this way, Facebook’s apology includes no direct acknowledgment of the actual offense, no acceptance of responsibility and no promise to repeat the offense; a small but insufficient amount of regret is expressed; hence, why the public didn’t initially accept their apology.

For your assistance, here’s a great YouTube video by My Business English that will guide you when writing an effective apology email by using important phrases.

Also, Katie Kiefer Lee (2012) in The Art Of The Corporate Apology provides some great real life examples of effective and ineffective apologies.

Take away:

Routine messages via email are important ways that individuals communicate to achieve goals and complete tasks. Many people make mistakes and will email an apology. Knowing how to correctly write an apology in terms of its components will most likely predetermine what the result will be: acceptance or resistance. It may be awkward and uncomfortable but apologize and apologize correctly when using routine messages via email to avoid the extra headache. It’s only too late to say sorry if it’s done incorrectly.


Apologies (2014)



[My Business English]. (2013, Sept. 25). Email Writing: Apologising Phrases. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Cardon, P.W. (2016). Business Communication: Developing Leaders For a Networked World. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Dana. (2014, Jun. 17). Apologies Make Life Lighter. The Tao of Dana. Retrieved from

Giang, Vivian. (2013, Oct. 7). 7 Email Etiquette Rules Every Professional Should Know. Business Insider. Retrieved from

Jr. J.T. (n.d.). Routine Messages in Business Communication. Small Business Chron. Retrieved from

Lee, K.K. (2012, Oct. 4). The Art Of The Corporate Apology. Forbes. Retrieved from

Maurice E. Schweitzer, M.E., Brooks, A.W. and Galinksy, D.A. (2015, Sept.) The Organizational Apology. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Murphy, M. (2015, Jun. 20). Email Can Hurt Your Career: Develop Better Communication Skills With These 5 Other Tools. Forbes. Retrieved from





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