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Examples of Business Letters That Deliver Bad News

written by: KAFrancis•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 3/18/2011

Although it is not the best part of business, sometimes bad news has to be given to people and other businesses. However, writing the letter does not have to be torture. This article gives examples of ways to deliver the bad news so it is at least easier to take.

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    Bad news is as much a part of business as balance sheets and finding new customers. It is the reality of business: not every transaction will go well. Business relationships run their course. Not everyone can be hired. Delivering bad news is not a pleasant experience, but there are ways to lessen the impact and avoid burning bridges. We have included some bad news business letter examples below.

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    photo 21687 20101014 

    When delivering bad news to employees or customers, it is important to soften the blow as much as possible. This is one of the few times in business writing when burying the lede is recommended. Most bad news letters consist of three parts, with each part being a paragraph. The first paragraph is used to provide a positive feeling about the letter. The second paragraph presents the bad news. The third paragraph offers any alternatives or solutions that might be available to the reader. We have broken down our bad news business letter examples in the three sections below.

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    First Paragraph

    Use the first paragraph to thank the reader. For example, if the reader was a job applicant that was not hired, the first sentence could state:

    "Thank you for your application to XYZ. We had many qualified applicants and we gave your application careful consideration. As you are aware, there were only a handful of positions, therefore the hiring decision was that much more difficult."

    If the reader is a vendor whose services you will no longer be using, a sentence such as this could be generated:

    "We have enjoyed a positive and profitable working relationship between [reader's company name] and XYZ. Over the last ____ years, we have found your company to be a great help in fulfilling our clients’ needs. Your assistance has been invaluable."

    For a reader that applied for credit with your company, the first sentence could read:

    "Thank you for your recent application for credit with us. We thoroughly reviewed your application and gave it careful consideration."

    The key to the first paragraph is to make the reader feel as if their time, service and patronage was appreciated.

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    Second Paragraph

    Delivering bad news is akin to removing a Band-Aid. It is better to remove it with one steady motion. At this point, there is no reason to not to get straight to the point. Using the examples from above, the second paragraph could read something like this:

    Job applicant: "Although we were impressed with your qualifications and skills, we have chosen a different candidate for the position."

    Vendor: "As you are aware, the economic climate is changing, and therefore we are forced to examine our current needs. Although we have enjoyed a successful working relationship in the past, we find that we are no longer in need of your services. This is no reflection of the quality of your goods -- we are simply going in a different direction."

    Credit Application: "Unfortunately, we are unable to extend credit to you at this time."

    It is best not to explain more than you have to. That approach could be construed as adding insult to injury to the reader.

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    Paragraph Three

    Offer any alternative, solutions or suggestions you might have. Again, using the examples above:

    Job applicant: "We will keep your application on file for six months and contact you if it is a match for another position. We appreciate your interest in XYZ and wish you well on your job search. Feel free to visit our job board anytime."

    Vendor: "We greatly regret the ending of our working relationship. If the current situation changes, we will gladly contact your company in hopes of resuming our use of your services. We wish your company continued success."

    Credit Application: If in a few months you would like to reapply for credit, we would welcome the opportunity to review your application. Until then, best wishes."

    By giving the reader options, even though the reader is disappointed, it provides something to reach for in the future.

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    How To Deliver Bad News In Writing,

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