Sending Apology Emails: 3 Design Tips for Saying “Oops!”

We all make mistakes. And saying sorry by sending apology emails is a part of doing good business.

Whether your site went down, you sent an email with incorrect¬†content, or your users experienced some kind of technical difficulty, it’s important¬†to know how to send an effective apology email.¬†Email marketers¬†know saying sorry is¬†key to¬†being a trustworthy, responsible, and humble brand. Today, we’ll examine¬†the art of saying sorry with these tips and best practices for designing and sending apology emails.

Tip #1: Be clear and specific about the correction.

If you need to make a correction to an email that’s been sent, be upfront about the change so readers aren’t confused when they receive a second message. Begin with the subject line. In a correction email from CNET, the subject line literally starts with the word “correction”:¬†“CORRECTION: iOS 10 update doesn’t play nice with all iPhones.”¬†Before readers even open the email, it’s clear the second one is updated and corrected. And, once the email is opened, the update (and apology) is stated at the top of the email in just three sentences:

CNET apology emails

Positioning the correction/apology message at the top of the email makes it nearly impossible for readers to miss. This reduces confusion and builds transparency and trust.

When the make-up brand Benefit sent an email with the wrong code, they followed up with an apology and a correction (subject line: “Oops. Tricks on us. We gave you the wrong code.”). A simple design trick made the correction easy to identify and understand:

benefit apology emails

Putting a large X on the erroneous code and adding the new one next to it clarifies what went wrong. If they had simply sent the new code‚ÄĒwithout the old one crossed out‚ÄĒit may¬†have taken readers longer to read through and understand the mistake. Communicating visually can make a message¬†faster and clearer to digest.


Tip #2: Be humble and have a sense of humor.

Showing a¬†sense of humor is a great way to make your brand voice relatable. This can be especially valuable when issuing a correction or apology, which is one reason you see a lot of “Oops” mentioned in apology email subject lines. This is a way of showing there’s a human voice behind the brand and a way of expressing that mistakes happen. We’re human. We’re humble.

In this correction email from Bumble and bumble, their subject line is playful‚ÄĒ”Oops, our B – take 15% off your order”‚ÄĒand so is the language in their message.

bumble and bumble apology emails

In just a few lines, Bumble and bumble is transparent about their “little hiccup” but they’re also reassuring. Similarly, the clothing brand Eloquii sent an apology email with the subject line (“Oops! Our bad.”) that’s playful and light-hearted. Their second subject line also adds to the fun: “Serves us right for letting Bennett the Dog program our emails…”

eloquii apology emails

In apology emails, keep it light and short, and have a sense of humor about your mistake.


Tip #3: Focus on the solution.

All the inspiration emails we’ve collected here have something in common: in issuing apology emails, they¬†cut right to the chase in just a few sentences. Keeping your correction and apology message short means: 1) it’s more likely to get read, and 2) you can focus on what readers actually care about: the solution. Often, the solution‚ÄĒthe meaningful part of the apology‚ÄĒis a discount or promotion.

Like CNET’s email above,¬†Ouidad¬†creates a quick apology call-out box at the top of its message before getting to the heart of the story: a 20% off sale. Remember, when you’re saying sorry, it’s not about you, it’s about your reader. Focus on the solution that will benefit them.

ouidad apology emails

For one of Uniqlo‘s apology emails, the clothing brand also starts with a quick apology callout that also has a positive note: “PROBLEM SOLVED!” It’s clear, short, apologetic, and of course, solutions-oriented.

uniqlo apology emails

Method, the home goods brand, sees their mistake as an opportunity to gives readers 30% off through the hilarious sale code: OURBAD.

method apology emails


Wrap-up: Creating apology emails

Issuing an apology doesn’t have to be painful. When you’re designing your apology email, follow these simple steps:

  1. Start with the subject line. It should be clear in just a few words that your email is a correction and an apology. Try words like “Correction,” “oops,” and “sorry.”
  2. Position your correction, update, and apology at the top of your email. Try a call-out box like CNET, Ouidad, or Uniqlo so your readers see it immediately. You only need 1 or 2 sentences before transitioning to the main body of your email. Or, if it makes sense to show the correction visually, try a cross-out or a strikethrough.
  3. Be light-hearted. Using words like “Oops”¬†or “Our Bad” shows you’re sorry but also¬†positive, playful, and light-hearted. It’s a good way to communicate with a human voice.
  4. Focus on the solution. Offer a code. Include a CTA to your sale. Make it clear to readers what you’re giving them. At the end of the day, that’s the strongest way to communicate your apology, and it’s what the reader wants to see when they open apology emails.

If you’ve had to say sorry to your readers, show us how you did it! And if you need to say sorry, know that the BEE editor is free and available¬†to make designing a great apology email quick and painless. Check out the drag-and-drop tool if you haven’t already!

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