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Writing a Business Letter to Deliver Bad News (With Examples)

Stacie has experience writing business letters that deliver bad news and is here to share her knowledge with her readers.

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news—but these tips should make it a little easier.

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news—but these tips should make it a little easier.

How to Deliver Bad News in a Letter

Sometimes, in business, you simply cannot avoid writing a letter that has bad news. However, you can try to write the letter in such a way as to maintain a good relationship with the recipient, as well as break the bad news in the easiest way. You don’t want to burn any bridges in business, so it really is to your advantage to write an effective bad news letter.

Objectives to Focus on When Writing the Letter

It can be hard to know where to start with a letter that contains something unpleasant. Focusing on these three points will help guide you through the process.

  1. Minimizing damage to the relationship: Bad news should not define the relationship.
  2. Showing that the decision is fair and reasonable: Imagine yourself in the reader’s shoes, and try to offer the best explanation possible.
  3. Stating the bad news clearly and firmly.

What to Include in Each Section

  • The opening should have a buffer to minimize any damage to the relationship. Use a positive or neutral opening to maintain goodwill.
  • The body should include reasons to help the reader see it from your point of view. You want to show that you are being both fair and reasonable. Be clear and firm about the bad news, but also be brief, positive, and low-key about it.
  • Closing should contain an appropriate gesture of goodwill and perhaps a potential solution for the reader’s problem.

Bad News Business Letter Example #1

Dear Bill,

Your invitation for me to act as chairperson for BCCJ’s upcoming Annual Auction Dinner is an honor. I enjoyed serving in that role last year. Your members are an excellent group with great ideas, and it was a privilege to work with them.

This year I am involved in developing a new department here at the clinic that is taking up all my time. As much as I would enjoy working with BCCJ again, I am afraid that I wouldn’t be able to give the duties the attention the project deserves.

Perhaps I may suggest one of my colleagues who would have the time to do the job the way it ought to be done. Give me a call if you are interested, and I will be happy to suggest some names for you. We want the industry to be well represented.

I wish you and the committee great success in achieving this year’s goal.

The letter was straightforward and polite. The writer provided an excellent reason for the refusal of the position but also left the door open for a future relationship. The writer also provided a possible solution at the end.

Bad News Business Letter Example #2

Dear Ms. Hodges,

Thank you for ordering our professional Chinese wok set. You will find that wok-cooked foods are both delicious and quick to fix.

We have sent you an added bonus: 2 extra inches of cooking area, thanks to our supplier’s generosity. This 16-inch wok is more efficient than the advertised 14-inch wok. Now you can create Chinese meals with a professional flair with this package that includes cooking racks, chopsticks, a rice paddle, and a steel turner, in addition to a wok base and lid. To complete your collection, the skewers and cookbook will arrive by April 22.

Remember that Figby’s offers specialized items for all your cooking needs. Please stop by on May 10 for a free demonstration on preparing Japanese sushi. You may also want to take advantage of our special prices on Japanese cookware, which will only be available that week.


Harry Figby

This bad newsletter covers the fact that the wok Ms. Hodges ordered is not available by upgrading it to a better, bigger wok. As well, it is so positive in tone that the reader might not realize that the entire set she ordered hasn’t arrived on time, as two pieces of it will arrive later. This bad newsletter did not focus at all on the negative but delivered its message in a positive way. Harry Figby also extended an opportunity for a future relationship by informing Ms. Hodges of upcoming sales and events.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Sadia on November 17, 2019:


ham on October 05, 2017:

good picture

Andy on January 02, 2013:

Thank you so much.

abdenour on December 28, 2012:

Very Useful letters with real life examples


khalid on November 28, 2012:

good informtion

kiran on August 04, 2012:

its great example n help full too :)

Gulshaan Maqsood on July 15, 2012:

very nice and great lgic use by writer

H H RAI on June 04, 2012:


Muhammad Yasir on May 21, 2012:

Nice to see the examples. In bad news letter , there is no "No Word " directly but off-course indirectly . Thanks for sharing.

Ghansham on May 12, 2012:

I really appreciate from these two examples I got a lot of knowledge from these examples thanx sir

sneha on May 07, 2012:

good example of gooddwill

sneha on May 07, 2012:

good example of gooddwill

ghulam ali pitafi on February 28, 2012:

good explanation is given.

samira sultana on December 01, 2011:

Exellent example.all are good epecially the cheese burger formet is great.

thanks a lot for creative structure to share ....

sameer on November 29, 2011:

gud example

umair ilyas on October 29, 2011:

burger example is very usefull

Dhruvang on October 24, 2011:

Very helpful post

Thank you very much

zoha on October 19, 2011:

thanks it help me allot in my studies

George White on October 16, 2011:

Any sample on how to deliver a bad news email letter to customer who's device warranty expired?

Wahid on September 29, 2011:

There are outstanding first example along with also second example bed news letter. it was very consequently words and proper form just like burger type position

Former CSer on September 07, 2011:

As previously mentioned, the second letter is very well written, but is not an ideal letter to send unless you know your recipient and their needs quite well. It is imperative to explain the situation to the customer, to keep them from feeling tricked or mislead. If I were to receive that letter, I would immediately know that something was wrong with my order, and would then have to reach out to get to the bottom of the issue - if it had been stated ahead of time, I would simply let the situation be.

This is obviously not true of every recipient, but during my time as a Sales Consultant and Sales Supervisor, I have seen enough emails and letters to know that many customers would send back an anxious or angry reply. Like the previous commenter said, size especially is often a huge factor in the purchase of an item, especially a kitchen item; the customer may need that specific size for their dishes or stove to, and may not appreciate feeling as though their order was disregarded and not listened to.

Barbie on August 21, 2011:

Hi, I deeply appreciate the cheese-burger example. It has made the content interesting, systematic, and easy to understand.

Thanks for sharing your scholarly ideas.

kolo pachinko on July 14, 2011:

thnx very useful

Mlika Azhar on June 12, 2011:

jzak Allah for very useful information and examples

dave is correct on May 26, 2011:

I wouldn't do business with Figby's ever again. That "bad news" letter is garbage; obfuscation. How 'bout fessing up, just a little.

Thank the Lord I don't have to deal with people like that.

siamirza on May 08, 2011:

very thankful information i learn a lot

sona & tammy on April 05, 2011:

it was awesome ,it really help us to answer the question of our mam on March 12, 2011:

It's very useful advise. Thank you very much

Finda on March 05, 2011:

Thanks, the cheesburger example has been helpful.

funky23 from Deutschland on February 22, 2011:

i belive i saw that on the register today

wpexplorer from USA on February 16, 2011:

I liked this article a lot. I feel that most the time people like to write about the things "we should do" and not the things "you shouldn't do". You did a great job here. Very useful - thanks!

banuel on February 02, 2011:

Reading this i finally took a break from my job. This post just gave me a few minutes of relax =] I tried to find a rss feed on your site so that i could subscribe for some more. Ill be sure to come here more often from now on =]

Business Loan

ghazala on January 02, 2011:

very useful and very well written

qamar abbasi on January 02, 2011:

thanks,i learn a lot

Mava on December 20, 2010:

Quite useful,


marva on December 14, 2010:

good idea

zainab on December 04, 2010:

examples are good but not related to academic point of view.i need a sample of refusal letter from educational institute..............thanx

YNi on October 27, 2010:

It is a great help for me to unfortunately I have an exam of managerial communication, it helps since i couldn't get it on any books that I refered...

Thanks a lot

Dheen on July 21, 2010:

I like the communication style and good formatting.Useful Idea.


hammad on June 23, 2010:

thanks i got the main idea from example 1......

adnan on June 20, 2010:

oh i got assignment of bad news that's why i like to remmeber the chees burger structure in my mind while delivering presentation on bad news letters.

ALI on June 14, 2010:


cici on June 05, 2010:

i just want to know the reason why we should choose a beast way to tell a bad news

Hiba on May 27, 2010:

Great example.. Thankyou!

Tony from At the Gemba on May 21, 2010:

Good hub, loved the burger illustration, BUT; what about the lettuce???

merja ndiili on March 24, 2010:

great examples.... using it for my english notes. i see good marks comin my way

cecilia on March 09, 2010:

good materials. it will do great help to us

asra liaquat on February 13, 2010:

thanks for given this information and i like burger example this is very easy.

Frank Crandell on January 11, 2010:

Good set of standard letters with which to draw from the next time I need to share some bad news.

MerryBaloch on November 22, 2009:

Really! if every bad news would be written on this format than there won't be damages in relationships..........

rahim aman on September 27, 2009:

hay thanks for such kind of information really its great

mr's farrukh rai on September 24, 2009:

very great informations

roheel on September 11, 2009:

great information. very useful.thanx

fatima shaika on June 27, 2009:

thanks for giving the best example.

Shadman khanzada on May 07, 2009:

thanxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx i got what i want to know through the above sample

cashmere from India on May 04, 2009:

Love the burger illustration. Really great hub.

ontheway on April 02, 2009:

How to Write a Bad News Business Letter

very good, I support you, come on , welcome to my hub!

iMindMap on March 14, 2009:

Thanks for the key point to be more effective in writing.

Josh Chandler on February 09, 2009:

This hub gives the bad news in a good way, a great way to show how exactly to set out a "bad business letter", I have certainly learnt a bunch from the information you have provided on this page, thanks a lot!

livelovecoffee from Georgia on January 20, 2009:

These are great tips and it is very informative! Great hub

Ken Devonald from Edinburgh on January 08, 2009:

Thanks for the tips! Will come in handy!

businessbooster from Somerset UK on January 04, 2009:

Where i used to work we called the cheeseburger structure the s**t sandwich!

Vietnam on December 16, 2008:

Thanks for your useful information

Amit on December 15, 2008:

Good Information. Great example...Thanks

amoxicillin 500 on November 05, 2008:

Great and useful information. Thanks for sharing it with us.

BizzyMuse from Southern California on September 29, 2008:

Stacie - great hub with a lot of useful information. I find myself having to write more of those bad news business letters lately. I'm going to keep the cheeseburger in mind!

Stacie Naczelnik (author) from Seattle on September 22, 2008:

Thanks Jim! Glad to hear others in the field find it applicable.

crashcromwell from Florida on September 22, 2008:

Hi Stacie! I teach Contemporary Business Communications for the University of Phoenix online, and we actually have an assignment related to this subject, which is why I chose to read this hub. You handled the subject impeccably well. As I would say to one of my students, you hit the ball out of the park!

Jim Henry, aka crashcromwell

misterpm from Netherlands on June 25, 2008:

Thx! I like the cheeseburger structure

greathub from Earth on June 24, 2008:

I liked the burger's example. Great example!

johnleybolt on June 17, 2008:

i got a piece of bad news letter :-)

Jyoti Kothari from Jaipur on June 08, 2008:

a very good, bad news letter. I really apreciate it. I would like to join ur fan club.You are needed in the business forum.

I am ur fan now.

I have written some hubs on business you may check this and advice.



RyanRE from Bellingham, WA on June 05, 2008:

Nice Hub. Nobody likes to hear bad news. I bet you are pretty good at the "breakup" speech too. LOL...

rainmakerrain from United States on June 02, 2008:

I've used the approach of the second example many times--and its success really depends on the products you offer. Size, for example, is a very important feature for most people, and you should never assume that larger is better. In the second example, I'd first let the customer know that the product is unavailable and offer a solution - the larger product. Sending a product of different size without notice might create a lot of problems, especially with shipping, refunding, and losing goodwill no matter how positive you are.

Veronica from NY on May 28, 2008:

Great Hub! Great ideas! The organization of the letters really facilitates the point with professionalism, positiveness and flow. I like how you broke it down, then gave the two examples. Really well done.

Joel McDonald from Denver, Colorado on May 23, 2008:

Excellent hub Stacie!

I often have to deal with confrontation, and sometimes, it's EXTREMELY hard to start off in the positive, but you're absolutely right -- whenever I do things that way, the dialogue goes much smoother.

stevemark122000 from Southern California on April 14, 2008:

Very useful information, thanks