How To Shape a Bad News Letter

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How to write a bad news letter

Reporting negative news sometimes is unavoidable in the business world. Here's how to shape a bad news letter to get good results.

No news is good news, the old saying goes. But sometimes bad news is unavoidable. Rather than blurt it out in the first paragraph, which is likely to anger the reader and prevent an objective reading of the rest of your letter, break up your bad news into chunks. With a strategy for each paragraph, follow these basic steps to make the best of a bad situation.

1. Begin with a positive or at least a neutral opening. Emphasize past good relations:

"Our companies have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship for many years."

Or you can say something about the product or services of the company to which you are writing:

"Your company has offered a quality product to the athletic community for the past 25 years."

Beginning with statements like these emphasize your objectivity and show that you are not bent solely on criticizing the company. This will help to earn your reader's trust. If you cannot say anything positive, find something neutral to say:

"About three weeks ago I visited your restaurant with a friend to have a Saturday afternoon luncheon."

This type of statement introduces the occasion of your letter by simply making factual statements.

2.Provide background details about the nature of the bad news. This provides helpful information that will allow the reader to have a more complete picture of the situation and respond appropriately:

"We arrived at your restaurant about 1 p.m. The hostess seated us promptly, but we then waited approximately 20 minutes for the server to arrive at our table. When Helen finally arrived, she seemed distracted and got our beverages confused. After giving our meal order, we waited approximately thirty-five minutes. When I could finally get Helen's attention, she told us quickly it would be another five minutes for our steaks to...
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