Guide on How to Say “Sorry, but Not Sorry” in an Email

When it comes to communication, especially in professional settings, it’s important to maintain a polite and respectful tone. However, there may be instances where you want to convey a sense of defiance or assertiveness while still acknowledging the need for an apology. In such cases, the phrase “sorry, but not sorry” can be used. This guide will provide you with tips, examples, and variations for expressing “sorry, but not sorry” in both formal and informal email writing.

Formal Ways to Say “Sorry, but Not Sorry” in an Email

When sending a formal email, it’s paramount to strike a balance between politeness and assertiveness. Here are some tips on expressing a “sorry, but not sorry” attitude within a formal context:

  1. Use polite language: Though you might have a touch of defiance in your message, maintain a tone of respect. Choose your words carefully and avoid sounding too confrontational.
  2. Be professional: Regardless of your intention, professionalism is crucial in formal emails. Ensure that your email adheres to the standards expected in a professional setting.
  3. Offer an explanation: If you are expressing a “sorry, but not sorry” sentiment, it’s essential to back it up with a valid reason or explanation to justify your stance. This can help the recipient understand your perspective.

Now, let’s examine some examples of how to incorporate a “sorry, but not sorry” tone in formal email communications:

Dear [Recipient’s Name],

First and foremost, I want to acknowledge the oversight that led to the delay in submitting the report. While it was an unfortunate occurrence, I must emphasize that this delay was beyond my control due to unforeseen circumstances. I genuinely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Nevertheless, I remain confident in the accuracy and quality of the report, and I am certain it will meet your expectations. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me directly.

With regards,

[Your Name]

Informal Ways to Say “Sorry, but Not Sorry” in an Email

Informal emails provide some leeway for expressing a “sorry, but not sorry” attitude as long as it doesn’t cross any boundaries or offend the recipient. Here are some tips for incorporating a casual tone into your email:

  1. Use conversational language: Adopt a friendly and relaxed tone to set the stage for a more informal email. However, be cautious not to sound disrespectful or unprofessional in any way.
  2. Inject humor: Depending on the situation and your relationship with the recipient, light-hearted humor can help soften the “sorry, but not sorry” message. Remember to gauge appropriateness.
  3. Keep it concise: Informal emails typically embrace more brevity, so ensure your message is to the point and doesn’t dwell on the explanation for your attitude.

Here’s an example of an informal email conveying a “sorry, but not sorry” sentiment:

Hey [Recipient’s Name],

Hope you’re doing well! I wanted to address my absence from yesterday’s team meeting. Unfortunately, a string of unforeseen events prevented me from attending. Apologies for any inconvenience, but to be honest, it might have been a blessing in disguise as I heard it ended up being quite unproductive. Let’s catch up over a quick coffee sometime to discuss the important takeaways.


[Your Name]

Regional Variations in Expressing “Sorry, but Not Sorry”

While the phrase “sorry, but not sorry” is widely understood, regional variations can exist in how this sentiment is expressed. However, since this guide focuses on a warm and inclusive tone, it is best to provide general tips that are universally applicable rather than highlighting specific regional variations.


Mastering the art of saying “sorry, but not sorry” in an email can be a valuable skill, allowing you to express your assertiveness while maintaining a professional and respectful tone. Remember to balance your message carefully, offer a valid justification for your attitude, and choose the appropriate level of formality based on the recipient and context. By following these guidelines and using the provided examples, you will be well-equipped to convey your “sorry, but not sorry” sentiment effectively in email communications.

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