1. It is worth saying why?
An excuse doesn’t make your lapse any better. In fact, it can backfire and make it seem like you think it’s no big deal. In other words, if you say, “I’m so sorry: I’ve just been so busy at work!” it won’t make your contact feel any better. But it could make him feel like responding to him is low on your list of priorities or like you think it’s OK to take 10 days to reply when things get hectic.
However, sharing something can soften the blow, because it reminds the other person that you’re human and we’ve all been there. For example, sometimes people will go weeks without getting back to me on Facebook or LinkedIn and after a “Please excuse my delay in response,” they’ll add that they “don’t sign into LinkedIn nearly as often as
2. Do you answer the original question?
If it’s been more than a week since your contact sent his or her email, you can’t just get down right down to business. Because if you skip the apology, you risk her thinking that five (or more) day response times is how you do business.
Frankly, it doesn’t really matter what line you choose. You can go with “I’m sorry for just getting back to you now” or “Apologies for the delay in response,” or anything in between. Then, per the point above, decide if it’s worth including one more line on the matter.
However, the next, essential step is that you move on and handle the matter at hand. Over-apologizing makes the missed email a bigger deal than it is
Over-apologizing makes the missed email a bigger deal than it is, and it distracts from the real reason you’re writing the person back, which is to answer his or her email.It looks like this: “Apologies for my delay in response. I’m just now catching up on emails from while I was vacation! As far as your questions regarding the upcoming event…” By getting to the matter at hand, you — and your contact — can move forward. After all, a brief apology and a well-thought-out answer to her inquiry will prove much more useful than a long apology and no concrete answer (yet again).
3. Is this particular email chain still relevant?
Of course, there are times when emails go an absurdly long time. You know the kind: You view it one morning while you’re making breakfast, forget about it by the time you get to the office, and are only reminded of it two months later when searching for something else.
If the request is fairly evergreen (e.g., someone asked you if you’d ever like to meet for coffee), you can write back apologizing for the delay and then share if you’re interested. However, if someone had asked for your notes on a letter that went out a month ago, she clearly doesn’t need your feedback anymore.
In this case, you have two options. The first is to reply, saying sorry for letting this fall off of your radar and offering future assistance. The second option, if let’s say, you realize you accidentally dodged an email from someone you have — or would like to have — a strong working relationship with is to fold this into a different email, or even a phone call. It can actually serve as a great “excuse” to reach out to someone.
4. What do you plan to do moving forward?
OK, this one is just for you. Because, while most people will overlook one missed response, you don’t want become someone who is known for being terrible with email. Or worse, look like someone who writes, “Apologies for the delay in response,” and then continues to be inconsistent.
So, remember that actions speak louder than words and set up a new system. It may mean being meticulous about scrolling through emails after time away from the office, or keeping a list of emails you open after business hours so that you’ll be sure to actually write back the next time you’re at your desk. Missing an email happens to everyone — just don’t let it become a habit.