Bad News (Indirect) Letter

Indirect, or “bad news” letters, are used to deliver bad news to a person or company with whom you want to maintain a good relationship.

An indirect letter always has four paragraphs:

  1. BUFFER – sincere compliments about the receiver. Do NOT use generic compliments that could be part of a template you use over and over. Think of a specific thing that will show the reader that you are genuinely appreciative of them and that couldn’t be written to a different customer. (See example next page.)
  1. BAD NEWS AND REASONS – minimize the use of negative words. For example, don’t start the paragraph with “unfortunately.” State the bad news first, simply and directly. Next, give a reason that you would think was a good reason if you were receiving the letter. “That’s our policy,” is a crappy reason. (See example next page.)
  1. COMPROMISES OR ALTERNATIVES – Think carefully about what the words, “compromise” and “alternative,” mean. (See example next page.)
  1. MORE BUFFER – sincere compliments about the receiver. Do NOT use generic compliments that could be part of a template you use over and over. Think of a specific thing that will show the reader that you are genuinely appreciative of them and that couldn’t be written to a different customer. (See example next page.)

Take a look at this example.

BAD NEWS LETTER ASSIGNMENT – You work for Morris Lumber. Your best customer, Jones Construction, currently pays for all the material they receive within 30 days. They have asked you to change the policy so that they have 90 days to pay. They need time to collect from their customers. You must refuse this request, but you would like to keep them as a customer.