Say “Sorry” Without Saying “Sorry”
English is a language that thrives on (= relies on) politeness. That’s why there are multiple ways to apologize without actually saying “sorry”.
See, there is almost an unwritten rule in English that goes: say “sorry” first, think second. People will say “sorry” before they even know what they’re apologizing for or if they need to apologize at all.
So-oo, does this mean you should avoid using the word “sorry”? Of course, not! It just means that a lot of the time saying “sorry” with nothing else added to it is not enough.
What else can you say to apologize? This article will give you a few ideas.
Sometimes it’s better to show appreciation to the person who pointed out (= mentioned / showed) your mistakes to you instead of apologizing. It takes the focus away from you, makes that person feel better, and sounds more positive overall.
For example, instead of saying “I’m so sorry I made this mistake”, you can say “Thanks for pointing out this mistake to me. I appreciate it!”
Keep in mind that this method won’t fly (= won’t work) when the situation is really critical. If you accidentally broke the entire production pipeline or blew up a spaceship — sending positive vibes will probably need to wait for a better time.
Anyway. here are several useful phrases to show appreciation.
- Thanks for pointing it out! / Thanks for bringing it to (our) attention
I didn’t realize that the budget projections for Q3 were based on outdated data. Thanks for pointing it out!
- Good catch! — thanks for noticing or pointing something out.
Keep in mind that this phrase sounds very informal so you should only use it in situations when it’s appropriate to be casual and relaxed.
There actually was an error on that slide. Good catch! I’m going to fix it right away.
3. You’re right, that’s a good point — when you want to admit that you have missed something or haven’t thought something through.
-I think the decision to release that feature without user testing it first was a mistake.
-You’re right, that’s a good point.
Just fix it
English-speaking culture is very action-oriented.
To go back to our previous example, if you somehow broke the production pipeline, the only thing that can help you redeem yourself (= restore your reputation) is fixing your mistake and getting it up and running ( = working) again.
When you apologize for any mistakes or mishaps (= accidents) on your part, big or small, you need to say how you’re planning to fix them or let people know that you have fixed them already.
Feel free to use the following phrases:
- Let me just (quickly fix that) — a useful phrase for quickly fixing an issue without making a big deal out of it.
This is the wrong slide it seems. Let me just quickly check if I have the updated presentation.
2. Hang on / hold on a second — another phrase you can use to quickly fix something.
Hang on a second, I’m going to fix my audio issue.
3. That was a mistake on my part — use this when you want to admit you’ve made a mistake
That was a mistake on my part. I sent the wrong attachment in the email, and I apologize for any confusion caused. I will send the correct file right away.
4. I didn’t mean to … — it wasn’t my plan/ intention to…
I didn’t mean to interrupt you. Please, go on.
5. I’ll make sure to (do something) going forward — use this phrase to let people know how you’re going to improve in the future.
I’ll make sure to incorporate your feedback into my work going forward.
You will find more useful phrases and communication tips in our English For Tech 2.0 course.