How To Write an Explanation Letter (With Templates and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

June 10, 2021

Written communication can be a clear, concise and traceable method for resolving conflicts and preventing misunderstandings. Writing a letter of explanation can provide many benefits for addressing situations that come up in professional or academic environments. Explaining situations is important to maintain effective communication and keep everyone informed. In this article, we define what an explanation letter is at work, explain why these letters are valuable, review three key steps for writing them, present templates and provide examples.

What is an explanation letter at work?

An explanation letter at work is a formal printed letter or email written to explain something that occurred, to answer an inquiry or provide missing information. Clients, contractors, team members or students may write this type of letter to provide information and inform other individuals about situations. For example, a professional might use this type of letter to explain the reason they missed a deadline or lost a client. These letters can help clarify miscommunications between peers, supervisors, instructors or business partners. They might also become documented as part of an official record for future reference.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Written Communication

Why write an explanation letter?

Writing a letter of explanation can provide many benefits to the individual writing the letter because it allows them to share their point of view in situations. For example, a team member who misinterpreted something might write a letter explaining their confusion about their task. The team member may use the letter to explain their perspective of the situation and any reasoning that contributed to their understanding of the task. In this scenario, the written documentation from the team member might help resolve the miscommunication and prevent it from happening again in the future.

These letters can also help in personal situations like mortgage or loan payments. Financial lenders might require explanatory letters about their client's finances, especially if it may affect future payments. Specific reasons for wanting these can include address changes, gain or loss of jobs and late or missing payments. Sometimes individuals might need to add other documents to their letters for reference.

Related: Q&A: Why Is Communication Important?

How to write an explanation letter in 3 steps

The approach used to write letters of explanation may vary depending on the situation. For example, someone writing a letter about a miscommunication at work might include different context and details than someone writing a letter about a change in finances to a financial lender. The general structure is similar, though, and these steps can help you write your own explanatory letter:

1. Choose letter format

Clients, team members or students may use print or email for their letters. Letters that are typed, printed and mailed are typically more formal, while emailed letters are usually more informal. The format of letter you choose can depend on the communication style of your work environment, relationships or partnerships.

Related: How To Write a Good Letter: Formal and Informal Letter Tips and Examples

2. Explain the situation

To begin writing this type of letter, you might explain the situation or circumstance and any contributing factors. Consider including information to answer questions like:

  • What happened?

  • How did it happen?

  • Were there contributing factors?

  • What is the current situation?

Including answers to these questions can provide detailed information about the situation and help the explanation stay concise. It's also important to reference your role in the situation and what preventative steps might have helped.

3. Take responsibility and accountability

Taking responsibility refers to expressing acknowledgment for any personal choices you made that may have contributed to the misunderstanding or mistake, rather than suggesting someone else was responsible for it. It's important to include how you plan to handle the situation differently in the future to prevent it from happening again. For example, someone who missed a deadline might say they will start keeping a monthly or weekly checklist with deadlines to help prevent them from missing another one. Offering ways to repair the current situation is also important.

Related: The Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility

Explanation letter templates

If you need to write a letter to explain a situation to someone in an academic or professional setting, a template might help guide your process. Here are two templates to help you write an explanatory letter:

Formal template

Here is a template for a formal letter of explanation:

[Sender's name]
[Sender's address]
[Sender's phone number]
[Sender's email]

[Date]

[Recipient's name]
[Recipient's address]
[Recipient's phone number]
[Recipient's email]

Subject: [insert subject of the letter]

Dear [recipient's name],

I write to you today in response to a letter I received from you, dated [insert date], about [insert number] of late payments on my loan from [insert date to date]. I am writing this letter today to explain to you the reasons for my delay. Recently, I became unemployed when the company I worked for officially closed on [insert date], before reaching the point of bankruptcy. For your reference, I have attached a letter from my employer that includes details about the situation.

I apologize for any inconvenience my overdue payments may have caused. I have been applying for jobs and interviewing to resolve this unfortunate situation. Recently, [insert name of company] hired me on [insert date] and I plan to start on [insert date]. I plan to resolve any overdue payments between [insert date] and [insert date]. I have attached a proposed payment plan for your reference and kindly ask that you consider it.

Sincerely,
[insert name]

Informal template

Here's a template to consider for informal explanation letters:

Subject: [insert subject of letter]

Dear [insert name],

I am writing to you today about the [insert type] miscommunication on our team. I understand our [insert name] campaign did not meet the needs of our [insert name] client. While we worked as a team, we referenced notes from meetings with them and tried to optimize the deliverables to meet their needs. One thing we struggled to understand in our notes was [insert what was hard to understand].

As a team leader, I came to the understanding that what the client meant was [insert what you thought the client meant] based on [why did you come to that reasoning]. Currently, the status of the campaign deliverables is [insert information about the status]. My team is working hard to resolve this situation and should have everything updated by [insert date].

I take responsibility for the client's dissatisfaction because I am the leader of my [insert title] team. Next time, I will directly reach out to the client for clarification to prevent this from happening again. If there are further ramifications for my role in this circumstance, I understand but hope you will kindly consider my apology and plan for managing future campaigns.

Sincerely,
[insert name]

Explanation letter examples

Consider referencing these examples for guidance when writing your own letter:

Formal example

Here's an example of a formal explanation letter:

Katie Patrick
12345 Brean Way
Cincinnati, Ohio 42091
(010) 987-6543
katiepatrick@email.com

June 3, 2021

Myles Moss
54322 Hillside Dr.
Cleveland, Ohio 42190
(101) 345-789
mylesmoss@email.com

Subject: Waterworks customer complaint

Dear Mr. Moss,

I write to you today to explain the recent customer complaint you received on our Waterworks account. I understand there was a delayed delivery of print marketing materials for one of their events. I apologize for this situation that led the customer to question our ability to deliver ordered materials on time. There was a delay in the delivery because our color printers were out of ink and the ink wasn't able to be delivered in time for us to provide the materials to the client as scheduled.

I have followed up with the administrative and supplies staff to determine how to better request materials earlier in the production process to prevent this from happening again. I plan to write an apology letter to the client and hopefully resolve this situation. I have attached documents for your reference regarding this situation. Once again, I apologize and acknowledge the mistakes made and hope to prevent them from happening in the future by working more closely with administrative and supply staff. If you have questions regarding the attached documents, let me know. Thanks.

Sincerely, Katie Patrick

Informal example

Here's an example of an informal explanation letter or email:

Subject: Research paper

Dear Ms. Peterson,

I am writing to you today about the research paper that was due on Tuesday of this week. I understand I did not turn my assignment in when it was due and apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused. I had been working on it since you assigned it, and even used the designated class time you gave us, but I still wasn't able to finish it on time.

I know that my extracurricular activities might have influenced my lack of efficiency while working on this paper. In the future, I plan to create assignment timelines for myself and prioritize meeting those goals to make sure I turn my work in on time. I also plan to prioritize meeting my goals before engaging in my extracurricular activities.

I acknowledge and accept full responsibility for not turning in my paper on time. I have turned my paper in online and attached a copy here for your reference. I understand if you have to give me late points or no points, but hope you consider giving me some points for this assignment. Thank you.

Sincerely, Avery Tillman

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