The functions of a bad news letter are to:

  • communicate negative information clearly
  • encourage reader(s) to respond as positively as possible in spite of the negative information

Specifically you want your reader(s) to feel that:

  • They have been respected.
  • You have been fair and reasonable.
  • If they were in your shoes, they would make the same decision. (see Locker, p. 182)

In determining how to communicate bad news, first consider whether or not the bad news needs to be communicated at all and then reflect on the medium you should use: communicate in person, by telephone, by email, or by letter. See Beyond the Writing for an overview of the pros and cons of communicating orally vs. communicating in writing.


  • Locker, Kitty O. Business and Administrative Communication, 3rd Ed: Richard D. Irwin, Inc. Chicago, 1995, p. 182.