Writing Assignment: Write A Clear Excuse

by Randy Murray on February 8, 2013

I’m very sorry but I’m unable to provide a writing assignment for you today. A sudden personal illness means the assignment I had planned for today is not ready. I hope that this is not terribly inconvenient for you. I will, by this coming Monday, provide you with the promised assignment and I will endeavor to stay to the agreed schedule as much as humanly possible. I suggest that you complete an earlier assignment today, then wait for the new one, which I assure you will be ready on Monday.

That’s the excuse, but you won’t get off that easy. There will be an assignment today. But rather than accepting no excuses, I’m asking for them.

I spent many years managing others. I’m glad it’s behind me. I’ve seen my share of excuses. The best excuses are detailed and prepared far in advance of a deadline or event. As a manager I want to know as soon as possible about changes, delays, or problems. I didn’t want a long, drawn out excuse. I just wanted to know that something expected isn’t happening as expected, what’s broken, delayed, or changed in some way. Even better is the added step on how to fix these things.

A good excuse requires no follow up, no questions asking for more details, no need to do anything but to say, “Thanks for letting me know.”

From an excuse I want to know what you’re providing an excuse for, a clear explanation about why, and a plan for how to rectify the problem.

For today’s assignment, write an excuse to a friend about why you will not be able to join them for a long anticipated event one week from today.

Make your excuse short, but be clear, detailed, and offer a remedy or alternate plan. Your excuse should be no longer than three paragraphs and no more than 100 words, with 50 words being ideal. Short, to the point, and complete.

Write your excuse with this plan and you’ll end up with an effective piece of communication.

Your best excuse is this: I can’t do X because I’m busy writing.


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