How to Express Condolences in a Business Letter

Updated April 17, 2017

The death of a partner, employee, client or customer can be a devastating blow for any business. It is appropriate to express condolences sincerely and compassionately upon learning that a business colleague has suffered a personal tragedy of this magnitude. Write a condolence letter with sensitivity and make it more personal than a typical business letter. Be especially tactful if you are writing at a time when you will be approaching the recipient about a business issue.

Use business letterhead or high-quality stationery. Don't write a letter of condolence as an e-mail or plain memo. Show that you appreciate the seriousness of the situation by presenting your letter professionally and in a way that shows thought and concern were put into it.

Date the letter and begin it with Dear (person`s first name). This might seem like a small detail, but it is important to address someone by first name rather than title when communicating a personal message such as sympathy for a grieving person.

Offer your condolences for the recipient`s loss. Mention the deceased by name, and acknowledge the relationship between the deceased and the recipient. For example: Please accept my condolences for the loss of your uncle, David. Unless you are personally close to the recipient outside of work, avoid being overly emotional because this can come across as less than genuine and inappropriate.

State that you cannot imagine the difficulty of what the recipient is going through. The experience of bereavement affects everyone differently; it can be offensive to include sentiments such as I deeply understand the gravity of what you are going through as I lost my brother Joe just last year. Such statements can come across as insensitive.

Acknowledge the recipients family and colleagues. State that you understand that the loss has affected the recipients spouse, siblings, children, co-workers or friends, and name any individuals whom you personally know to have been close to the deceased. For example: I can only imagine the devastating effect David`s loss is having on your dear wife, Helen.``

Share positive memories you had with the deceased or reflect on the person`s best qualities. For example, talk about the time you met the person at a company barbecue, and how his or her sense of humour touched everyone present. If you did not know the deceased personally, mention good things that you heard about him or her. The most important thing is to be sincere.

Close by restating your condolences on behalf of everyone at your company. Extend these condolences to both the recipient and his or her family.

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About the Author

Based in St. John's, Canada, Andrew Button has been writing since 2008, covering politics, business and finance. He has contributed to newspapers and online magazines, including "The Evening Telegram" and Button is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Memorial University in St. John's.