How to Write an Explanation Letter (With Steps and Examples)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 5 May 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
An explanation letter is a document that allows you to explain a wide variety of work-related topics, issues or questions. These letters can help employees lessen the amount of miscommunication that takes place in the workplace. Learning how to write a letter of explanation may help you enhance your written communication skills and keep your colleagues and clients informed of company changes. In this article, we explain what an explanation letter is, share some reasons why you might use them and provide example letters to help you as you create your own.
What is an explanation letter?
An explanation letter is a document that professionals use to explain something that occurred in the workplace, ask questions or provide clarification about a work-related topic. These letters can discuss a wide variety of issues, tasks, processes and policies. The purpose of the information is to inform clients or team members about a specific situation or update in the workplace. For example, a salesperson might write an explanatory email to their colleague to inform them of a recent update to their company's sales policies or they may share information about a missed deadline.
Letters of explanation are a useful tool that allows you to gain more information about an assigned task or share important details with a colleague. You may also write a letter of explanation to better understand a topic, which allows you to ask questions and share your perspective or confusion on an industry-related process or strategy. For example, if your manager assigned a complex task to you, you might write a letter of explanation to ask them to clarify the task.
Reasons to write an explanation letter
Here are some reasons why you may write a letter of explanation in the workplace:
Prevent miscommunication: These letters allow professionals to prevent any miscommunication from happening by providing clear details regarding a topic. By explaining a topic clearly in the beginning stages of a project, it may allow for the rest of the process to go smoothly.
Keep as an official document: Typically, employees send these letters using email or a formal printed letter, which they can document as an official record for future reference.
Update colleagues or employees: You may use a letter of explanation to inform colleagues of any recent updates to the company's policies. You may also update them on any achieved goals or positive feedback from clients.
Allow for conflict resolution: It's useful to write a letter of explanation to share your point of view on a situation, which may resolve a conflict between you and a colleague. You can both use these letters to discuss the cause of the disagreement and how you may keep the conflict from happening again.
Share updated information with management: You may use this letter to share any changes in your personal details or contact information. For example, you might share a change in your marital status, name or address.
Explain company policies to clients: You can use a letter of explanation to explain company policies to clients. You may explain the company's standard processes, like payment processes or customer service processes, so that they understand the company's expectations and requirements.
Answer questions: If a colleague or client messages you with several questions, you may write a formal letter to respond clearly to them. This ensures that you answer the questions clearly and completely, rather than responding to each question with an individual message or email.
How to write a letter of explanation
The approach that you use 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 details than someone writing a letter about a change in finances to a financial lender. The general structure is similar, though, and using an effective format can allow you to provide a clear explanation to the letter's recipient.
Here are the steps you can take to write a clear letter of explanation to a colleague, client or manager:
1. Decide if the situation requires a letter of explanation
To begin, it's important to decide if the situation warrants a letter of explanation. If the situation involves a sensitive topic, then you may consider discussing it in person with management or a colleague. Or, if the topic contains several pieces of complex information, the recipient may better understand the details if you explain them in person or through a phone call. If the situation or topic is easy to write about in a letter format, then writing a letter of explanation may be an efficient way to share that information.
2. Choose the letter's format
Before starting your letter, decide on the letter's format. Clients, team members or managers may use print or email for their letters. Letters that are typed, printed and mailed are typically more formal, whereas emailed letters are usually more informal. The format of the letter you choose can depend on the communication style of your work environment.
To decide on the format, consider the relationship that you have with the recipient and the subject matter of the letter. For example, if you haven't communicated with a client yet, you might consider sending them a letter using direct mail to convey respect. If you're sending a letter to a colleague that you communicate with often, then you might contact them via email.
3. Explain the letter's subject
Since a letter of explanation's purpose is to share information or answer questions, begin your letter by sharing the most important details. This ensures that the reader understands the letter's primary intent. Here is some information that you might include in the opening of your letter:
answering a question
asking a question
sharing information about updates
explaining a company policy
4. Share how the information may impact the recipient
After sharing the key purpose of the letter, you can share how this information may affect the recipient. This allows them to understand why the letter is relevant to them and how they may use the information to make informed decisions. For example, if you share that the information in the letter may affect how your colleague performs their sales, they may be sure to review the letter's information before performing any future sales.
5. Close the letter
To close the letter, thank the reader for their time. You may emphasise the purpose of the letter by restating the letter's subject. You can also ask questions or provide a call to action. For example, you might ask the recipient to respond to the letter so that you can be sure they received it in a timely manner.
Before sending your letter, be sure to proofread it. Since it's important that the letter's information is easy to understand, proofreading it may allow you to find any spelling errors or formatting problems that can affect readability. Consider using software that provides automatic spell checking or reading the letter aloud to find any mistakes.
7. Attach additional documents
You might attach additional documents that relate to the letter's content. Include a short sentence that explains what the attachment includes. Consider attaching documents that share further information on the letter's content. For example, if you're writing about a recent change to a company's policy, you might attach a formal copy of the policy.
Explanation letter examples
Here are some examples of letters of explanation in the workplace:
Here's an example of a letter of explanation regarding a policy change:
Dear Ms Chan,
I am writing today to explain the recent change in our company's payment policies. While our previous policy stated that you can provide payment 90 days after you received your financial consultation services, we now require that you provide payment immediately after receiving your services. You can provide your payment through a check, cash or credit card. Please keep this in mind while attending your future financial consultation meetings at our firm.
Thank you for your time. If you have any questions about this new policy, please contact me directly.
Here's an example of a letter of explanation that's intention is to clear up a misunderstanding:
Dear Mr Lai,
I am writing today to clear up any misunderstandings that caused the disagreement between our teams this week. It was my team's understanding that the recent policy change might require us to double our workload because of the increased quotas. After talking with our supervisor, we now understand that the policy wouldn't increase our daily workload, but instead measure our quotas differently.
I apologise for the misunderstanding and I hope that this letter clears up any miscommunication. Please contact me to further discuss the matter. Thank you for your time.
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