Write a Refusal • Letter Templates and Guides

How to write this letter:

1Begin by establishing a positive tone.
2Present, if possible, a short explanation of why you are unable to comply with the reader's request. Make your refusal brief but clear.
3Suggest an alternate plan, if possible.
4Close on a positive note.


Your focus should be as much on being tactful as on refusing. When carefully written, this letter notifies your reader of your refusal in such a way that it retains the reader's good will.

Example Letter #1


Thank you for graciously extending to me an invitation to appear in the closing panel discussion of your Symposium on Race Relations. I'm honored to have been considered for this event, which will undoubtedly draw together a distinguished body of students, scholars, and concerned citizens.

Unfortunately, I am scheduled for surgery two days before the Symposium's opening. And while I've been assured a rapid and full recovery from a routine procedure, I wouldn't want to obligate myself under the circumstances.

For me, being unable sit in the audience is as much a disappointment as not sitting with the panel itself. While I must decline your invitation, I want to convey my sincere hope for the success of this event. To this end, may I suggest Lt. John Doe of the Springfield Police Department as a possible alternate to fill the spot you had reserved for me? John formerly supervised a rehabilitation center for juvenile offenders, has lectured on public policy, and, as a former president of our local chapter of the NAACP, is eminently qualified to contribute to your planned discussion.

Once again, I apologize, but thank you and deem it a great compliment to have received your invitation.

Example Letter #2


Thank you for your recent submission to Doe Publications. Regrettably, Doe does not publish unsolicited material. We plan our publication months in advance and make topic assignments to the various free-lance and in-house writers in our data base. If you wish to be considered for an assignment in the future, please submit a cover letter and three writing samples. If you meet our criteria, we will add you to our data base.

Thank you for your interest in Doe.

Example Letter #3


Thank you for applying for the assistant distributor position Doe and Associates has available. Your credentials were strong and impressive. However, a number of highly-qualified candidates applied for the position and we have selected someone with prior managerial experience. Doe frequently advertises openings and we would be pleased to review your resume should something appeal to you in the future. Thank you for your interest in Doe.

Example Letter #4


Thank you for your application for the John Doe Tuition Scholarship. Each year we have hundreds of students apply for the scholarship, and your outstanding academic record placed you among the finalists. Much to our regret, we could only choose one student and we awarded the slot to someone with more breadth in extracurricular activities.

In your letter of application you mentioned that you have begun to volunteer at several organizations to increase your opportunities for on-the-job experience. This would enhance your application greatly. We encourage you to reapply for next year's slot, and wish you the best of luck in your academic career.

Write Your Letter Step-by-Step


Begin by establishing a positive tone.

Example Sentences for Step 1

Example Phrases for Step 1


Present, if possible, a short explanation of why you are unable to comply with the reader's request. Make your refusal brief but clear.

Example Sentences for Step 2

Since Doe Products is a privately held corporation, we do not provide information to the public on our corporate earnings. Although your suggestion that we hire another employee to process returns has merit, our budget currently does not allow for hiring another employee. For now, we have no alternative but to make do with the three employees we currently have in the orders department. Because of our company by-laws, we are barred from making contributions to for-profit events. Thus, it is not possible for us to sponsor your race. Because of postal regulations, we are unable to send the weed killer through the mail. Therefore, we must rely on Doe's own shipping fleet, which means that delivery is slower than we would like. Although your qualifications impress us, your application arrived after the deadline, and we have already made summer hiring decisions. However, in order to be eligible for a Doe's card, applicants must have at least one credit card on which their account has been kept up to date during the last six months. We regret that we cannot issue you a Doe's card until you have met this requirement. Because I am your supervisor, accepting the tickets would place us both in an awkward position. I must regretfully decline such a gift. However, scholarly publication is also an essential factor in our hiring decisions. We therefore have chosen a candidate who has published in several journals. After touring your facility with you last week, I have decided to stay with a smaller company where my job description will include a greater diversity of tasks and responsibilities.

Example Phrases for Step 2


Suggest an alternate plan, if possible.

Example Sentences for Step 3

Example Phrases for Step 3