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The Remorse of Orestes (1862) – apologies can help avoid an attack of the Furies!

When editors fall out with each other, an apology can often help ease tensions and restore calm and good faith. Even if you do not feel that you have been rude or harmed anyone, you may have given a false impression or contributed to a misunderstanding in some way, and an apology can help to clear the air.

It is easier to demand an apology than to deliver one. We all make mistakes. So take care which apologies you demand, and how often, and what you reject as not good enough. Your turn will come.

Courtesy isn't a standard to expect of others; it's a standard you abide by yourself.

Sometimes it is better to wait for an apology, instead of demanding one. Equally, if you are in the wrong, even partially, it is better to offer an apology before one is demanded. Apologies can help solve problems that are too difficult for normal words to solve.


At its best, an apology is an expression of sincere personal remorse for one's own actions, rather than a form of inflammatory rhetoric or empty emotional coercion. A non-apology apology, on the other hand, is seen as a way of qualifying, or even avoiding, a "real" apology, and may even be used as the opportunity for yet another veiled insult.

The classic "non-apology" is something like "I'm sorry you're upset, but if you're too stupid to understand, there's not much I can do!" – or a form of words that gives this kind of impression. "I'm sorry that you were upset" – or, worse, "I'm sorry that you took offense at my remarks" can have this effect, and can compound the problem further, or cause further offense. In effect one is expressing regret for the actions of the person we are "apologising" to – effectively turning the apology on its head!

On the other hand, a sincere expression of regret, even if it stops short of a (probably insincere) admission that one has been totally to blame, can help defuse a situation, and may stand in place of an "ideal" apology. It may even be preferred if a full, unreserved apology would be obviously insincere or hypocritical, and might even give further offense by giving the impression of sarcasm. Although they may fall into a non-apology grey area, "I'm sorry that I upset you", or better, "I'm sorry that my remarks upset you" at least place a measure of the blame onto the person apologising.

Although it may at times be difficult, in accepting an apology, one should "assume good faith" where it is at all possible.

Forced apologies[edit]

The desirability of a "forced" apology depends upon the culture of the people involved. In a shame culture, a forced apology from a high-status person is seen as a very valuable thing, as the social humiliation of the person who apologizes is seen as a significant action. However, most editors at the English Wikipedia grew up in guilt cultures, which place more emphasis on whether people who apologize for something genuinely believes that they harmed another person or group and whether they genuinely regret causing that harm. Some of them believe that apologies can only be considered genuine if they are spontaneous, rather than suggested or required by others.