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December 1, 2021

Toni and her husband were going on holiday, so they booked a hotel in a large city. 

They planned to catch up with friends and see the sights. As it turned out, the friends were away when the couple were in town, but they offered their apartment to Toni, she quickly emailed the hotel and cancelled the reservation. 

This was the email exchange:

Hotel: Thank you for your email. We hope to welcome you next time. For the cancellation, you can do it directly on our website using your booking number.

The day after the couple arrived in the city, they got an email asking for an explanation about why they had not turned up at the hotel.

Toni: I'm so sorry you had a problem with our booking. I wrote to you on 14 April cancelling the booking. 

She attached her email and the response.

Hotel: Thank you for your answer. Did you do the cancellation in our website?

Toni: No. I did not go to your website. You did not ask me to. Your email to me said "we hope to welcome you next time", which clearly shows you acknowledged the cancellation. I took your final sentence to mean exactly what it says. I can do the cancellation on your website. "Can" means I am able to – in other words, useful information for next time.

Hotel: We understand your position, and it’s our fault. We are sorry to disturb you today with our problem. Sorry again, and we really hope to see you next time.

Although they apologised, careless choice of words cost the hotel a night’s accommodation – possibly more. When writing, especially a response, think hard about the words and make sure they have the right meaning. If you’re making a request it helps to begin “Please would you. . . .” 

Choose your words carefully.

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