When you have to communicate information that is unfavorable for the reader, it may be best to organize the information in an indirect way that presents the details before the main purpose. The direct approach works well in most situations, especially when the news is expected or insignificant or needs to be communicated efficiently. However, the indirect approach can be more effective in preparing a reader for bad news.
Start the message with a buffer: a sentence(s) that establishes support or rapport with the reader. You could provide appreciation or a compliment to the reader, any good news you have, or show common ground and understanding.
Provide information that will help the reader understand the reasons for the bad news to help prepare them. Try to be factual and objective.
Middle (Bad News)
Present the bad news in a clear yet positive way. This section requires a delicate balance: ensuring the reader understands the bad news without focusing too heavily on it.
It can also be helpful to present an alternative along with the bad news, and the grammar you use can help you put less emphasis on the negative:
Put the bad news in a dependent clause of a complex sentence. readers tend to put more focus on the independent clause, so start the bad news with a subordinating conjunction such as although, because, if, since, etc. This structure also allows you to pair the bad news with an alternative option or compromise.
Although we cannot accommodate your requested dates, our master suite is available the following weekend.
The passive voice puts emphasis on the action rather than the subject; therefore, it can help remove blame from you or your organization.
Another candidate has been chosen.
End the message with positive goodwill for the reader to maintain a positive relationship. You could thank them for their interest, request application, etc., or you can wish them luck or success.
For strategies to help you organize the message of your memo, see Organizing Your Message.