How to Make a Formal Retraction

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A formal retraction is a formal statement disavowing something previously averred. An individual on behalf of himself or on behalf of a private or public organization can issue a formal retraction. Formal retractions are difficult, but necessary, to deliver in certain circumstances. If you have to make a formal retraction, plan it carefully.

Determine the appropriate means of delivery, depending on the nature of your original statement or presentation. Target the audience that received the original message. For instance, if the information or statement which you are retracting was delivered in print, print your formal retraction in the same publication. Alternatively, if you are retracting a previous oral statement, issue your retraction in the same format (e.g., to a class, office or congregation).

Consider formal retractions delivered in your kind of work to get a feel for the kind of language used. For instance, if you are retracting scientific or scholarly research, read the formal statements of retraction delivered by other scientific or authoritative persons or bodies to identify the appropriate wording and format for such a statement.

Identify your error in your formal retraction. Make clear what exactly you are retracting to avoid confusion. Indicate what statements or platforms you still uphold, if applicable.

Take ownership of your mistake, whether it was purposeful or accidental. Apologize for the error, without making excuses for it. Avoid assigning blame to another person or group, as this diminishes you. Avow to take more care in the future to avoid such mistakes.