How to say ‘no’ to a project gracefully

Sometimes a potential partnership isn’t a fit with your schedule and other responsibilities. Here’s how to let people down gently and preserve relationships.



Even though many of us write for a living, we may find ourselves at a loss for words when it comes to saying “no” to a project or person. Turning someone down in the complicated and politically fraught world of work is no easy task.

Here are five templates you can use to say no to a project or offer politely and firmly.

1. Turning down a project because you have too much on your plate

Hi [name].

Thanks for including details about [project name]. For your reference, my priorities for this week are as follows:

  • [Priority project 1]
  • [Priority project 2]
  • [Priority project 3]

Since I’m currently at capacity with these projects, I would like to table [new project] until [day] next week. This works best on my end so I can complete the above tasks without affecting the overall timeline.

Please let me know if I should prioritize the project you mentioned instead.

I appreciate the clarification.

2. Turning down a project that’s not right for you or not part of your job

Hi [name].

Thanks for thinking of me on this one. I’m always up for a challenge, but this falls too far outside my skill set. Even though I cannot help you, I do have an idea. This sounds like a great assignment for [name of colleague whose job it actually is]. [S/he] handles similar projects all the time.

I can forward the instructions over to [person] if that would help.


3. Turning down an offer to advertise/publish content/sponsor an event

Good afternoon [name].

Thank you for your patience as we reviewed the materials you sent. Based on our [current advertising strategies/publishing guidelines/company policy/budget], we will not be participating in this campaign. However, we greatly appreciate the offer, and we wish you great success with your [marketing campaign/event/blog].

Thank you,

4. Turning down an unknown vendor

Dear [vendor name].

Thank you for your interest in doing business with us. At present we are satisfied with the [solutions/products/vendors] we already have in place.

Meeting or discussing further at this time would not be beneficial to either party since we are not looking to purchase the products/services that you offer.

If anything changes on our end, please be assured that we have your information and we will reach out to you.

We appreciate your reaching out to us and we wish you the best.

5. Turning down a vendor you’ve been working with

Hi [name].

Thank you for all the help you’ve given up to this point. We’ve decided to go in another direction, but will keep [company] in mind for future [partnerships/projects] that could work out better.

Much appreciated,


Readers — what tips do you have for turning down projects and proposals?


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