We try to reach people on their phones but sometimes they don't answer. Later while addressing them an email or while speaking to them if we want to inform them about the call then what is the best way of putting the message making sure that they don't feel we are arrogant or accusing?


  • 5
    "I tried calling you but there was no answer" is a hair more polite, since it doesn't "accuse" "you" of not answering.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 15, 2015 at 10:56
  • This question isn't bad per se, but should be closed as primarily opinion based. As the existing answers show, there are any number of polite ways of saying the same thing and you won't get consensus on the most polite way. This question could also easily degrade into an almost endless list of polite ways.
    – CJ Dennis
    Nov 16, 2015 at 2:00

8 Answers 8


If your concern comes from attributing an action (or lack of thereof) to the other party. Then it is safe to go with:

I called you, but could not reach you.


Follow up email:

I'm writing to discuss [subject matter]. I tried to reach you by phone last week but I couldn't get through (or, you were unavailable). So I wanted to ask you about [back to subject matter].


  • courteous, polite, easy-going
  • clearly points out your attempt to call
  • keeps focus on what you really want

With minor adjustments, the same message could be used in a voicemail or conversation.


"I tried calling you without success." does not lay the blame at the other end of the line and would not rule out things like a bad phone line or wrong number. This use of "success" formally chalks this up as your own failure while implicitly prompting for an explanation.


It's really a matter of opinion, but having done a bit of fundraising for the firefighters in my area I feel qualified to weigh in here. Typically I said "we tried to touch base the other day (or whenever) but couldn't get ahold of you, so I thought I'd try this afternoon." Or you can (falsely) assume the blame yourself and say "I got a little behind and missed you on Tuesday, so I thought I'd follow up this afternoon. I hope it's not inconvenient." There are any number of variations on the theme, but these are non committal and polite enough for nearly everyone.


Something like this:

I am writing regarding ....

By the way, I tried to reach you in person over phone on Monday, unfortunately, could not get hold of you. Let me know if I can try again later in the week so > that we can go through the details.


"I called you but you did not answer" uses the conjunction "but" and therefore hints that you may have had a choice. Hence the feeling of reproach in this way of saying it.

I would therefore use a plainer statement such as "You were out when I called".

  • But this gives the sense that "of course you would answer my call if you were able to" which has just a hint of arrogance to it Nov 16, 2015 at 7:19

One might ask what is the point of saying anything about it (non-response to the prior call), if not to be reproachful? Why not just get on with your business?


Any sentence that implies "you didn't answer", suggests they made an active decision to not pick up the phone. It's accusatory by nature. Even the extended description says "sometimes they don't answer".

Do you blame them for not picking up the phone?

Regardless, you can say something different though, as others have suggested —"I couldn't {reach|get hold of} you" etc— and soften if by making it an I statement. It doesn't mean the same thing but in order to be polite, that's required.

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