Be genuine. If it looks like you're only saying sorry because you've been put on the spot there's almost no point in bothering. Show that you mean it. In this scene from the Office, David Brent blames Tim for a rude joke circulating among the team. Even when it's clear he has the wrong man, Brent still can't apologise. And it's painful watching him squirm.
Pick the right time. Don't leave your apology too late, otherwise resentment can fester. Here The Onion brings a speech from a US congressman offering an apology for an extra-marital affair. He does all the right things: admitting his motives, offering his humility and explaining how sorry he is. Trouble is, he's actually apologising for an affair he hasn't had yet, and then heads off for the illicit rendezvous at the end of the speech. That's probably a touch too early.
Of course, there's always the old method of doing right in the first place. As the famous scene in Mary Poppins suggests, by following the correct procedures you can avert a situation where saying sorry is necessary at all. Things don't go so well for the bankers in this scene - a run on the bank prompted not by the sub-prime mortgage market but by two little brats. But the lesson is there: do right up front, and you won't need to apologise later.
In today's bulletin:
Lloyds nears Government deal - but at what price?
Green shoots 'next year', says WPP's Sorrell
Editor's blog: Goodwin witch-hunt getting out of hand
Cereal offenders cost the UK £22bn
How to say sorry, with YouTube