Rejection Letters Hurt, But Some are Really Funny

A book called Other People's Rejection Letters: Relationship Enders, Career Killers, and 150 Other Letters You'll be Glad You Didn't Receive may not seem like the most upbeat project to work on, but Bill Shapiro found it curiously inspiring.

"A rejection letter, after all, has remarkable power," he said. "A single piece of paper with a dozen words -- even a form letter typed years earlier by an inexperienced, possibly hungover assistant -- can sway or scar a life, causing one person to give up his dreams, another to work harder to achieve them."

Shapiro notes that over the last two years, probably more rejection letters have been sent out than at any other time in this nation's history. "Rejections for mortgages and small-business loans, eviction and foreclosure notices, for grant money and credit cards and college scholarships. And everybody knows somebody who's received a "Due to the current economic conditions, we have made the difficult decision to downsize our staff" note ... followed, some weeks later, by letters that start like this: "Unfortunately, due to the number of applications for this position ..."

With that in mind, Shapiro began gathering all types of rejection letters, both personal and professional, as "A not-exactly-rose-colored window into the national zeitgeist."

The results are sometimes hysterical, sometimes heartbreaking. Along with a rejection letter to Andy Warhol from New York's Museum of Modern Art and a letter from the U.S. Army to Jimmy Hendrix slamming him because he was not able to "carry on an intelligent conversation," here are some other excerpts from the book:

From Walt Disney Productions in 1938:

"Dear Miss Ford:

... Women do not do any creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered for the training school ..."

From the New Delta Review, Louisiana State University Dept. of English:

"Thank you for submitting. Unfortunately, the work you sent us is quite terrible. Please forgive the form rejection, but it would take too much of my time to tell you exactly how terrible it was ..."

From the United States Marines:

"... We appreciate your interest in the Marine Corps.

However, since you are twelve, you won't be eligible to be a Marine for a while. But as our way of showing appreciation for your interest, we are enclosing a special Marine memento.

I want to give you this advice: The Marine Corps wants you to stay in school and get your diploma. The more education you have, the more valuable you will be -- to yourself, and to the Marines ..."

From a hairstylist to her client:

"... There comes a time when a stylist/client relationship has run its course and it would be best for both of us to not continue. I feel you should find another stylist who might better understand your needs. I will be canceling your future appointments."

From Jeff Harris, Executive Producer, in 1990

"To my friends at Carsey-Warner Company, ABC, to the cast, crew and staff of Roseanne:

My sincere and heartfelt thanks to all of you.

I have chosen not to return to the show next season. Instead, my wife and I have decided to share a vacation in the relative peace and quiet of Beirut."

From the Editors of PLAYBOY

"Thank you for submitting your pictures to PLAYBOY. The editors have viewed them and carefully considered your potential for Playmate of the Month.

While you are certainly an attractive young lady, we are unable to accept you as a candidate for this feature. The competition for Playmate is very keen and we must, unfortunately, turn down many lovely candidates ..."

In the end Shapiro concludes: "If you've received a rejection letter, count yourself as lucky, because the alternative -- silence -- is a hundred times worse." Amen to that!

For more information about the book and to use the easy Reject-O-Matic that helps you reject a friend, enemy or frenemy, go to

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Rejection letter... what rejection letter? I am in the hospitality industry and I've been unemployed for almost one year. I have applied for countless jobs, and there have been very few rejection letters. No return phone calls, no responses to my e-mail inquiries as to whether a decision had been made yet... just no response. There was one in particular where there were 250 applicants - the appicants were narrowed down to two - I had four interviews and was one of the final two candidates, and then communication with the hotel stopped. I called, I e-mailed, and called again a week later, and e-mailed. Is it that difficult for a reputable hotel to devise a template and just plug my name in to say sorry you're not longer in the running?!

June 04 2010 at 6:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Love when Co's. tell you you're over qualified. What they're really meaning're too old...or if you got paid a bigger salary before what does it matter if YOU will work for a lesser amount? A job is what you need, so you can have a roof over your head and be able to pay your bills and essentials. Another peeve....put the salary with the ad...most Co's. don't tell you what they pay. Be up front....they want us to be up front.

June 04 2010 at 12:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Raejean French

They say that when you begin receiving well-thought out rejections, it means that you truly were close to being accepted.

June 03 2010 at 11:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thoughts on rejections: "I reject your reality and substitute mine instead"

May 22 2010 at 12:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

To James D. Arnold- I have no idea. They stated to keep running until you can get it to their time. After months of training,24 minutes was his top time. They said stop back when you do it in 18 minutes. My son said that if that is what's holding him back, stick it. They want meatheads, not intelligent officers. The Army took him in a heartbeat.

May 02 2010 at 4:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mr. Fiorettski

Mr. Adolf Hitler was rejected from Art school...Damn!

May 01 2010 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I reject your criticism.

May 01 2010 at 8:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe Kennedy

Hopefully good advice will win!

May 01 2010 at 8:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The worst rejection goes like this: "Not tonite honey, I have a headache."

May 01 2010 at 8:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe Kennedy

First and maybe last post: Life is what we give...
So please stop wasting our time with off topic discussions.
Most of us are very caring and compassionate people, but don't like having our time wasted.
Please give from the heart!

May 01 2010 at 8:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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