- The apology must be objectively perceived (i.e. to the majority of observers or the intended recipient) as genuine and sincere, taking into account all verbal and non-verbal cues of the person offering the apology
- There must be unqualified admission of wrongdoing.
- Clarity and specificity about what the wrongdoing was.
- Unqualified acceptance of personal responsibility for the wrongdoing or acceptance of wrongdoing on behalf of an entity which the individual represents.
- Declaration and acknowledgement of the 'principles' that were offended.
- Specific acknowledgement of any individuals or entities who are known to be offended, or likely to be offended.
- An indelible committment not to err in the same way in the future.
The above foundations I suggest are acceptable to most 'right-thinking' people. Anything less than the sum total of the above is mere lip-service.
An apology obviously has to be appropriate to the precise wrongdoing. In other words if one apologises on a matter that was not centrally at issue, then the apology is worthless.