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Techniques > Conversation techniques > Excuses > Illness

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If you were not where you should have been, you can plead illness, saying you were unwell.

There are a number of illnesses that are short-term, allowing you to excuse yourself just for one day. You can say you ate something and got food poisoning. Another is that you had a headache (this is easy to simulate and hard to disprove).

If you are older, you can claim aches and pains. Back problems are one of the major reasons people miss work. Colds are another common excuse, although you'll need to keep sniffling and sneezing if you were off only for a day.

If you are away for longer, you can claim that you were infectious and did not want to pass your illness on to anyone else.

You can also use illness of others as an excuse, for example your child or partner. Say that you could not leave them alone as they were confined to bed.


Sorry I was off work yesterday. I woke up with a blinding migraine and was in bed all day.

I went to a friend's barbecue at the weekend. The fish was black, but not so well cooked in the middle. I spend the night being sick and couldn't move in the morning.

The doctor told me my son's illness is very contagious and I should stay off for several days myself. 


Claiming illness is a very common excuse. Whilst some illnesses have continued signs, such as a running nose, other conditions cannot be seen, and so are more difficult to challenge.

Illness as an excuse is something that needs to be used sparingly, as there comes a point when it is no longer believed -- and then if you are really ill, you can get into trouble or be forced to be there when you feel like death warmed up.

If you have a chronic, recurring condition, then you can take repeated absences. Such conditions may well also fall under disability legislation, which makes it more difficult for an employer to penalize you. The reality, however, is that even if you cannot help it, repeated absence for any reason will very likely damage your career.

See also



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