Gordon Brown said today that he had apologised to the grieving mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan for "any unintended mistake" in a hand-written letter of condolence.
The Prime Minister spoke by telephone with Jacqui Janes yesterday after learning of her distress over the message, sent after her son Jamie, 20, of the 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards, was killed by an explosion on October 5, which began "Dear Mrs James".
In a statement, Mr Brown said: "I take very seriously my responsibility to the bereaved.
"Every time I write a letter to mothers and fathers and partners who have suffered bereavement to express my sincere condolences, it is a moment of personal sadness to me.
"And I am in awe of the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces.
"I send a hand-written letter to every family and I often write to more than one member of the family. I have telephoned Jacqui Janes to apologise for any unintended mistake in the letter."
He went on: "To all other families whom I have written to, I can only apologise if my handwriting is difficult to read.
"I have at all times acted in good faith seeking to do the right thing. I do not think anyone will believe that I write letters with any intent to cause offence."
Mrs Janes, 47, had complained that she found Mr Brown's letter "disrespectful" because of the spelling mistake.
She told The Sun: "He couldn't even be bothered to get our family name right. That made me so angry.
"Then I saw he had scribbled out a mistake in Jamie's name.
"The very least I would expect from Gordon Brown is to get his name right.
"The letter was scrawled so quickly I could hardly even read it and some of the words were half-finished. It's just disrespectful."
Mr Brown arranged to speak to Mrs Janes personally last night after being alerted to her upset by the newspaper.
The Prime Minister's statement was issued after Downing Street came under pressure to make clear whether he accepted a mistake had been made.
"He has unwillingly, in writing a letter, caused this offence. Of course he is sorry for that.
"The hand-written letter clearly contains mistakes on the basis that the person who received it has misread those words," his spokesman told reporters.
He said he expected the Prime Minister to continue writing the letters by hand but refused to discuss the detailed process for the writing and checking of the messages.
"The suggestion that he would have or does write these letters in a way that is anything other than with the dignity of the office he holds is completely inappropriate," he said.
The PM was aware he had "somewhat unique" handwriting.
"If some of his handwriting is less legible than others and can be capable of being misinterpreted, then that is clearly something that the Prime Minister is aware of," he said.
"Some people's handwriting is easier to read than others. Everyone acknowledges that the Prime Minister's handwriting is of a particular style. That is not a criticism of the Prime Minister."