A Refresher Course in Writing Thank you Notes
By Sue Fox, StudioNotes Etiquette Expert
Saying “Thank You” with handwritten note cards is a gracious and traditional way to repay holiday kindness – especially in today’s fast-paced world of changing technology. With less formal options of e-mail, texting, and social networks, writing a thank-you note is still absolutely necessary.
A handwritten thank-you note is a shining example of repaying kindness with kindness. It also expresses your gratitude and makes others feel appreciated. More importantly, it shows respect.
The excuse of having no time to write a thank-you note isn’t acceptable. Think about all the time and effort, not to mention the expense that may have been involved in providing a favor, a gift, a dinner, lending a sympathetic ear, putting a party together, or other acts of generosity. The silence is disappointing to the giver, but has bigger implications—hurt feelings.
Writing thank-you notes isn’t terribly difficult or time consuming—it takes just a few minutes at the most!
When you sit down to craft a thank-you note or letter, be yourself and write with sincerity. Your letters and notes should reflect your personality, as if you were talking with the recipient in person. Be sure to use the following basic elements in the structure of your note.
- Always use a salutation or greeting. Depending on your relationship, you may use either a first or last name and appropriate title.
- Keep in mind that three to five sentences are all that’s necessary in the main body of your thank-you note.
- Always refer to the gift, deed, or act of kindness by name (not just “Thank you for the present”) and describe the deed
- If you’ve been given a gift, say what you like about the gift and mention how you plan to use it.
- If someone went out of the way to help you, mention the actual deed and how that person’s support was beneficial.
- Include a closing sentence. You want your closing statement to flow with the letter or note. The closing sentence can be a final mention of your appreciation or something as simple as “I hope to see you soon.” Always end on a positive note.
- Close your letter appropriately. Depending on your relationship, a close can be personal (“Yours truly,”) or formal (“Respectfully,”)
Here are a few additional tips on writing personal or business thank- you notes.
- Thank-you notes should be sent within a week at best. If it happens to take a bit longer, don’t apologize or make excuses for why you’re late.
- Neatness counts! Take a deep breath just before you begin. If you mess up somewhere along the line, start over with a fresh piece of paper, note card, or envelope. Strikeovers, ink blots, messy erasures, etc. are not acceptable.
- Thanking people for something usually follows the form in which the invitation was extended. If you receive a telephone invitation, a telephone thank-you is appropriate, although a thank-you note is a nice touch. If you receive a written invitation, you should always write a thank-you note.
- Thank-you notes are not reserved for parties and dinners. The general rule is this: If someone goes the extra mile for you, a thank-you note is appropriate; if the thank-you is just for day-to-day business, a verbal “Thank you” is good enough.
- If you’ve been a houseguest and are continuing to travel, send a thank-you postcard from your next destination rather than waiting until you arrive home to send a thank-you note.
And, like just about everything else in life, the habit is learned young! Remember mom and dad—children learn by example. When parents give children a pass on showing gratitude with pen and paper, they foster a sense of entitlement—to invert the popular saying, you can get something for nothing in this world.