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Writing The Perfect Thank You Note

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Lately, I have had a lot of reasons to be thankful.

  • I am thankful for the teachers who inspired my children all school year.
  • I am thankful to my family for putting up with my neurotic personality and for complaining only slightly about the number of hours I spend working each day.
  • I am thankful for all of the wonderful birthday wishes I received this month and for the thoughtful gifts as well.
  • I am thankful for my growing number of followers who make it possible for me to continue doing what I love.
  • I am thankful for my virtual friends who have helped and supported me even though our relationships are limited to posts, tweets, and IM’s.

The only downside of having all these great people in my life (and it’s a pretty small downside) is finding a way to convey my gratitude to them. I did not grow up in a household that required, or even encouraged, sending thank you notes. The first time I became aware that such things (thank you notes) existed is when I got married and all of the wedding planner books I read spent entire chapters on the topic! And since I married a Marine, as a newlywed I was quickly instructed by more seasoned military spouses in the NECESSITY of sending prompt thank you notes after attending ANY event hosted in a person’s home. Of course, I thought the idea was ludicrous since I had never in my life witnessed my mother writing a thank you note. However, I hadn’t quite discovered my inner superhero yet and thus, was determined to follow the rules established by those I was sure knew more than I did.

Years later, my inner superhero has surfaced and I no longer do things just because other people want or expect me to do them. I do things because I think they are right, or good, or just because I want to. And guess what? Thank you notes are all of those things.

Although each person is different, we do have a few things in common no matter who you are. First, we want to matter. Second, we want to be happy. If you are super self-actualized, you might be able to achieve those two things on your own, but most of us are not, so we need a little help from our friends. When someone goes through the trouble to do something for which you are grateful, you are in the unique position to help them feel like they matter and bestow a little happiness with a few strokes of a pen. By taking the few minutes required to jot a quick note expressing your gratitude, you send an important message to the person you are thanking. That message is “your existence makes a difference in the lives of others.”

Thank you Card

Okay, now that I’ve overwhelmed you with the magnitude of the meaning behind a thank you note, I have probably terrified you from writing one in case you somehow botch it up.  Don’t worry. If you follow these simple rules, you will write the perfect thank you note every time. Pretty soon you will be spreading happiness left and right!

The Rules

  1. Be Prompt – The odds of you sending a thank you note diminish over time so try to write one immediately. You will notice a lot of teachers do this. If you send a gift for teacher appreciation week, you will usually have a thank you note the next day. When I attend a dinner party, I write the thank you note the very next morning and put it in the mail. Heartfelt thanks are always appreciated though, so if you didn’t get the note out right away don’t let that be an excuse to skip it. Better late than never definitely applies here.
  2. Personalize – Even if you are writing 2 dozen thank you notes for birthday gifts, make sure you personalize each note with the person’s name and the specific thing for which you are thankful.
  3. Be Positive – Remember, you are trying to spread a little cheer here, you are not writing a product review. If you received a gift you didn’t care for, focus on the thought behind the gift and thank the giver for his or her thoughtfulness or generosity instead of focusing on the gift itself.
  4. Be Brief – Don’t turn the thank you note into a full conversation, let the focus be your gratitude and the giver’s thoughtfulness. Keep the note to 3-5 sentences.
  5. Be Sincere – One of my hobbies is handwriting analysis. Nothing brings me down more than reading a letter from someone who is either completely lying or who feels negatively towards me. Even if the recipient of the note isn’t versed in handwriting analysis, a tone of insincerity is hard to miss and will achieve the opposite effect of what a thank you note is supposed to deliver. Yes, if you hated the gift AND the giver, you have my permission to skip the note though I’m going to judge you a little for accepting the gift in the first place.
  6. Be Specific – If you are REALLY thankful, try to give a detail that will convey that. For example, if the cuckoo clock your aunt gave you when she came back from Europe is hanging proudly in your kitchen and brings a smile to your face each time the bird chirps, mention it. My daughter’s third grade teacher took a picture of the tabletop zen garden we gave her sitting atop her coffee table and included it in the thank you note. My daughter and I were thrilled that she liked it and had displayed it so prominently in her home.

Sample Notes

As I mentioned in the rules, you will want your notes to be personalized and sincere so it is best if you write them from the heart and not from a template. However, I know that there are some of you who will freeze with writer’s block at the task and so I will give you a couple of samples to help get your creative, note-writing juices flowing.

Dear Joe and Jane,

Thank you for the delicious dinner last night. Those chicken enchiladas were the best we have ever had! We’re looking forward to getting together again soon.

Dear Liz,

I love the new running socks! I felt like a Runner’s World cover model wearing my running outfit that matched all the way down to my socks. They were super comfortable too which was a nice surprise. Who says fashion has to be painful?

Dear Mrs. Smith,

Johnny had such a great school year thanks to you. I appreciate all of your patience and kindness towards him this year. You have really helped motivate him and foster a love for learning, gifts for which I will always be grateful.



22 thoughts on “Writing The Perfect Thank You Note”

  1. Pingback: How to Gather Foster Care Home Study Reference Letters - Blessed Simplicity
  2. Some people tend to overlook the act of saying thank you. This simple work can bring a lot of happiness to the people you addressing with because it’s a sort of appreciating them. Make it a habit in life to say thank you. Thanks for sharing this reminder to us Corrine.

  3. Writing ‘Thank You’ cards is an American tradition that I am yet to get used to. Thanks for the tips 🙂

  4. Im bad about sending any cards. I do appreciate a handwritten note from clients-I should follow suit!

  5. This is an art that we just don’t do anymore. I think it’s a great idea to start it up. We just don’t say thank you enough and it’s really just so sad.

    • Handwritten notes really are rare these days. It doesn’t make sense to mail things when you can get your message there more quickly with a text, e-mail or phone call but it’s sad we’ve lost the intimacy and personal touch that comes with handwritten letters.

  6. This is a much needed post. I always find myself not knowing exactly what to say when I have to write thank you notes.

  7. Thank you for the tips! I’ll be writing thank you notes at some point the near future for my wedding.

  8. My parents encouraged us to write thank you notes from before we could even write. We used to leave thumb or hand prints. We might have been encouraged along because we were told that we wouldn’t get presents anymore 😉

    Whether true or not, I totally agree that sending thank you notes is the right thing to do and doesn’t take that long.

    While promptness is key, my grandmother always told me that it’s never, ever too late to send a thank you note. So if you forget, for no matter how long, send one off. I had to once and while I was very embarrassed (and said so), the person responded positively.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Besos, Sarah
    Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo

  9. I’m glad you mentioned personalization. I like receiving cards I know have been tweaked a little for me. Even if it’s just a word or two, that makes me feel people cared enough to even remember WHY they’re thanking me.
    I try to remember that as well when I write thank you notes.

  10. I love this and just bookmarked it. I’m not a very talky girl, so I will definitely come back to these tips 🙂

  11. Never actually thought of rules with a thank you note. You are always so thorough. Everything has an explanation! I love it!

  12. Great post! I just wish people would do Thank You notes. It seems to have been lost over the past five years or so with all of the email and Facebook communication.

  13. Well…. #1 on the list kills me every time. I have the best of intentions, but I’m not very good at being prompt! I also tend to make my notes too long. You have a great formula here, and I intend to get better at thank you notes.

    Thank you, Corinne, for taking the time to write this post and show us how easy it really is to write a proper thank you note. I intend to put these tips into practice.

  14. I did not grow up writing them either but was told I MUST say thank you as soon as I say the person if I did not call them immediately. I taught my boys to write them and try my darnest to do so now. Being a military wife as well. I can tell you, they are appreciated.

  15. Great tips on writing great thank you notes! Growing up, my grandmother taught me the importance of sending sincere thank you notes to people for numerous different occasions. I’m very disappointed in myself for not always following through with sending thank you notes for the small things, but have recently realized that it’s the small things that deserve the most thanks in our lives. It’s the small things that mean the most and shape us into who we are. Thanks for the reminder and the guide!

  16. This is EXCELLENT, and I appreciate the work you put into this! I think I procrastinate on stuff like this because I am not sure exactly the right way to do it. No excuses anymore 🙂

  17. I am really dumb in this actually. I feel that i cant write a thank you note but i think now i can. I will definitely follow these tips and thank you for sharing samples too.

  18. LOVE this! I have also always been a thank you note writer. Now I don’t always do hand written notes any more I do send emails on occasion. I think it is really important to thank others that have an impact on your life. I also admit I get a little peeved when I send gifts and never hear a thing from the receiver.

  19. I definitely grew up knowing about and writing thank you notes or at least calling the person to thank them!! My Mom to this day always remembers to ask if I have remembered to thank someone! And while I do not get overly upset if I do not receive a thank you—my heavens she sure does!!

  20. Thank you for this. I am horrible at writing Thank You notes. Not that I don’t do it, but I don’t know how to do it correctly without sounding like a ditz.

  21. This is a great guide, thanks for sharing. Can you believe I had people complain because I had my children write thank you notes?


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