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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”

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