People like being appreciated, and if they feel you actually notice the nice things they do for you, they’re more likely to give an encore performance. Gratitude is a virtue every person should cultivate. Yet gratitude means nothing if you haven’t mastered the art of expressing it. We should use every opportunity to express to those around us how much we appreciate their love, support, and generosity. One of the key ways of expressing gratitude is the thank you note. Unfortunately, many of us today completely overlook this aspect of etiquette and consequently, break the hearts of sweet little grandmas everywhere. A thank you letter, or note, is an expression of appreciation for a thoughtful act, expression, or gift. But the potential formality of this thought can be intimidating. Many people think that the wording of a thank you letter has to be perfect, and this causes so much anxiety that the notes are never sent. Before all the other rules, just remember that an imperfect letter that comes with heartfelt sentiment is better than a perfect note that was never written.
Every gentlemen and lady should be knowledgeable of the when’s and how’s of writing thank you notes. Being a frequent and skillful writer of them will set you apart from your uncouth peers. As extra motivation, I will also grudgingly tell you the hidden secret of thank-you notes: They improve the frequency and quality of the gifts you receive. Every gift deserves a thank-you. If you want to know when you get a genuine pass on writing a note, the litmus test is simple: Do I live under the same roof as the giver? If the answer is ‘yes,’ you need not write a thank-you note. A solid thank-you note will transcend all complicated situations.
Always send letters in the following situations:
- Wedding gifts.
- For sympathy letters, flowers, or mass cards.
- To the hostess after a party that was hosted in your honor.
- For bridal or baby shower gifts.
- For gifts that were received by mail.
- After being entertained by your boss.
- Gifts received during a hospital stay.
- After being hosted as a houseguest for one or more nights.
- For notes or gifts of congratulations.
Thank you notes are not required in the following situations, but would still be a nice gesture:
- After being a guest at a dinner party.
- After a job interview (not required, but definitely a smart idea).
- For birthday gifts that were received and opened in person, and you already thanked the giver personally.
- When a friend has helped you out with a special favor such as babysitting, a meal when you were sick, running errands for you when you are incapable.
- To the sales representative who has entertained you personally as part of a business relationship.
Some Ground Rules
Always write the note as soon as possible. Send it within two weeks of attending the event or receiving the gift.
Send it through the mail. Emailing a thank you is certainly convenient, but they are not appropriate. Some may say, “Well, a thank you is a thank you. Why does it matter what form it takes?” Sending a thank you note through the mail shows effort. It shows that you took the time to put pen to paper, addressed an envelope, and bought a stamp. It’s tangible; they can touch it, hold it, and display it on the mantle. It makes your thank you far more sincere. Use real stationery.
Family Thank You Card features your family’s last name in vertical type and first names printed horizontally.
Business Thank You Card is uniquely designed for your business. These hand bordered thank you cards feature your company name in vertical type with employee names printed horizontally.
Embossed Thank You Cards help you express a personal or professional thank you with customized flat correspondence cards featuring three lines of rich embossing.
How to Write a Thank You Note
Begin by expressing your gratitude for the gift/service. You’re opener is simple: “Thank you very much for ______________.” If the gift was money, say “thank you for your kindness/generosity/gift.”
Mention specific details about how you plan to use a gift or what you enjoyed about an experience. If you are thanking someone for holding an event like a party or dinner, be specific about what you enjoyed about it. If you are thanking someone for a gift, tell the note’s recipient how you plan to use it. This is true even for a monetary gift; tell the giver what you plan to spend it on or what you’re saving for.
For some recipients, add some news about your life. This isn’t always appropriate; like writing a thank you note for a job interview. But if you receive a gift in the mail from people who see you infrequently and who would like to know more about what’s going on in your life give a brief update about what you’ve been up to recently.
Close by referencing the past and alluding to the future.
If the person gave you the gift at a recent event, write, “It was great to see you at Christmas.” Then say, “I hope we all can get together again next year.” If the person sent the gift in the mail, and you see them infrequently, simply write “I hope to see you soon.”
Repeat your thanks.
“Thank you again for the gift,” makes the perfect last line.
Valedictions are the words or phrases that come before your name. The hardest part of a thank you note is often choosing a valediction that appropriately conveys the level of your relationship with the recipient. “Love” can sometimes seem too gushy and “Sincerely” can seem too formal. If your affections fall somewhere between those two expressions, here are some neutral valedictions that can fit a wide variety of situations and relationships:
- Yours Truly
- Truly Yours
- Kindest Regards
- Warmest Regards
- Best Regards
Addressing Thank You Notes
Thank you letters should be addressed to the individual(s) who signed your gift card. In the case of a gift from a family, the envelope can be addressed to Mr. and Mrs. and the salutation can be “Dear Donna and Joe.” You can make reference to the remaining family members in the body of the note: “Please extend my thanks to Gina and Marie, and let them know how much I am enjoying the book.”
The formality of your salutation should be based upon your relationship with the person whom you’re thanking. For example, in the case of a thank you for a job interview, the salutation should read “Dear Ms. O’Brien” unless Ms. O’Brien gave you permission to address her by her first name. Similarly, a thank you for a wedding gift received from friends of your parents should be addressed to “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Cohen” unless you grew up calling them by their first names.
Remember, this isn’t the time to brag about your new job, a hot girlfriend, or number of surgeries. The thank-you is exclusively about thanking somebody for their kindness. While you may want more than anything to show them once and for all you amounted to something, this is not the forum. Save that for your annual Christmas letter.
Now get it in the mail. Even if your friends and relatives aren’t of the note-writing variety, be the one who sets the precedent. Thank-you-note writing is one of the loveliest traditions to have been utterly compromised by the information age. Let’s start a movement to revive a little gracious living.