How to Write a Fabulous Thank You Note
My mother was right all along
When I was a child Christmas and birthdays were joyful celebrations, but soon after came the dreaded task: writing thank you notes. I hated it. I felt like my mom was just trying to torture me.
But she wasn’t. She was instilling a life-long habit for which I am now eternally grateful.
I am the first to admit that I am not perfect about thank you notes. There are times when they just don’t happen. And I feel guilty when that is the case. But writing thank you notes has served me well personally and in my professional life, too. I have made writing thank you notes — real, handwritten thank you notes — a part of my work life for years. For example, for ten years I worked at a large Lutheran church in a variety of capacities. I worked with volunteers a lot, and those volunteers were much more likely to say “yes” when I asked them to do something if I had properly thanked them after their last volunteering effort. So I wrote a LOT of thank you notes!
And you know… even with tracking numbers and being able to check up on package arrivals, it is nice to know that someone received the gifts we send — and appreciated them. I get that now! So, thanks, Mom!
Now Bambino and I do our thank you notes together. His are still largely drawings of himself enjoying his gifts, but it is part of the habit I want to instill in him, too.
But HOW do you write a good thank you note?
It isn’t hard! And it doesn’t take all that long, either.
Stationery: choose some cards that you love — small cards are just fine! Personally, I love cards with my name or monogram on them, but that’s just me. I have a thing for beautiful stationery!
Make a List: hopefully you used The Nice List to track your gifts as you received them! If not, take a few minutes and write down everything you received and from whom. I find it really helpful to do this BEFORE the gifts are put away at Christmas or for a birthday. Otherwise it can be really hard to remember who gave you what!
Hint: if you receive gifts at other times of the year, make a note of them in your planner and then when you write the thank you note, just mark it off!
Once your list is established, begin… get a nice pen, make a cup of tea, put on some soothing music, and get yourself into a thankful frame of mind. After all, not only is this an exercise in good manners, it is also a time for you to reflect on the blessings of friendship, family, and gifts.
Tips for writing a fabulous thank you note:
Be sincere. Remember: their gift is an extension of their feelings no matter how modest or extravagant.
General length 3-4 paragraphs:
Paragraph 1: thanks for this wonderful thing and why you like it so much
Paragraph 2-3: a personal connection, story, or detail
Last paragraph: reiteration of thanks and a note about the future
Be specific about what you are thanking the person for and why.
Include personal details.
Be gracious and truly reflect on why you are thankful.
Thank You Notes on Your Phone
I always prefer a handwritten note, but sometimes that just isn’t practical. There are weeks when the only time I have to write thank you notes is while waiting at a piano lesson or between meetings at Starbucks. And there are some of you who have handwriting which is fairly illegible for one reason or another. I get it!
But fear not! There is a great solution!
I have three apps on my phone which I use for thank you notes: Felt, Postagram, and Ink Cards. It is more expensive to do thank you notes this way, but sometimes it is the best choice. After Christmas, for example, I might choose a photo card with a great picture of Bambino and type in my thank you note. For less than $4 each, the thank you note is written, a photo is sent, too, and they will print and send everything for you.
Whether they are handwritten or sent using an app, I do think sending snail mail is important! And in either case, make sure the content is thoughtful and carefully written using the tips above.
A few sample thank you notes to inspire you…
Personal Thank You Notes for Gifts or Events
When you receive a gift of time, talent, or a physical gift itself, a well-written thank you note is the perfect expression of gratitude — even if you thanked the giver in person.
Dear Kevin and Kelly,
Thank you so much for the adorable tomte! You know how much we love this Scandinavian tradition, and Sven made himself at home in our living room right away. We hope he will take care of the house while we are in Italy this spring — what a helpful gift!
It was such a joy to see you both in August. I am so excited to watch your new business blossom, Kelly! We wish you all the best in this new venture — and please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you. Kevin, the new house looks amazing — we know that’s all your hard work. And those gardens will be astonishingly beautiful in the spring. I hope we will be able to get back to see them soon!
We miss living near you both, but I am glad our friendship is built on a bedrock of sweatpants, good humor, and loads of laughter. That will sustain us even if our visits to each other are infrequent.
With love and thanks,
The Nickerson Family
Dear Nadia and Dave,
Thank you so much for the lovely Christmas gifts and for coming to brunch! We so appreciate the kitchen gadgets — strawberries will be so much easier to prepare! And I absolutely love my scarf! It is gorgeous and looks amazing with my coat. But it is the painting of Miss Lucy that just breaks our hearts right open. What a thoughtful gift! We will treasure it always, and we are currently trying to choose the best place of honor it. What a joyful reminder of our faithful companion. Thank you!
We enjoyed our afternoon together playing in the backyard! Dave, you are a really good sport playing football with your greatest adversary! We love being so close to you, and we are thankful for the time we get to spend together. I hope your ski weekend was really fun, and the rest of your holiday season was full of joy!
See you very soon! Hugs to you all!
With love and thanks,
The Nickerson Family
Professional Thank You Notes…
There are so many professional circumstances where a handwritten thank you note will help cement a relationship, increase good will amongst your colleagues, or smooth over a sticky situation.
Dear Mrs. Nygren,
Thank you so much for volunteering to be the chair of the Campaign Committee this year. I know how valuable your time is, and I know that you are busy with work and family. But our entire organization will be well-served having your knowledge and strong advocate’s voice steering this committee, so thank you!
I look forward to working closely with you on the fundraising event in the spring as well. Please know that I am here to be of assistance in any capacity needed. And if you need help from the office staff, just let me know. I want to make your work as easy and as effective as possible, so that you can focus on the leadership needed in this important role.
Again, thank you for agreeing to take on this work. We have much to learn from you, and I personally am looking forward to working with you again.
Thank you so much for having lunch with me last week. Our conversation encouraged me, and it gave me a lot to think about as we plan for the next few years. I was particularly struck by your suggestion that we begin to offer increased benefits for our employees, and I am asking our HR department to follow up with some proposals to present to the board at the next meeting.
Your wisdom and friendly challenges always push me to think in a new direction. And even when we don’t agree, I appreciate the candor with which you speak. We must always be willing to listen to new and different ideas. That’s the only way we move forward. So, I thank you, friend, for being one of those voices for me. You make me a better leader.
Thank You Notes After a Job Interview
Writing a thank you note after a job interview can be a critical step to seal the deal! It makes a great impression, and you should write a note to each person in your interview(s). Depending on the timing, this may be one circumstance when sending an email is a better choice than waiting for snail mail. However, if possible, always send a handwritten note.
Dear Ms. Finch,
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me yesterday. I enjoyed learning more about your work at the March of Dimes, and I came home and read a great deal about FDR’s commitment to ending polio. That was a piece of your organization’s history which I didn’t know very well. Thank you for sharing it with me!
I am excited about the possibility of working for the March of Dimes, and I am keenly interested in this position. I know that my work as a teacher cultivated skills including organization, public speaking, and creativity which would be well-used in this role. I am especially excited about the idea of creating new programs and family activities for families with babies in the NICU. My creative juices are already flowing!
I am thankful for the opportunity to meet with you, and I hope that we will be working together in the near future. Please let me know if you have any follow-up questions. I am glad to answer them!
No matter how you write them, thank you notes express your gratitude and make the recipient feel good about giving to you! Now go out and spread some joy and thanksgiving!