When I was brainstorming what to write about during Sunday dinner, my husband suggested I write about composing thank you notes because he knows how much I love writing them. This might seem like a strange thing to be passionate about since many people 1. dread writing anything or 2. dread writing something that’s not a text or email.

My love for writing is deep-seeded, going back to childhood. Not only did my mother encourage reading and writing, but she taught my siblings and me manners and the ‘proper way to do things.’ As soon as I could answer the phone, I answered, ‘Rosasco residence, who’s calling?’ I knew how to speak to and address adults in person and on the phone (because I called my friends on landlines- gasp! What’s that?). My sister and I attended etiquette classes and even an old fashioned handwriting class given at the local historical museum (possibly inspired by our love of American Girl Dolls. We may or may not have worn our matching American Girl doll dresses to it…).  It’s no surprise that my mother took my sister and me to this beautiful, elegant stationary store every year to choose stationary, cards, and thank you notes to have on hand.

 

The Art of Writing Thank You Notes

While I agreed with my husband that this was an excellent choice for a post, I became flustered and overwhelmed as the thank you note topics came pouring out of me. Thank you note writing certainly could not be one post-no! There are so many nuances within thank you note writing that cannot be contained in one article. So don’t you worry, more on this to come. For now, I’ll focus on writing a meaningful thank you note, which is the only type of thank you note you should send.

Set the purpose

Though this sounds like a no brainer, know the purpose of your thank you note- often the aim is to thank someone for a gift, but I also write thank you notes for actions and services as well. Keep this purpose in mind and reflect on it. If you were given a gift, what about the gift do you like? How will you use it? Have you already used it? If you’re writing about an action or service, how was this action special and appreciated? How did it make you feel?

Know your audience

Okay, so it’s not exactly an ‘audience’ you’re sending a thank you letter to, though it may be. I’ve written thank you notes to businesses that encompassed a team, not a single person. Know your recipient so you can set the tone and language for your letter, starting with the salutation.

Salutation

After dating the letter at the top right-hand of the note, begin with a salutation on the next line justified at the left side of your page. You can simply start with the person’s name and a comma, but I always adore using the traditional Dear… or, depending on the recipient, My dearest… You don’t want to write a letter to your boss saying ‘My dearest Pamela,’ though it may be a sweet sentiment when writing to your grandmother or friend.

Body

Opener (1 sentence)

The opening line of anything you’re writing is the most challenging. If you’re stuck on an opener, start with something like:

  • Thank you so much for the…(insert specific gift, action, or service here).
  • I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the…

The heart (2-3 sentences)

Now comes the fun part- the heart of the letter. It’s your time to explicitly state your feelings about the purpose of your letter. Don’t know how to get all sentimental about a toaster or wine glasses? Just be honest about why you like it or how you will use it, like this:

I truly think toast is the perfect food – seriously, it’s so much better than just plain bread. Now every time I toast up an English muffin in the morning, I’ll think of you as I’m slathering it with strawberry jam.

The wine glasses are beautiful- they’ll make a great addition to my barware. I love entertaining, so whether I’m enjoying a glass by myself at the end of the day or hosting my next party, these glasses will definitely be put to good use.

Do these sound cheesy? Would you rather receive a letter that says:

Thank you for the toaster. I appreciate you getting me this gift. It means a lot to me, so I just wanted to thank you again.

Boringggg- although the lackluster tone is not the worst part of it. The worst part is that there was no thought put into it; it’s just a string of impassive clichés that could be sent to any recipient for any reason. Someone took the time to do something for you, so you need to put in a few minutes of thought into a note for her or him.

Wrap up

Just like when you’re writing an essay, give your letter a clear ending, summarizing your gratitude, such as:

  • Again, thank you for the toaster. It was the perfect housewarming present and one less item I need to start living like a real, functioning adult.
  • Truly, Lauren, I appreciate the festive wine glasses. You always give the most gracious gifts, and I’m looking forward to having an excuse for a wine and movie night with you.

Closing salutation

Again, keep your audience in mind when choosing a closing salutation, such as:

  • Love, sincerely, yours truly, kind regards, warm regards, gratefully

Signature

Legibly sign your name in cursive. Feel free to use your first name only for family and friends, as your full name will appear on the envelope. For someone a little more distant, sign your first and last name or sign your first name and print your last name in parentheses.

As previously stated, the only kind of thank you note to send is a personal one. A cookie cutter, vague, or clichéd note may as well not be sent in my opinion. Having trouble getting started? Leave your questions and issues in the comments for a helpful response to your letter-writing woes.

What’s your philosophy on thank you notes? How do you feel when you receive a well or poorly-written card?

Everywhere
  • I love when I get a nicely written thank you note.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Me, too- I always feel like I want to write a thank you to the nicely written thank you note!

  • Emma Byers

    I love sending thank you notes and I think you’ve perfectly captured the essence here. Such a nice idea for a post.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’m glad you share the same love of writing thank you notes!

  • Dana Brillante-Peller

    I recently wrote a post on this same topic! I was taught from a very young age to always write thank you notes.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’d love to read your post- send the URL so I can take a look.

  • Aishwarya

    Good advice. I loved that cheesy heart of the letter part! 🙂

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’m glad! That’s my favorite part : )

  • Aw I love thank you letters and they always make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside . I loved how detailed your post was xxx http://www.fadedspring.co.uk/

    • Lindsay Katherine

      You’re totally right, Ana- a good thank you note should make you feel warm and fuzzy : )

  • I’ve always been a huge fan of thank you notes – because of the beautiful stationary out there, and how exciting it is to receive snail mail!

    http://www.peaceandblessingsyall.com

  • Samantha Curtis

    I ALWAYS write thank you notes. I feel like a lot of people don’t these days and I’m old fashioned and think they’re still so important. Great advice!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Great work keeping up an important tradition- snail mail and hand writing is not dead! Thanks for reading : )

  • Chelsee

    I love writing thank you notes! Great advice! I will have to fav this post to refer back to next time I am writing thank you letters!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Yay for thank you notes! I’m glad you also love them and know where I’m coming from.

  • Great tips, Lindsay! I love that thank-you notes haven’t died, and I do love to give hand-written notes, but I’m always so bad at coming up with something short, sweet, and specific. I either write something boring or a whole book! I’m bookmarking this for when I’ll be writing baby-shower thank yous. 🙂

  • Leah Hall

    Such a lost art! Thanks so much for writing about this!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Maybe we can all bring it back : ) Thanks for reading, Leah!

  • Shannon Willett Ketchum

    I don’t mind a poorly written card, I just appreciate receiving a thank you note. I still send hand-written thank you cards and I am glad that a lot of people in my life still do the same. In the modern day we live in with email and texts replacing the written word, it’s nice to still receive a piece of mail with handwriting on it.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      You’re right, Shannon- no matter what, it’s nice to receive a hand written card and receive something in the mail- there was still put thought into that!

  • Nas

    I am such an advocate for writing thank you notes! They really show your personality and politeness and that you put some time and thought into what you have to say. ( Definitely not the same as emails!) I love letters and thank you notes!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’m so glad you share my love for notes- thanks for stopping by!

  • I love writing thank you notes – this post is wonderful! Now to get to my 200+ ones from my wedding soon…haha 🙂

  • I am starting to feel like we grew up in the same house! My family taught me the same things. I also attended etiquette school. when I had my daughter I wrote so many hand written thank you notes my hand had ink stains for days. I personally have never received a Thank You note, but I know everyone that has received one from me was so thrilled. I know that with the internet everything seems so disconnected and unpersonalized now. But the time old tradition of handwritten letters and notes still give the same wonderful effect they did years ago. What a great post on keeping such a time honored tradition a live!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’m glad I found my kindred spirit! We sound very similar, and how nice for your recipients to receive such nice, personal notes from you. It’s so strange that it’s not reciprocated, but keep doing what you’re doing. : )

  • I don’t do thank you notes that often because snail mail is so dead but this was needed because I have yet to write a thank you note to somebody. I don’t want it to just be plain with my signature. So I will definitely use these tips while I am writing. 🙂

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I hope this inspired you! I love getting personal letters in the mail- my sister and some family members and friends will send each other mail, and it’s such a great feeling when you’re used to just getting bills.

  • Thank you notes are huge. Especially for special occasions such as weddings, graduation. I definitely get offended when I don’t receive one after taking the time to attend your event, give you a gift/money, and not receive a thank you. These are great tips!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I have felt the same way when I haven’t received thank you notes. I don’t even mind if thank you notes come late- I understand that life gets in the way, and I think ‘better late than never,’ but I write my thank you’s immediately so I don’t forget!

  • Belle Vie A Deux

    Thank you notes are so sweet to receive. I never expect them but it just means a lot when one is so thoughtful! I love sending them and those you used are gorgeous!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I love writing and receiving notes, and lately I have been getting my notes from the dollar section at Target and at Michaels. They have the CUTEST styles.

  • YESSSS. I wrote a post like this a while ago because thank you notes are SO important!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Ahh, great minds think alike : )