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.
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.
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.
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.
Again, keep your audience in mind when choosing a closing salutation, such as:
- Love, sincerely, yours truly, kind regards, warm regards, gratefully
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?