How To Write an Effective Thank You Note for Any Occasion

With graduation season recently passed and many early summer weddings ongoing, a lot of people are facing the task of writing a big pile of notes to friends and family, thanking them for their gift-giving generosity. I’ve faced down this big task several different times in my life – and interestingly enough, most of those occasions fell squarely in the middle of the month of June.

Frankly, though, thank you notes can be a big source of anxiety for many people and it’s often something that’s put off until later because of that anxiety. To help get through that anxiety, here’s a guide to thank you notes, covering when they’re appropriate to send and how to assemble an effective one.

Why Send Thank You Notes At All?

A thank you note has two big things going for it.

It’s a simple way of showing gratitude towards someone who has done something kind for you. Whenever someone gives you a gift, they’re taking a piece of their own resources and handing it to you, a resource that could have been used to plan for their own future. With that consideration, I’m usually quite grateful for any gift I receive, and a thank you note is a very tangible way to show your thanks for that gift. It’s something that takes just a moment or two of your own time, yet clearly and permanently shows gratitude for a gift to someone else.

It keeps the communication loop open between you and that person. A thank you note extends the window of opportunity of communication with someone else, keeping your name in their mind. It’s for this reason that many people advise sending a thank you note after a job interview, as it will add a late positive to their opinion of you as they make a hiring decision. It can also serve to keep open communications with someone with whom you may have a strained or a small relationship.

In other words, a handwritten thank you note is a perfect balm for many situations. It can help extend your personal relationships and also in extending your career.

When Are Thank You Notes Appropriate?

A long time ago, I wrote a paean to the thank you note that listed many occasions upon which a thank you note is appropriate. Here are some of those occasions.

Whenever you receive a gift, send a thank-you note. If someone sends you a gift (that’s more than just a product promotion), this is a great opportunity for such a note. This is particularly true with Christmas and other personal gift-giving occasions, though for personal notes, you should use blank, hand-written notes.

Whenever you interview for a job, send a thank-you note. This is true whether or not the interview went well; in either event, you should show appreciation. Why? Even in the worst case scenario, it taught you some things about yourself.

Whenever someone does something for you that is helpful for either your personal or professional life, send a thank-you note. I find these are the most powerful ones in terms of building a network of people that you can regularly connect with. I’m not typically the most social person, so when I am able to make a significant contact with a person, I make sure to follow up, because those individuals may eventually become your co-workers, your clients, or potentially your friends.

Whenever you establish a new professional contact, send a thank-you note. This doesn’t mean that you should send a note to every person that gives you a business card. Instead, wait for encounters that are actually meaningful. What I do is if I spent time interacting with someone and some genuinely fruitful ideas come out of the meeting, I’ll take their card and jot down a quick note on the back as a reminder. Then, when I have a few moments, I take the cards with notes on the back and issue thank-you notes to those individuals, using the jotted note as a reminder.

Avoid sending thank-you notes to the same person more often than every six months. I’ve found that more often than this creates a sycophantic impression, which is a negative. One note is great; five notes is creepy.

In short, send a thank you note when someone does something for you that has a positive impact on their life.

How to Write an Effective Thank You Note

First of all, thank you notes can be written on very informal stationery. I’m partial to very simple cards with an elegant image on the front and a blank inside upon which a note can be written. Don’t sweat it too much – just pick something that you like that isn’t potentially offensive to others.

Second, always hand write a thank you note. A handwritten thank you note has a certain level of elegance that you just can’t capture by typing and printing a note. Take out your pen and write down your thoughts. If you prefer, you can draft the note at the keyboard, but then copy your final text from the screen to the card.

Given that, it’s okay to use printed labels to save time with addressing the envelopes. Whenever we have many cards to send, I always print a sheet of address labels using my electronic address book. Not only does this save time, it also ensures accuracy of the address. As long as the note inside is handwritten, this is completely appropriate.

Addressing the thank you note Start off with the word “Dear,” then imagine you walked into a room and saw this person (or these people) without having seen them for a year. How would you address them? That’s what you should use next. For example, if it’s an old friend, use their first name. If it’s one of your parents’ friends that you don’t know particularly well, use Mr. and Mrs. Lastname. If you’re not sure, ask a person in the middle.

The first sentence Say “thank you for” and state the gift or opportunity you’ve been given. Here are three examples:

Thank you for the gift of $20 on the occasion of my graduation.
Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the systems analyst position.
Thank you for the wonderful dinner party you hosted on the 20th.
Thank you for the set of kitchen knives you gave to us for our wedding.

The second piece Express a further detailed appreciation of the gift or opportunity by explaining what it meant to you or what you plan on doing with the gift. Continuing with the above examples:

I plan on using that money to help buy textbooks in the fall.
It was exciting and interesting to learn more about your organization and the analyst position.
The roasted lamb was exquisite and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Barack and Michelle.
The knives have already found a home in our kitchen, and just last night I used the chef’s knife in preparing our first meal at home as a married couple.

The third piece Try to build towards a future connection with the note target. Some examples:

I hope you’ll stop in over Thanksgiving break at my parents so we can touch base and I can tell you all about my first semester in college.
I hope to hear from you soon about the position, and I hope that your organization and I can have a long and happy relationship.
Marge and I are planning a dinner party of our own in October, and I’ll be sure to call you to check with your calendar very soon.
We plan on being back there in August and we hope that we’ll bump into you then.

The signature Sign it pleasantly and friendly, no matter what. I almost always sign my notes “Thanks again!” and my name under that.

Here are the four full notes from the examples above.

Dear Mr. Hobbs,

Thank you for the gift of $20 on the occasion of my graduation. I plan on using that money to help buy textbooks in the fall. I hope you’ll stop in over Thanksgiving break at my parents so we can touch base and I can tell you all about my first semester in college.

Thanks again,
Billy Larson

Dear Dr. McCaskill,

Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the systems analyst position. It was exciting and interesting to learn more about your organization and the analyst position. I hope to hear from you soon about the position, and I hope that your organization and I can have a long and happy relationship.

Thanks again,
William Larson

Dear Mr. Hobbs,

Thank you for the set of kitchen knives you gave to us for our wedding. The knives have already found a home in our kitchen, and just last night I used the chef’s knife in preparing our first meal at home as a married couple. We plan on being back there in August and we hope that we’ll bump into you then.

Thanks again,
Bill and Marjorie Larson

Dear Steve and Colleen,

Thank you for the wonderful dinner party you hosted on the 20th. The roasted lamb was exquisite and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Barack and Michelle. Marjorie and I are planning a dinner party of our own in October, and I’ll be sure to call you to check with your calendar very soon.

Thanks again,
Bill Larson

But it doesn’t sound natural! This is why it’s often good to work on a note on the keyboard first, where you can edit it a bit until it sounds natural. Copy and paste a note from above, edit the pieces as you see fit, and keep tweaking until it sounds right. When it does, you’re probably very close to something that will work for all of your thank you notes, so pull out the pen and get to work!

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  1. Laura G says:

    Great post as usual, Trent! I am all about Thank You notes, and I agree with 99.99% of what you’ve written here.

    The one thing I disagree with (and it might be a regionalism, I don’t know) is that I was always told that you *never* say “Thank you for the monetary gift,” much less specifying the amount. “Thank you for the generous gift” was considered the appropriate euphemism, eg:

    “Dear Mrs. Smith,

    Thank you so much for your generous gift. It will be incredibly useful as I get ready to furnish my new dorm room this fall. Thank you also for coming to my graduation party. Your continued support means so much to me.

    Once again, thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Laura G”

  2. Diane says:

    I used to be the world’s worst at getting thank-you notes out. I wanted to share my most successful method for getting notes written for gifts… This method was established for a pile of unwrapped gifts, but also works for a single wrapped gift.

    (1) Assemble gifts and thank-you note supplies (including address book and stamps)
    (2) Open gift
    (3) Write thank-you note
    (4) Repeat (2) and (3) until all gifts are open and all notes are written.

    The advantage here is you’re not faced with 50 thank-you notes to write and no concrete “reward” for writing them. You’re immediate reward becomes opening the next gift. It’s also much easier to write an appropriate note to Aunt Gertrude if you know for sure what she sent you.

    This method is, of course, not likely to work if you have an audience (i.e. baby shower), but for opening a bunch of gifts at home, like for weddings or graduations, it’s great.

    Trent – I really enjoy reading your posts.

  3. So, the rule about not sending a second thank you note within six months…

    What about a second interview? I met with different folks at the second interview so I thought I would send the second thank you note just to them. Is sending a second thank you note for a second interview over kill?

  4. Tim Lesher says:

    I keep hearing this advice from different places, but it didn’t really sink in until this year.

    Twice this year, my kindergarten-age daughter gave “presents” to her bus driver. Nothing big–for his birthday, she wanted to buy him an inexpensive mug from his favorite sports team; for the last day of school, she made him a “goodie bag” with a little “best bus driver” sign.

    Each time, we received a simple, hand-written, thank-you note a few days later. Even though he saw her every afternoon, he still took the time to send them through the post office.

    It seemed unusual to my jaded grown-up mind, but the effect on my daughter was huge. She beamed for days each time.

  5. Erin says:

    “The roasted lamb was exquisite and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Barack and Michelle.” Love it!!

  6. Aaron says:

    Nice post Trent. Thank you cards always make me nervous, as whatever I right I feel makes me look like a goober. I never seem to be able to come up with good words. I’m totally stealing your examples for next time.

  7. J. Savings says:

    Oh man you are SO on the money with this one Trent. Not only does it show you are thankful for ____ , but it really shows that you care about said person.

    And the hand written part? ABSOLUTELY – without a doubt.

    This is especially important when thanking someone for a JOB INTERVIEW. Sure an email *says* the same thing, but an actual written card goes a LOOOOOOOONG way.

    I’d say a good 85% of the people in our firm wrote thank you cards, of which 2 were decided on BECAUSE of the cards ;)

  8. Megan says:

    I have to agree with Laura G. *NEVER* mention the monetary amount of a gift! Maybe it’s my southern upbringing, but specifying money like that is very uncouth!

  9. Kate says:

    Great post, Trent, but I agree with Laura G. about specifying the amount of a monetary gift.

  10. brooke says:

    From a long time reader, first time poster…..after my wedding, I used the opening line of “Thank you so much for your contribution to the Newlywed Fund!” and then continued to say what we hoped to do with the money. It was a light-spirited way to say thanks for the money, and we felt that it adequately reflected us while showing appreciation.

  11. Sarah F. says:

    Great post! I was always taught to send prompt thank you notes after receiving gifts and the like. It’s important to show gratitude to someone who has indeed given a portion of their resource to you that they could have used for themselves and their goals. It really does go a long way.

  12. Trent says:

    My grandma always told me that you ~should~ specify the amount of a monetary gift so that it could confirm that the correct amount was received and something wasn’t lifted (as can happen with the postal service, unethical relatives, etc.).

  13. Mindy says:

    Great Post! I think that it is very important to send thank you notes/cards. I always try and do handwritten especially for interviews, but lately i’ve been told not to do thankyou cards for interviews but send an “thank you email” since it’s faster. What’s your take on this?

  14. Shanel Yang says:

    All great examples of good thank you notes! My only concern is that sending a thank you letter after a truly bad interview, especially as a candidate for a professional or executive position, may come off as either disingenuous or might make you seem sadly clueless. Both can leave lasting bad impressions.

    But, if you think you have a shot at it, I would make the letter more specific by using examples from your interview to remind them about what a great time you had during the interview:

    Dear Dr. McCaskill:

    It was a pleasure to meet with you today to learn more about the great people and systems that make your [company/firm/office] so outstanding in [the field / my opinion]. I especially enjoyed hearing about the [specific information]. And, your [explanation/discussion] about [specific information] was [very helpful / enlightening]. Based on everyone I met and everything I have learned thus far, I am more confident than ever that I made the right choice in wanting to work for your [company/firm/office].

    I look forward to hearing from you in the near future so that we can work together toward a long and prosperous future for your company.

    Sincerely yours,
    William Larson

    WKS/wks

  15. Man I have like 100 graduation thank you’s to write, I’ll be using all these tips! Thanks!

  16. Shanel Yang says:

    Oh, and always typed for thank you letters after job interviews.

    @ childfreelife

    Most books on the subject recommend a separate letter for each interviewer and for each interview.

  17. Tana says:

    I always feel bad, though, when I receive a thank you note for a gift I gave someone in person, such as at a baby shower. They thanked me then, and I had the pleasure of seeing the delight on their face when they opened a gift. Why on earth do they need to take the time to send me a thank you note? If I wasn’t there when they received the gift, then a thank you not – or better, a thank you phone call – is appreciated. Also, hearing later when I see the person, how they used or enjoyed the gift is always nice. But there’s more to life than writing thank you notes, especially when you already thanked someone in person. And thank yous in person are always much nicer than some note on a piece of paper.

    Just my opinion…

  18. Shevy says:

    I was taught that you should never start a thank you note with the words “thank you” (or include the amount of a monetary gift because it indicates that you only care about the amount, not the person). For example:

    Dear Aunt Dora,

    It was wonderful to see you at the wedding. I’m so glad you were able to fly in for the day.

    Dave and I plan to use your generous gift for a digital camera so we can take pictures of all our memorable moments. We’ll be sure to send you lots of photos from our honeymoon. The cruise departs in 2 days and we can hardly wait!

    Love,
    Susie and Dave

    Or:

    Dear Mr. Smith,

    I appreciate the time you took to meet with me today regarding the summer internship.

    As I told you, I’m really interested in the insurance industry and would love to spend the next two months working with you and Mr. Jones. I’m sure I can learn a tremendous amount from you.

    I look forward to hearing from you regarding the position early next week.

    Sincerely,
    Susan Brown

  19. Flea says:

    Trent, my wife is obsessive about thank you notes. She sends them after we go to dinner at a friends house. She sends them when the neighbor takes in our mail while we are on vacation. She is really, really good about doing this…completely takes the pressure off me ;) (Like there was any – I was always horrible about doing this)….

    Flea
    http://beasurvivor.blogspot.com/

  20. liv says:

    I am so bad about the thank-you notes for job interviews…

  21. !wanda says:

    “Thanks again!” seems very nontraditional as a closing phrase. But what do I know? I just found out by Googling that there is a distinction between, “Yours sincerely” and, “Yours faithfully.”

  22. Lauren says:

    Does this 6 month rule apply to everyone, or mostly just professional relationships? My bridal shower is at the end of the month and my wedding is in August, so when you throw in birthday in July and finally Christmas in December, that’ll be 3-4 thank yous for closest friends and family. Is there a better way to approach this?

  23. Lurker Carl says:

    Hand written thank you notes seems to be a dying art. Actually, hand written ANYTHING seems to have gone by the wayside. Thanks for providing some “CPR” for it.

  24. Sophie says:

    Like Shevy I also was taught that thank-you notes should *not* open with “Thank you for the…”

    I think if you try it, Trent, you will find that your notes will sound more lively and personal – and much more memorable – if you open with almost anything else. Compare: “Marjorie and I are still talking about the wonderful dinner party you hosted on the 20th.” vs. “Thank you for the wonderful dinner party you hosted on the 20th.” or “The set of kitchen knives you gave to us for our wedding have already found a home in our kitchen…” vs. “Thank you for the set of kitchen knives you gave to us for our wedding.”

    To me, as a recipient of post-interview notes, “I appreciate the time you took to meet with me…” sounds as if the interviewee actually took a moment to think about what to write. Whereas “Thank you for the opportunity to interview…” sounds canned and obligatory.

  25. I learned this lesson really young. I was shy and was embarrassed telling everyone thank you for my gifts so when they all left my mom made me write notes or call EVERY single person, lol. Lesson learned.

    As for being bad about getting notes out, someone suggested writing notes as you open the gifts, but if that is not possible because of a baby shower, etc. My rule of thumb is you write the note before you are allowed to use the item. That usually gets me going.

    Someone mentioned feeling silly about writing thank you notes, but think about when YOU get a note. Do you sit there and think about every word the person used? No, you give it a quick glance, think, that was nice… then toss the card. So don’t get so worked up about it. Most people are really just flattered that you took the time to say thank you. I live down South though so it is very common to get them for things here, and considered VERY rude if you don’t write one for a gift.

  26. MES says:

    I’m with Jen (#21). I don’t use the gift or deposit the check until I’ve written the thank you note. That said, sometimes a check will sit around for a while because I like to take the time to write something nice.

    My grandma made the decision that people who didn’t bother with a thank you (either in person or written) didn’t deserve to get a gift next time. We used to think she was just being picky, but as I get older and do more gifting, I really appreciate her feelings on the subject. For me a lot of it is about acknowledgement that the gift was even received. So many times I spend the time choosing, packaging and mailing a gift never to know if it arrived at its destination.

  27. Allie says:

    Hello! I wanted to share an option for young kids to write thank you notes. There are a kind of “fill-in-the-blank” notes that kids who are just starting to learn to write their names and such can fill out and send. Here is an example: http://www.myexpression.com/prodDetail.cfm?ProductID=1488
    I have used these for my son for Christmas and his birthday (both his first) and I know my relatives and friends appreciated the thanks. I filled them out for now and he added his own touch with a crayon, but as soon as he can write his name, he will be doing the work!

  28. one of nine says:

    I have mixed feelings about thank-you notes. On some occasions I agree they are absolutely essential. For instance, I once had a lawyer write a letter on my behalf free of charge; I not only sent him a thank-you note but a gift certificate to a nice restaurant because his actions were so thoughtful.

    On the other hand, my Brazilian husband is morally opposed to the formality of thank-you notes. He would agree wholeheartedly with the reader who says that getting a thank-you note is uncomfortable– his thanks were received when the recipient opened the gift or expressed gratitude for the effort. If the person giving the gift is not present, then a telephone call is most appropriate to convey the sentiment in person, not through a piece of paper.(I have to admit this is GREAT for me because I never have to worry about being the one to send thank-you notes to HIS family and friends! Haha)

    My question is what is an appropriate age for CHILDREN to begin sending thank-you notes? Example: my niece just celebrated her 5th birthday. She can write her name, but it is labor intensive and time consuming, yet my sister made her sit and print her name out on 40+ thank-you notes after her party. I think this is a bit much to expect of a 5 year old, and will make a child resent the thank-you note process instead of understanding the motivation behind expressing sincere gratitude. What do you think, Trent?

  29. Jon says:

    Excellent article! I sent it to my daughter, who just returned from her honeymoon.

  30. Eve says:

    This is the classic “how to write a thank you note”:
    http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/how_to/how_to_write_a_thankyou_note.php

  31. Kathy says:

    One occassion that folks don’t think needs “Thank you’s” – Funerals. These are the hardest ones to write and it usually falls to the person most affected whose brain isn’t working right afterwards. The best thing is to do them while all family is present and get it overwith. (I watched my husband’s cousins do it at the house right after the funeral meal.)
    What I’m trying to say – If you are close within the family, offer to help! In most cases you are signing the card “The Family of…..” This is a weight that can be lifted from someone who probably just can’t cope.
    Great article!

  32. Jen says:

    Hee hee…I’ve basically been using this same formula since I was about five and my mom forced me to start writing thank-you notes. :-)

  33. Jules says:

    You should reference the amount received in a cash gift, and for the reasons you mentioned.

    Small world–I wrote an article on Thank You notes for another blogger a few months back (she designs greeting cards) and I gave the same advice, except I call it the APE method to writing thank you notes.

    1. Acknowledge (the gift)
    2. Personalize (mention the gift, the giver, your relationship, etc.)
    3. Extend (extend an invitation to the giver to see the gift in action–or, if you’re not comfortable with that, wrap up the personalization with a generic conclusion)

  34. AJ says:

    I’m with the grandmother of one of the above respondents. Two strikes and you’re out. Life is busy, everyone is busy, take two minutes to write the thank you note. It took me a lot longer to earn the $ to buy the gift, shop and purchase the gift, and wrap it.

  35. Vicky says:

    Regarding formality: Certainly thank you notes can seem stilted and unnatural if you’re a naturally informal person. I am a little more formal to begin with so they feel quite comfortable, but if you’re not, just make it your own. I’ve really enjoyed thank-you postcards in the past, and there’s something wonderfully personal about just mailing (or emailing!) a picture of yourself with the gift and a thumbs up. For my part, I feel much more uncomfortable and on-the-spot trying to express gratitude in person. When you’re used to squealing and jumping as some of my friends are, my quiet “How lovely!” can be a bit of a let-down.

    Regarding thank you notes for children: Every year I buy girl scout cookies from the young daughters of a coworker. They draw a single “thank you” picture together in crayon and sign their names, and my coworker makes copies and distributes them with the cookies. I think it’s lovely and a great way for children to say “thank you” without the monotony of signing dozens of letters.

    Regarding monetary gifts: For me it’s a simple equation. The only people who ever send me monetary gifts are the same ones who taught me never to mention money in a thank you note. I just write to the expectations of the audience. :) It really is just a cultural thing.

    Regarding spacing of letters: The whole 6-month rule is really just a rough guide. I try to send thank-you notes for various professional reasons and I would definitely limit those. Similarly, I’m probably not going to send a separate thank-you note for both a Christmas party and a New Year’s party three weeks later. But for personal acquaintances or must-thank situations like weddings I think that rule goes out the window. I mean, if it’s creepy to send two thank you notes in 6 months, does it therefore follow that it was creepy for someone to send you 2 gifts? I think not.

    Regarding occasions: Trent’s list is good, but I have a few more specific occasions I want to mention. Be sure to thank someone if you stayed in their home overnight (within reason). Thank friends of family when they allow you to borrow something that saves you a significant amount of cost or trouble. If you have interned somewhere, thank your mentor at the END of the position. Thank professional and academic contacts when they provide written references for you.

  36. ACaminante says:

    “How do you properly dispose of used oil and transmission fluid when you change it at home?”

    Most auto parts stores (and some mechanics, junk yards and haz mats) will let you drop off used oil for free. Buy an oil drain pan with a lid ($5), fill it up, and take it with you the next time you go by the auto parts store.

    RE: it’s cheaper/faster to pay someone to change your oil instead of doing it yourself

    I find those 15-min oil change places usually completely overfill my oil, which can damage your car. After you learn how to change your own oil, it usually takes about a half hour. Most of the time spent changing your own oil is waiting for the oil to drain into the pan, so while you’re waiting you can clean the inside of your car, clean the air filter, and do other chores and maintenance. All you need is the oil, the oil filter, a drain pan, rags, a socket wrench, and an oil filter wrench (another $5). Depending how high your car is off the ground and where the oil drain plug is located, you might need to buy a jack and stands or drive-up ramps.

    If changing the oil really does only save you a measly $5 instead of the $20 or $30 Trent suggested, then you just saved $5 for about 15 extra minutes of your time. That’s $20 an hour. I doubt you can recoup that money while waiting in Jiffy Lube, reading back issues of Time magazine.

  37. Republican Reader says:

    Your political affiliations have been coming out a bit too much lately. Seriously – working Obama into a piece about thank-you notes?? That is too bad. I may have to stop reading.

  38. MJ says:

    Hand written Thank You cards are a lost art, you should have seen the ones I received from college graduates.

  39. Bonnie says:

    It’s appalling how many people don’t write thank-you notes these days. ESPECIALLY for wedding and baby-shower gifts.

  40. Doosh says:

    Goodness, Republican Reader, how about a little sense of humor? Is the advice worse or less valuable due to the political sensibilities of the author?

  41. Bobby says:

    Did you really just use “touch base” in a thank-you letter?

  42. Jimmy Jones says:

    Giving that I just did a job interview that you know you did absolutely great and had planned to send out thank you [handwritten] cards the next day..but then recv’d e-mail the same day or first thing in the next morning that the job was offered to some1 else…or the company decided to pursue other candidates [that sort of stupidly match their search]. What would anyone do in this case? send the card neway? or just say.., eh …save my mileage…and don’t waste my time sending it since I didn’t get the job?

    Should I use your reason above [ A thank you note extends the window of opportunity of communication with someone else, keeping your name in their mind.] and still send the cards anyway???

    let me hear in the comment pls.

  43. Sheep Dog says:

    The lost art of thank you notes. Good call, but please stop injecting your politics into the material, it is getting really old.

  44. Stop Trippin says:

    Yea I agree I don’t need to have liberal bias spread into something as simple as writing a thank you note. Nobama, it ain’t happenin jit.

  45. Thank you for this detailed article about the importance and steps to writing thank you notes.

    Expressing gratitude is one of the key ways to make your own life happy.

    Your article reminds me of the days I insisted that my children send thank you notes for Christmas and birthday gifts. They protested and hated it then, but today as adults they write thoughtful and touching handwritten notes. They are always remembered by interviewers because they always send thank you notes.

  46. Abbie says:

    Like the above poster’s children I hated being forced to write notes for gifts, but now I understand how valuable they can be in maintaining or building relationships.

    I have to agree with some of the other comments about starting your note with something other than “Thank you for…”, especially if you card already says “Thank you” on the front.

  47. Jordan says:

    Hmm… I actually have a book about this type of etiquette stuff, and it states that you should NOT say thank you in the first line, because it’s clear that all you care about is thanking them, as opposed to having a personal connection.

    It suggests instead that you start with something like “I hope this letter finds you and your family well.” Then continue the next line with the “Thank you…”

  48. Kathy says:

    A couple useful links:

    1) Etiquette Hell: True stories of people’s appalling thank-you faux pas so you won’t feel so bad about the awkward thank you note you may have written:
    http://www.etiquettehell.com/content/eh_wedding/thankynotes/enotesfhell.shtml

    2) Thank You Note Samples: Pages and pages of sample thank you notes for all occasions:
    http://www.thank-you-note-samples.com

  49. Great post and loved reading all 48 comments prior to mine (minus the folks who got off topic…)

    Age to Start: I started writing thank you notes when I was 5 and I am grateful that my mom had me do them. At the time, the format was a fill in the blank so that I could start good habits. My son started thank you notes at 3 when he could sign his name. I would write the majority of the note, with him sitting next to me to tell me what he liked about each item and then he would sign the note. It may be time consuming, but teaching gratitude at an early age is much easier than teaching it after bad habits have formed.

    Card or Letter aft Interview: I have presented on a number of panels for college seniors and this topic comes up often. I would prefer a hand written personal note, but a number of other professionals on the panel said that was too familiar for an interview and a letter keeps it professional. I believe the bottom line is that you should have an understanding of the cultural environment of the company you are interviewing with before the interview and the thank you should be sent in accordance with the culture and the “vibe” you get from the person that interviewed you.

    Handwritten or Typed: Hands down hand written is the best, but in many situations I have had clients that have medical conditions that make it quite painful to hand write anything. Also, there are a number of people that can think in a more flowing an sincere fashion when typing vs writing… Heck, now there are a number of students that start their composition classes on PCs, writing… what is that… In those cases I suggest http://www.OrganizeMyCards.com as a tool to send physical cards in the mail in your handwriting and signature.

    Culture Differences: I was just talking to a great lady from Russia that told me that they never wrote thank you cards growing up b/c it was more customary to thank in person. However, now that she is in the US, she is following the 80/20 rule and teaching her daughter how to write the notes.

    Content more important than how: Thank you notes first and foremost are to let the person know that they are important to you and you are grateful for something they have done including their willingness to be involved in your life in one degree or another. It is much better to express that feeling than to decide to not do it b/c you can’t do it “right.”

    My most surprising thank you note received: I had a client send me a thank you note for the sympathy card I sent her when her father passed away. I thought that was way overboard, but when I did a “reality check” with a number of people, I was amazed at how many said that was 100% appropriate.

  50. Brad says:

    I am sure that someone already pointed out the following error in this but I will pointed it out as well. You write:

    The first sentence Say “thank you for” and state the gift or opportunity you’ve been given. Here are three examples:

    Thank you for the gift of $20 on the occasion of my graduation.
    Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the systems analyst position.
    Thank you for the wonderful dinner party you hosted on the 20th.
    Thank you for the set of kitchen knives you gave to us for our wedding.

    Please note that there are four examples here and not three as stated.

  51. Serena says:

    I loved this post.

    Not only is it good manners to write a thank you note, but I truly believe that each time I sit down and write to someone why I am appreciate a gift they gave me or something he/ she did for me, I actually feel the gratitude more deeply.

    Does that make sense?

    Life can be so harried that sometimes, for example, I’ll receive a Christmas present, open it hurriedly and put it aside for a few weeks without thinking much about it. But when the day comes to write the thank you letter, I take the time to see the present with new eyes. Writing a few meaningful sentences by hand makes me slow down enough consider the effort the giver put into selecting something for me, wrapping it, writing out a card… Were it not for the tradition of writing thank you notes, I might never have the pleasure of really savouring the thoughtfulness behind the gift.

    I wish that every child would learn this gentle art. Not only is it good etiquette, but it helps each of us remember how much we have to be grateful for!

  52. nka says:

    Your note on the interview in particular seems far to general to be effective. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to include something that connects with the interviewer in there? Thanks for the other tips though.

  53. Sarah says:

    I have only just picked up this thread. I have already sent out my numerous thank you notes for christmas gifts – hope you all have too. In fact they were on behalf of my children who are too young to write them themselves. Picked up lots of good ideas on:

    http://www.thank-you-note-examples-wording-ideas.com

    My kids made the cards themselves and I think that goes a long way rather than just the normal shop bought ones. They also had great fun doing them.

  54. Lisa says:

    My children (now 7 and 10) have sent thank you cards since they were very young (at first just scribbling their name on the bottom and for a few years now, writing their own). Not only do people appreciate the thank you cards, our rule is you can’t use the gift until you’ve writtent the thank you. I also go by this rule for myself. This has made birthdays and Christmas so much more meaningful…instead of just tearing through the gifts and then being bored in an hour, the kids open presents in the morning and write a thank you to a few people, play or use what they got, and then later do a few more, until they are all done. With each thank you comes the reward of using what they received.

  55. You're Welcome says:

    If you ever receive a “Thank You” note, make sure that you send a “You’re Welcome” card.

    In most cases, Thank You cards are completely unecessary, so try taking the process one step further by sending a You’re Welcome Card. I’ve also started to hand out “You’re Welcome Cards” with gifts knowing that I’m not going to receive a thank you. ;-)

  56. to write a letter you should have good hand writing

  57. Charles Cohn says:

    I strongly object to your statement that a thank-you letter should be handwritten. I have always had a lot of trouble with handwriting, and I hate it. My handwriting was always bad, and I caught a lot of flak on that account from the female authority figures in my life. As I progressed in life, handwriting became unimportant and I was glad to leave it behind as an unpleasant memory. I would much rather receive a well-composed printed note than have to struggle reading someone else’s bad handwriting. Besides, with a computer and printer you can add nice touches like including a picture of yourself wearing the item, if it’s wearable.

  58. jeanet wallace says:

    Wish you could see the one I received from a recent college graduate.
    What a shame !

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