How to Write a Thank-You Note

The Fundamentals of Saying Thank You

By The Old Farmer's Almanac
thank-you-note-etiquette

Why are thank-you notes important? How long does a thank-you note have to be? Here are the oft-forgotten fundamentals of writing a thank-you note.

Why write a thank-you note?

Thank-you notes are not only good manners, but also good for your health! Yes, it’s true!

A study in Psychological Science showed that writing a thank you letter both improves the giver’s happiness and put the writer in more positive spirits. That’s the power of gratitude!

While many thank-you letter writers get concerned about the exact words they use, it turns out that the recipients were simply touched at the warmth and thoughtfulness of the letter itself.

So, starting writing thank-you notes—and write them more often! It comes at very little cost and benefits everyone.

Which occasions require a thank-you note?

A gift traditionally requires a thank-you note from the recipient, no matter what the occasion for the gift—a holiday, birthday, anniversary, religious event, award, or accomplishment.

Thank-you notes are also recommended when services have been performed (especially as a favor or for free), when hospitality has been provided, or in appreciation of generosity or thoughtfulness.

When should a thank-you note be written?

Immediately. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes, and the less appreciative you will appear.

What is needed for a thank-you note?

Traditionally, a blue or black ink pen on fine stationery, a blank card, or suitable notepaper.

How do I write a thank-you note?

Write a draft first. Before using your “good” paper, gather your thoughts and jot them on a piece of scrap paper.

Keep each note short—three or four sentences is fine. You can express your thanks just as sincerely as you can in several paragraphs.

  1. Write something personal/emotional about the giver.  Do not use the word “I”: A thank-you note is not about you, it is about the person who gave you the gift. Some examples include “You are so thoughtful!” or “How did you know … ?” or “Your presence at [EVENT] was a gift, but the [GIFT] made it a truly special day.”
  2. Comment on what you will do with the gift (especially if it is money) and/or how you will use the gift (e.g., in school, on vacation, at work, in the kitchen, etc.). Be specific. “Thank you so much for the beautiful set of wineglasses! We really enjoy entertaining, so the glasses will get plenty of use”).
  3. Express your thanks for the gift and the giver, e.g., his or her thoughtfulness or generosity or on what a special place he or she occupies in your family or heart or circle of friends.

Remember: Be authentic, be original, be sincere.

Once you are satisfied with your thank-you sentences, write them on the “good” paper.

  • Start with “Dear [NAME],”
  • End with cordial regards, e.g., “Sincerely,” or “With love,” or “You’re the best!” or “Yours truly,”
  • Sign the thank-you note.
  • Address the envelope, put a postage stamp on it, and mail it.

Can I print—not write in cursive—a thank-you note?

Printing a thank-you note is acceptable, but cursive is a nice touch (as long as it’s legible).

Can I just say “thank you” verbally to the giver?

You can—and should—say “thank you” to the giver when you receive a gift, but a proper appreciation should be expressed on paper and sent by mail.

Can I use email, social media, or the phone to say “thank you”?

You can express your thanks in those ways, but nothing beats a thank-you note written on paper and sent in an envelope.

If I do not like the gift, do I need to send a thank-you note?

Yes—but if you do not like a gift, do not reveal your displeasure in the note. Focus on your appreciation of the giver’s thoughtfulness, generosity, and good intentions. Remember the adage “It’s the thought that counts.” Keep an open mind: You may actually develop a fondness and appreciation for the item later.

What difference will a thank-you note make?

If you send a thank-you note, you and the gesture will never be forgotten. If you do not, you will not be forgotten either, but not for the same reason nor with the same regard.

At what age should kids send thank-you notes?

It’s a great idea to get children in the habit of writing their own thank-you notes by preschool age. If your child can’t write yet, transcribe the note for them and have them write (or scribble!) their name at the end. Recipients—whether grandparents, other family members, or friends—are guaranteed to be delighted!

Say thank you with a note … and a gift!

It’s OK to go overboard with your appreciation and send a thank-you gift. Make your own gift jars with something edible inside or see other fun gifts you can make in the kitchen.

Did you know?

National Handwriting Day is January 23!

Do you have any tips for writing the best thank you cards? Do you still write thank-you notes? Let us know in the comments below!

Reader Comments

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Thank You Notes

My sister is an avid fan of writing paper cards and sending them. In the age of electronics she is adamant that the "bricks and mortar" version is best. I would agree that there is something special when someone takes the time and the stamp to send a note or card. Funny that a real paper version is treasured nowadays. Remember when it was just the norm? The USPS would also support Farmer's Almanac on this matter!

Thank you notes

Good article, Farmers’ Almanac! Yes, I enjoy receiving a thank you note, as well as writing one. It kindly extends your appreciation for one’s thoughtfulness in remembering you. A fine practice in respect and honor one can do so easily that means so much.

Thank You Notes

I love photography and always take photos during family functions. I take the time to edit them, so everyone looks their best. I then print and mail it to them with a note. After 3 years of not even receiving a verbal thank you, I no longer take the time to do their photos. If they can't take 20 secs. to at least send a thank you text, then I can't spend hours editing and mailing your photos to you.
Thank you notes are important. It shows your gratitude and appreciation of the time, thought, and energy into choosing something just for them.
I always send Thank You note for anything I receive. Even if it's a ride somewhere. I'm sure it brings a smile to their heart.

Thank you notes

As a graduation present from a great aunt was a box of thank you cards. And yes she got a thank you using one of her cards. This was over 50 years ago.
Before my wedding I had been receiving gifts - I'd wait a few days and then write thank you notes for whatever I had received - I had received a gift the same day I wrote a few thank you notes - the person giving the last gift got a thank you a couple of days after giving the gift - she was so thrilled at receiving a prompt thank you she sent me another gift! This time I waited a week to send her a thank you note!!!

Thank You Notes

YES, I do send Thank You Notes. Our church body writes Thank You Notes to each other and we hand them out at our Thanksgiving Fellowship. We put each families name on a paper bag and put our notes into the bags that evening--then hand them out at our soup and pie supper. It gives us a chance to reminder how others have blessed us thru out the past year. I also have sent notes to family members and business professionals who helped me during the past year. I also save the notes I receive and if I get discouraged sometime, I pull the notes out and re-read them for encouragement.

From of Card

I remember reading in an etiquette book that the front of the card should be blank or monogrammed only, not have a big generic thank you written on it. Maybe the rules have changed but that was considered tacky even just 30 years ago.

Thank You Notes

Great article. Thank you for reminding everyone of the importance of TY notes. Not only does it make the writer feel better, it puts a smile on the face of the person receiving the note. I still hand write all of my cards and appreciate those cards more when they are hand written.

Getting them done, and what to include in the note

The rule of our house, elderly to young, is that you cannot use the gift until you write the note, which prompts the faster note! For occasions like Christmas, we make a list while gifts are being opened so we don't have to struggle remembering which gifts came from who. When a gift is not directly given by the giver, I always start by telling them the gift was received and/or is in perfect shape. This is because when I send a gift I worry about it arriving and whether it was in good shape. I am disappointed when I send something and the recipient doesn't bother to let me know they have it--especially when I have sent something special, fragile, valuable or with cash. On the positive side of sending thank you notes, we have always received so many nice comments from our friends about our and our children's being the only ones who consistently send thank you notes. I have noticed over the years people go out of their way to do things for my daughter and comment--she always sends such nice thank you notes to me. Not our purpose in sending the notes, but proof that kindnesses echo.

Thank YOU!

Words—and practices—to live by, Jan! Thanks so much for sharing!

Hand Writing

I love this article! The sad facts is that some schools are not teaching script to their students and it seems parents teaching their children to write Thank You notes is out the window.

The write stuff for thank yous...

You’ve got a point, Elaine, and it makes us wish there was a way to close that window. Things that go around eventually come around, so we’ll keep the pens and paper handy. Thank YOU for taking the time to write!

Thank you notes

Twice I have received thank-yous written by someone else on behalf of the recipient. Once was after sending a condolence gift to someone and another time was months after a wedding we got a generic note sent on the couple's behalf. In neither case were the people incapacitated or otherwise unable to write the notes themselves.

Thank you notes

When I was young my first sentence in a thank you note was: I want to thank you for _____.
My mother pointed out my mistake. She said, do not 'want' to thank them, just thank them! My other flaw is that I broke the rule mentioned in this article and used "I". The focus should be on the giver.

Handwriting, cursive and manners seem lost...

It’s rather unfortunate that there is a broader generation that are not being introduced to what seemed basic manners as I grew up. I agree, tablets and computers have put pen, pencil *gasp* and paper to rest. It would seem that cursive will eventually become a lost language, God forbid someone would stumble upon anything I have written in Calligraphy! My mother was not just my mum, but my preschool teacher, so my education of manners and writing started young at school and home. She did, as suggested, in this article, transcribe for me, and I was writing on my own, simple put the stamp on it for me. I still send thank you notes, but have moved towards cute postcards of my fur-kids, and now my friends and family keep them just for the picture! But, around every holiday, birthday, etc., my mother still checks, and asks if I’ve written my thank yous. Rest assured, my children will not only practice and us handwriting, but will learn cursive and maybe dabble in Calligraphy! Cheers!

Penmanship

I did not see in the comments my big pet peeve. Children today are not taught how to write. Everything is on a tablet or laptop. My niece's son is thirteen and his penmanship (if he writes at all) is worse than my writing in the first grade. His Mother now sends a photo card with a thank you. Better than nothing, at least I get an acknowledgement, albeit from his Mom. It would be nice if everyone was more thoughtful instead of being thoughtless.

thank you notes

Now what? I told a grandson how important thank you notes are. He "promised" to do better - he didn't. Last Christmas I didn't give him his usual $$ as a wake up call. It didn't apparently ring a bell. This year, I gave $$ again. No thank you notes are in the future. My Mom always said that if the giver takes the time to send a gift or money, the very least the recipient could do is acknowledge it. Must not be true any more -- Sad.

Always send a handwritten note

It is important to send a handwritten thank you for any gift. The giver will know you received it and know it was appreciated enough to take 5 minutes time to say so. If the receiver does not respond to a gift as far as I'm concerned they show a poor upbringing and bad manners.

THXS

I feel note/letter writing is a lost art. Your article is much appreciated. And the reminder that today recognizes the art!

Distance and thank you notes

It seems I am guilty as charged . I write thank you notes if something is sent to me from a distance when I can not personally give my thanks to the giver. This is not to condone the unfortunate modern tendency with some not to acknowledge the gift at all. The thing I have no excuse for is that when I was in school, once we learned to print we were taught penmanship! To practice our developing skills we were required to write all forms of correspondence so it not like I don't know how.
Thanks for reminding me of the joy of the written word and the nicety of sending even your next door neighbor a thank you note.

children's thank you notes

We treasure children's thank you notes. If the child is very young, they may draw a picture instead of writing, and then tell mom or dad what to print. They should also sign their name in some fashion.

I have recently shown some notes to now grown up children and sometimes they show them to their own children.

Emails will not be saved as letters and notes will, and it's unlikely emails or texts will be posted on the refrigerator door, or stood up on the piano!

Thank you for a Thank you

But if you receive a thank you note containing a gift, do you as the recipient then send a thank-you note for the thank-you gift?

Note after note?

Hi, Fay, good question. Somebody somewhere probably wrote on ruling on this, but we say, in the spirit of the thank you note custom that goes beyond courtesy or etiquette—connection, appreciation, friendship, even good humor—you could drop a quick “thank you” line to the giver. It can never hurt; on the contrary, as with any such out reach, it can strengthen a bond, deepen appreciation, live in memory, and open a channel of communication. It really depends on how you feel about the person. If you find a formal ruling on it, please share. Thank YOU!

Thank you for a Thank you

Nobody likes a Chain Letter and that is what this sounds like so, I would say it is not necessary to send a written Thank you in response to the same.

thank you notes

This is about the power of Good Thoughts. Even if you didn't like the gift, someone expended effort, time, money and heart to select it, wrap it, deliver it to you - they were thinking of you fondly throughout that process. So, when writing a note, feel into your relationship with that person and make the card personal. If you don't want it to go immediately into the recycle or fireplace, take time to choose a card with an image on it that you feel may resonate with that particular person, stand out, or make them smile or laugh.... One they might put on the fridge or the mantle for a little bit before tossing it - one that they might even save because it touched them, emotionally. Again, good feelings of your relationship will evade their home or workplace. The more Good Thoughts + Feeling we put into the world, the more Good Work gets done in this world and the stronger relationships become.

Thank you notes

My grandmother always impressed upon me the importance of thank you notes and the habit has stayed with me for my whole life. A benefit I receive by writing them is the memories of her teachings.

Thank you notes

When did it become common practice NOT to send a thank you note for a shower or wedding gift? Brides no longer open gifts at the reception so guests do not get to see any of them. I have been to several weddings lately and did not receive a thank you from anyone. Many of these were close relatives. Does that mean we don't merit a thank you for the gifts? The same goes for birthdays. I don't need a thank you note, but a word or two would be nice. At times I wonder if the gift even arrived. Where have manners gone to die? Should I stop giving gifts to ungrateful people?

I have often wondered the

I have often wondered the same thing as Jolyne. No thank you note for a wedding gift, one verbal thank you and one email thanks after giving 19 paintings of their own choice for a Christmas gift (I am an artist). It would have nice if I knew were they were hung or even if they were resifted or whatever.

Little things mean so very much

My grandmother had some very specific instructions when it came to writing notes and letters, especially thank-you notes. They went something like this: Do not begin any letter or note with "I". The less that particular word is used, the better -- if it must include a personal pronoun, try to phrase it using "me," "my," "we," or "our". Remember that a thank-you note is not about you. It is, first and foremost, about the person who gave the gift: their thoughtfulness, generosity, their good taste and discernment. Secondly, it is about the gift itself. Third, it's about what makes it the perfect choice. Be specific, as the writer of the article suggests. Even a gag gift is about the giver's great sense of humor, how funny it is, and how apt. People like to be acknowledged, especially young people. Saying or doing something that makes it about the giver personally, and lets them know that you put a little extra effort into thanking them, will make their day a little bit brighter. Two or three sentences is often plenty to get all that across.

If a person takes the time to

If a person takes the time to purchase a gift, if possible, the receiver, of that gift, as a courtesy, should send a thank-you note.