How to Write a Thank-You Note

The Fundamentals of Saying Thank You

December 14, 2019

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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Note after note?

The Editors's picture

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.