How to write a proper thank-you note
Since the dawn of time, people have debated the best way to say thank you. Phone calls, emails, text messages—they all get the job done. But a handwritten thank-you note can say more: It tells our friends and family that we went out of our way to sit down and write just to them, because they’re worth it. Here is our guide to crafting the perfect thank-you note.
- Buy nice notecards. No, these need not be professionally customized with your name or initials (although that’s a lovely idea), but thank yous should be written on heavy, somewhat elegant stock using a good pen or fine marker. Note: A blank card with a personal note is always better than a pre-written thank-you card with just a signature.
- A casual tone is OK. Don’t use words in your note that would never come out of your mouth. “Thank you for the exquisite cufflinks” doesn’t work if you’ve never uttered the word “exquisite.” Instead, write the way you speak: “Thanks for the really cool cufflinks: I love skulls with ruby eyes—these are truly special!” (And don’t spoil the sentiment by saying you don’t own any French cuff shirts.)
- Don’t use too many superlatives to describe the gift, even if you love it, as overkill sounds inauthentic even when you mean it. The cashmere sweater is either fabulous, beautiful, gorgeous or magnificent—not all four.
- Don’t waste too many lines describing the gift: The person who bought it for you already knows what it looks like (presumably). Instead, add a line or two about how you plan to use it. (“The woven basket looks fabulous next to my fireplace” or “I’ve already stuck many pins into the voodoo doll, pretending it’s you-know-who…”)
- If you truly dislike the gift and will never use it, focus your note instead on the thoughtfulness or generosity of the giver. “How did you know that green is my favorite color?” “How lucky am I that you chose the most extravagant chocolates in the world!” (Don’t mention that wearing green brings out your olive skin tone, making you look sickly, or that your new diet precludes eating sweets!)
- Once you’ve said a few nice things about the gift, move on to the giver. “How lucky am I to have such a wonderful boss!” or “Thanks for all you do for me throughout the year!”
- End with a casual phrase, but make it as personal as possible. “Look forward to seeing you at spring break” or “Please call me next time you’re in the city” is better than “Hope to see you soon…”
- If you’re desperate (ran out of note cards, can’t get to post office for stamps, having a holiday breakdown), a thank-you email is better than no thank you at all. Just make it as warm and personal as you would a real thank-you card and run out TODAY to buy stamps and nice notecards for next time.