Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How To - Write a Thank You Note

With the holiday season nearly upon us, again, I thought a refresher in the art of writing a thank you note might be timely.

Thank you notes are dear to my heart. Growing up in my family, every gift received required a written thank you. Nothing else was done until the note was written, addressed, stamped, and mailed. Christmas mornings found my siblings and I crowded around the kitchen table scribbling out our thanks. Our poor toys spilled half opened from their boxes, just waiting for us to play...after the notes, of course.

I have proudly carried the tradition into adulthood. However, among the 30 and under age group, I have found proper thank you notes are not always a given. With the popularity of email and text messaging, it's easy to zip out a quick 'Thx 4 gift.' I am firmly of the opinion that taking the time and effort to write a real note is the only polite way to respond to a gift. Anything less, even if more convenient, is frankly rude.

The great thing is, writing a thank you note is EASY! A few quick lines, a stamp, and all done, politeness upheld. Plus, the amount of really beautiful, charming, even amusing note cards available is staggering. So grab a stack and a nice pen and let's get started.

First, when is a written thank you necessary? A thousand etiquette books will yield a thousand different answers. This is the rule I personally adhere to: If someone has gone out of their way to do something specifically for ME and spent time or money, I write a thank you note.

Now, there are a few exceptions. Thank you notes to significant others are not always required. I am not advocating taking gifts from husbands, wives, or boyfriends for granted, but those relationships are very intimate and I assume thanks are being given in different ways.

Host or hostess gifts do not require a thank you note. Every bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers received in exchange for a meal or party can be properly accepted and thanks given verbally on the spot. However, a guest at a party or meal should send a thank you to the host afterwards IF no small gift was brought to the gathering for the host. Or, just send one anyway because every host would love getting a note after a party expressing thanks. It's a nice thing to do.

At work, yearly bonuses do not require thank you notes. Tins of cookies or popcorn, especially if everyone gets one, do not require thank you notes. Gift cards, personal checks, tickets to a show or dinner out DO require a written thank you.

A thank you note should be written in ink, preferably in cursive, on a new card. A 'new' card may seem like a given, but I once received a thank you written on the back of another card that had been torn in half. Seriously. And don't use pencil, it shows a weakness of will.

Keep it short and sweet. I usually stick to the following template:

Thank You Samples

That's it! Here's a sample thank you for a gift of a scarf from a friend.

Thank You Samples

So now you are prepared to go forth and protect one bastion of politeness from being overrun and forgotten in our technology driven society. Pens and note cards at the ready!

1 comment:

Margaret said...


This is awesome. I too was forced to write thank you notes as a kid, somehow thinking I was the only kid alive forced to do such a ridiculous thing. Now I think it's incredibly rude when I don't get a thank you note and feel compelled to send them myself, even though my mom is no longer hounding me about it. I'm glad there's someone else out there in the "under 30 set" as you call us who writes and thinks about thank you notes!