How to Write Thank-you Notes

Thank-you notes

The first rule of thank-you notes is to write them.  

You are never too busy to show gratitude.  And once you master this simple template for writing these most important messages, you will churn them out easily, quickly and sincerely.  

In fact, you'll wonder why you didn't do this sooner!

Because writing thank-you notes is as easy as 1, 2, 3, and 4 sentences.

  1. Thank you for ___________.
  2. A sentence that relates to the thing (or what) you are thankful for.
  3. A sentence that references something else that comes to mind as you write.
  4. A sentence that reiterates the first sentence. (e.g. I appreciate your thoughtfulness, etc.)

Here's an example for you:

Dear Mom and Dad,

Thank you for purchasing the tickets to the ballet season for my birthday.  It was so kind that you remembered that this is what I wanted!  When I was a little girl I always dreamed about dancing and I think the many lessons I’ve had are helping me with my poise and form.  Every time I think about "The Nutcracker" coming up in December, I think about my gift and my wonderful parents.


Of course, you may put your own original style into your notes.  Individuality is encouraged.

Just remember to show appropriate gratitude by specifically mentioning the gift or act of kindness that was shown to you.  And, most importantly, specifically writing "thank you" within your note.

Sincerity is Key

When you receive a generalized note from someone to whom you gave a gift, how does it make you feel?

Dear Susan,

Thank you very much for the gift.  It was so thoughtful of you.

Kind regards,

Makes you wonder if Jade is at all aware of what you gave her, doesn't it?

Interestingly, an exaggerated thank-you has the same effect.

Dear Aunt Bridget,

Thank you for the amazing coffee grinder.  I use it every morning.  Because of you, I am sure to be awake by the time I catch the 7:00 a.m. train for my commute.  This is the best gift I have every received. 


Aunt Bridget may be too taken with her nephew to see right through this, but you and I both know Jeremy would have rather received a new car for his birthday. 

Exaggeration is a hint at insincerity.  If you are truly excited and appreciative of your gift, include more genuine exuberance.  A phone call in addition to your note is a way to say thank you immediately, and it is easier for most people to express excitement vocally than in writing.

A Couple's Thank-you

When you are part of a couple and want to send a thank-you note from both of you, it should still come from one of you.  After all, only one of you will be writing it.

However, your spouse or partner will be mentioned in your note.

Dear Shelly,

Thank you for sending over such a lovely meal.  Henry and I enjoyed it not once, but twice!  I would love to have your roasted chicken recipe.  Henry is recovering nicely, and we look forward to seeing you in person soon.  We very much appreciate your thoughtfulness during this difficult time.

Warm regards,

When Should You Write?

Now that you know how to write thank-you notes, here are some suggestions of when you should write them.

  • You receive a gift
  • Are asked for a meal
  • Someone sends you flowers or candy
  • You are hosted for an evening at the symphony, opera, a theater production, or a concert
  • Someone does a favor for you
  • You are hosted for a weekend getaway

Traditional Mail or Email?

Sending a handwritten note in the mail is becoming an unusual occurrence.  But this makes handwritten notes even more special to receive! 

Whenever possible, send your thank-you via traditional mail. 

In this twenty-first century, however, it is likely that you do not have your recipient's home address.  If you cannot get the address immediately, send an email thank-you until you are able to send a traditional note.

Or, if your situation doesn't allow you to obtain a home address, send an email thank-you in lieu of a handwritten one.

The bottom line is, show gratitude whenever, and however, you can.

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