A reader writes, “I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who writes thank you notes when I receive a gift or after I attend a dinner party. Any tips for how to 1. help make the writing process easier, and 2. ensure that I write my notes within an appropriate time frame so I don’t entirely forgo the note-writing process because too much time has passed?”
I admit it. For almost as long as I’ve been able to hold a writing utensil, I’ve authored thank you notes. My mother encouraged my siblings and me to write thank you notes when someone gave us a gift, treated us to a meal, or welcomed us at a dinner party. And today I couldn’t be more grateful to her for instilling in me a love of the handwritten thank you note.
My siblings and I would work hard on those thank you notes, carefully pressing our pencils between our fingers and using our very best penmanship to express appreciation for a variety of gifts and experiences. We were privileged to have two generous grandparent-figures in our lives who gave us boxes of delightful personalized children’s stationery that made the writing process all the more fun. And sometime around third grade, I realized that I genuinely enjoyed creating thank you notes…thinking about what I wanted to say in my notes, using “grown-up” cursive that hopefully would impress the letter recipient, and adding designs that further personalized my notes.
In high school, I took great pride in selecting my own stationery – especially for those graduation gift thank you notes that marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life. And although I was far from home, the thank you note habit didn’t quit during college. I’m pleased to report that this habit remains alive and well today in my personal life and at the office. Here are some tips that help me when I put pen to paper:
Make the writing process a cinch
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Really! You’re not sitting down to write the next “Great American Novel.” When writing a thank you note, you are simply expressing heartfelt gratitude for a gift or an experience that someone lovingly and thoughtfully gave to you. And when you write your notes with this in mind, the process is never a chore or a bore. Instead, it’s infused with the perfect combination of joy and gratitude that naturally comes across in sincerely written notes of appreciation.
No need for writer’s block.
It’s all in the messaging. In short, your thank you note should express gratitude for the specific present and it should include something thoughtful about it (i.e. why you like the gift, when you plan to use it or for what purpose, etc.). As with everything in life, you want to be sincere in your notes of appreciation. If someone gives you a lace-festooned t-shirt and you cannot honestly say that you think it’s attractive, simply express your appreciation for their thoughtfulness.
Depending on your relationship with the gift giver, it may be appropriate to add a few lines to your letter indicating that you enjoyed seeing them for dinner last week or that you look forward to catching up with them at the annual family reunion in July. And you’ll want to end your note with something along the lines of “Thank you, again” or “Thanks” or “Sincerely” or “Love.”
Of course, there are entire books, library bookshelves, and websites filled with information on this topic. For more about the ins-and-outs of writing a thank you note, you may wish to peruse some books and online resources presented by etiquette gurus. Two of my favorites are:
When it’s inappropriate to send a thank you note.
There are times when it may be inappropriate to send a thank you note. For example, the hubster and I regularly entertain some very close friends – and we’re regularly invited to gatherings hosted by these friends. We’ve realized that sending a thank you note after every visit to their home would feel a little odd to everyone involved. Your intuition will let you know when a thank you note is unnecessary.
Write – and send – your thank you notes without delay
Whenever possible, try to write your note of appreciation within seven days of opening the gift. It may seem silly to actually schedule time for thank you note-writing, but doing so helps ensure that you won’t have egg on your face a few months from now when you’re wearing that new sweater from your cousin, you receive a compliment on it in front of your cousin, and your cousin has yet to receive a note of appreciation from you.
The gift giver was thoughtful in offering a present that they expected you would enjoy. Your thank you note is a special opportunity for you to let them know how much you appreciate their kindness. (As far as I know, the “seven day rule” applies to all presents except for wedding gifts. For more details, check out the resources made available by etiquette experts.)
Tip: If someone mails a gift to you, you may wish to email or call the gift giver to confirm receipt of their present. Of course, let them know that a “proper” thank you note will be in their mailbox soon!
Stylish stationery is part of the fun
One of the reasons why I so enjoy writing thank you notes is that I love communicating gratitude to the gift giver. And it’s especially fun when I can do so on paper or stationery that reflects who I am. There are a gazillion styles of stationery in our wide world, and I know you’ll find your favorites. Three fabulous stationery purveyors are:
Tip: If you want to encourage children with their thank you note-writing endeavors, provide them with fun stationery that’s designed for their age group or encourage them to make their own. Creative expressions of gratitude are applicable to individuals of all ages.
Relics worth reviving
Today, hand-written thank you notes are almost relics. Yet, in my humble opinion, they are – and always will be – meaningful. A handwritten thank you note sends the message that you appreciated the gift and the gift giver’s efforts so much that you took time out of your busy schedule to put pen to paper to communicate your gratitude.
So many of us have replaced the traditional thank you note with email, text message, or voice mail thank you’s. While all expressions of gratitude are wonderful, to my sense of things there’s something extra special about a handwritten thank you note that’s captured on attractive paper and nestled in an envelope. To me, handwritten thank you notes are always in style.