How to write a really good thank-you note: Part one


1. You MUST be genuine. If you’re reading this post, it’s safe to say you need to check your motives. Good thank-you notes are not contrived and there is no formula. The key is to be transparent.

2. A really good thank-you note is handwritten. Not only is it more personal than a typed version (Did she just print 20 copies of this and mail it to everyone?), but it will force you to be less contrived and more transparent. It doesn’t have to be perfect (do as I say, not as I do). Really, though, don’t write the whole thing out ahead of time on scrap paper and make lots of edits before you copy it to your pretty stationery. You’ll ruin it. Plus you’ll make the whole process long and unpleasant. Trust me. I lived there.

3. Get pretty stationery and get lots of it. It needs to be pretty (read: inspiring) to write in, and you can’t just have one box or you’ll never want to use it up. Buying up lots of different kinds of pretty stationery was one of the best helps I had in writing good thank-you notes. If your stationery box is full of “meh” cardstock and you’re stingy about the few good pieces you have, you’ll never have the attitude of generosity required to write a really good thank-you note. Again, trust me.

4. Write big. It’s far better to continue onto the back of a card than to throw in some silly cliché because you became anxious about needing to fill up blank space.

5. Note and appreciate the little things. Notice when/how the gift arrived. Notice the wrapping paper that matched your invitation. Notice the beautiful handwriting on the tag. Notice the his & hers theme. Notice that the giver had bought up all the remaining items on your registry. Recall that your hostess stocked your favorite beverages. Remember when she sent the children to bed early. Remember how she always seemed to turn the conversation to address your needs.

6. Consider waiting. I know it’s a faux pax to linger over a thank-you note, but consider how much more genuine you could be if you waited until you actually used the gift. Instead of saying “Thanks for the place mats,” you could say “I am reminded of your thoughtfulness every time I set the table for dinner” (if it’s true).  Waiting is particularly worth consideration when you already verbally thanked the gift-giver. Then you’ll have something new to say instead of, “Like I said at the party, I really like the earrings you gave me.”

7. Consider whether you’re being prudish. If a good friend of yours gave you a birthday gift and you opened it and expressed your delight in front of her, sending a thank-you note might make her feel as though you’ve created some sort of formal distance between the two of you. If you receive something from a good friend or family member by mail, a timely phone call might be the best kind of thank-you note (Omigosh! I JUST got the flowers you sent and they are SO gorgeous. I love lilies! Thank you so much! This made my day!…etc.). However, if you know it would make her day, or if you’re just so simply over-the-top delighted in your new gift, then by all means, break out the stamps. When in doubt, remember #1.

Next time, Part two: Prompts


This post is part of a two-part series. To read part two on “prompts,” click here.

This entry was posted in etiquette, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How to write a really good thank-you note: Part one

  1. Jaimie says:

    “Don’t write the whole thing out ahead of time on scrap paper and make lots of edits before you copy it to your pretty stationery.”

    I never do that, what you are talking about, that’s crazy, why would I do that?

    Um, guilty.

    Awesome post. I will be following this in the future.

  2. Pingback: How to write a really good thank-you note: Part two | In Pursuit of Truth and Beauty

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