Etiquette: How To Write A Thank You Note

Tips for what to include in a well-written thank you note, and advice on when to send a thank you card and when it is appropriate or expected.

Our parents had the right idea when they sat us down after every birthday party or holiday celebration to grudgingly write thank you notes to our relatives. After a certain age, "Dear Aunt Tilly, Thanks for the socks. Love, Horace" just doesn't cut it anymore. Most people appreciate a well-written thank you note. Not only because it's an acknowledgement of a gift, but also because it shows you care enough to take the time out to say, "Thank you." A poorly written thank you note, however, doesn't make a very good impression.

A thank you note isn't only for gifts. It's considered good manners to send a thank you because you were a guest in someone's home or if you were assisted in some manner. If a person took the time out to show you an act of kindness, they, in all likelihood, warrant a thank you note. Yes, you may have said thank you in person, but it means more when you take the time to sit down and write a few words to express your gratitude.

Thank you notes should be sent out in a timely manner. Two weeks after receiving the gift is ideal, and one month is acceptable. Anything longer than that is considered bad etiquette.

When it comes to writing thank you notes, it's best if the words come from you and not the card company. Sure, it's perfectly acceptable to purchase a card with a pre-written thank you verse from the stationery store and fill in Aunt Tilly's name on the top and scribble in your own on the bottom, but store-bought cards are not very personal. Blank note cards, stationery or even post cards are perfect for sending heartfelt thank you's. Anything with a tasteful design and enough room to write your thoughts will do fine.

Since you want this to be personal, it's also best to write your thank you notes in longhand rather than typing a standard thank you form letter onto your computer to be printed out when the occasion warrants. This is not only impersonal, it's tacky! If you must type out your thank you note, try and make it as personal as possible. Most people can tell when they've received a form letter.

Knowing what to write in your note can be difficult, but if you received a truly useful or interesting gift, the note should write itself. "Thank you for the socks" is a great opening line, but don't stop there. Talk a little about the socks. Were they useful? Did they keep your feet warm? Did they go well with a particular outfit or color scheme? Discuss.

A thank you note doesn't have to be long, in fact, short and sweet is best. After you let Aunt Tilly know how much you appreciated the socks and how warm they kept your feet during your recent trek up Mt Everest, you can add a line or two letting her know that you're looking forward to seeing her again in the near future. "I'm looking forward to seeing you at Uncle Bruno's barbecue next July." This should suffice and you can close your note with another thank you. "Thanks again" or "Thank you again." A thank you note should never focus on the recipient of the gift. This is not the time to detail your recent mountain climbing vacation, or complain about co-workers.

If you received a gift of money, it's best to avoid mention of the amount. Instead of writing, "Thanks for sending me fifty dollars," it's good manners to write, "thank you for your generosity." Rather than itemize the gory details, "I used the money to buy seven pairs of socks, a nail clipper and some shoe laces," tell Aunt Tilly the money will come in handy on a future shopping excursion. "I plan on using your gift to purchase something special on my next visit to the mall."

If the thank you note is not for a gift, but instead to thank a host for a recent weekend visit, let the host know you appreciated her hospitality and that you had a wonderful time. (If you didn't have a wonderful time, this would not be the correct moment to say so.) "Thank you for your hospitality. We enjoyed our visit immensely." If you're writing to thank someone for a different act of kindness, that, too, should be noted. "All of your assistance in helping us set up for the party is greatly appreciated." Short, sweet and to the point.

How you choose to close the note is up to you. Of course if Aunt Tilly is a special person you can close your letter with something like, "Love, Horace" or "Fondly," or "Warmly," anything that conveys the affection you feel for her is fine.If the letter is for someone to whom you're not as close, using, "Best regards" works well.

It doesn't take much time or effort to send someone a note in which you express your gratitude. It tells that person that her gift or act of kindness meant something to you and that you care enough to say thank you. Wouldn't you expect the same?

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