The importance of writing thank you notes

Who doesn't like finding a hand-written thank you note in the mail? No one.

When I was little and my birthday or Christmas came around (or really any gift receiving event) my parents made sure I wrote a thank you letter to everyone who gave me something. As a kid, who wants to spend time doing that? I admit it was a bit of a struggle at times. Now that I'm older, I can appreciate the gesture of a simple, "Thanks!".

Here's a piece of trivia for you: “Thank” comes from the Old English thanc, which means thought or gratitude, but it's also related to the Latin tongere, which means “to know.” So when you’re thanking someone you’re basically saying “I know what you did and I appreciate it.” (Thanks, Jordan at Art of Charm).

Why thank you notes are important.

Thank you letter. Appreciation card. Note of gratitude. What ever you call it, I'd challenge anyone who said they didn't appreciate receiving a note expressing gratitude for a gift that they spent time picking out, buying, and sending. Seriously, who would rather open a hand written personal note more than a bill? Uh, everyone!

Not only is a written thank you note an acknowledgement of someone's generosity, in this digital age, it's extra special because you're connecting with the gift giver in a more personal way. It takes a little more effort than a text and it feels more personal than an email, Why? I think it's because of the hand that wrote it. It's a physical representation of you.

I don't have a thank you template for you to use but the following guidelines should help you send a sincere thanks.

Who should you thank?

  • Anyone who gives you a gift, including monetary gifts and donations.
  • Anyone who helps you out by giving you their time, such as a friend helping you move or giving you a ride to a doctor's appointment if you can't drive yourself.
  • Anyone who throws a party in your honor. Think birthday, shower, or going away party. The host(s) should get a written thank you.
  • Anyone who went above and beyond their job. When I bought a car and the salesman I worked with made special arrangements to get the exact car I wanted, I wrote him a thank you (I also wrote a note to his manager telling him that I appreciated his salesman's extra efforts on my behalf.)
  • An interviewer. While most of these tips and "rules" are for general thank you notes, it's also a great idea to write a thank you note after an interview. It gives you a leg up on other interviewees. (See the additional resources below for more info.)

When should you pen a thank you?

  • Be prompt. The sooner you send your thanks the better. Shoot for within a couple of weeks of receiving a gift or service. For weddings, three months after your nuptials it acceptable. 
  • Use stationery. And use stationery that has room for writing a message, like a folded card or sheet of stationery. Pre-filled out notes that you just sign aren't recommended. I mean, how impersonal can you get, right?
  • It’s never too late. Obviously it would be better to send a note shortly after receiving a gift, but it's more important for the giver to get acknowledgement of their gift and their generosity. 

Don't know what to say in your thank you message? 

  • Address the giver(s). If you have a close relationship with the gift giver(s), feel free to address the note using their first names only. If you have a more formal relationship with the gift giver(s), use titles such as “Dr.” or "Ms.” 
  • The best thank you notes are specific. A thank you card that just says “Thank you for your gift” is pretty vague. Mention exactly what you received and how you plan to use it or how it helped you. A few details make your thanks more personal. For monetary gifts, it's generally OK to say how you plan to use the money, but it's considered bad form to mention the exact amount.
  • Write from the heart. While thank you notes are a bit of a formality, it’s important to be yourself. There's no need for fancy language (unless that's your normal voice of course). A thank you card shows your appreciation, so keeping it authentic is important.
  • Looking forward. Mention the next time you'll may see them or just let them know you're thinking of them. You might also inquire about what's going on in their life.
  • Sign off with a warm closing. Depending on your relationship with the gift giver, it could be "love", "regards", or "best."And include your signature! It emphasizes your relationship with the other person and makes your thanks even more personal.

Need more ideas?

Here are some additional resources to help you craft the perfect thank you.

Zola: For wedding thank you note etiquette and tips
Glassdoor: For what to write after an interview (Yes! This is a thing and it's also an important thank you occasion.)
Southern Living: Besides some great tips on what you should do, read some good "don'ts."

My everyday cards and personalized note cards are perfect for thank you note writing, whether you're looking for something simple or personalized. It's never a bad idea to have a box of stationery on hand.

A thank you note doesn't really take a lot of time and it means so much to the person who receives it. Why wouldn't you want to thank someone for their generosity and bring a smile to their face? After all, they made you smile with their gift, didn't they?

Until next time, let's make the world a happier place, one smile at a time!

p.s. Do you send thank you cards? If so, do you think it's a chore or do you enjoy writing them? If you don't send thank you notes, why? Please share in the comments. I'd love to read your thoughts.