How to Write Thank You Notes: Keep them Simple and Sweet

A kindly written note of thanks is such a joy to receive by mail. As as a result, I think it's so important that we keep thank you notes from slipping any further toward becoming a lost art. 

If you absolutely hate writing thank yous, see the bottom of this post for a fresh tip just for you. I will admit that the thought of handwriting notes really gets my procrastination juices flowing and suddenly even cleaning sounds fun. But at the same time, I don't know where that feeling comes from considering writing thank yous is never that bad once I get started.  The key is to keep them simple and sweet. 

My Tips for Writing a Simple and Sweet Thank You Note:
  • Keep it short.
    This works out great in both the reader's and your own favor, especially when you have many to write, so stick to keeping your note very brief.  I like to choose small thank you cards for this very purpose because having less space to work with forces you to be concise. 
  • Handwriting your thank you note is a must.
    Typed notes are so impersonal.  Your handwriting is an expression of you and immediately establishes a meaningful connection with the person you are thanking.  This means you'll have to send your handwritten note by snail mail, which is another way to show you took the extra time to properly acknowledge their thoughtfulness.
  • Be honest.
    Even if the gift isn't something you like, find a way to express how thoughtful it is.  Never lie and say that something you hate will be treasured forever and will be prominently displayed on you mantle for all to see.  Remember to keep it simple by acknowledging the person's generosity and kind intent.
  • Tailor the note to your reader's interests or personality if possible.
    You probably won't see this tip anywhere else, but it's such a great way to make a deeper connection with the person you are thanking if you can. Remember to be truthful here, as well. 

    Let me illustrate with an example.  My grandma loves to decorate her house for holidays throughout the year. She sends me a flower paper punch for my birthday because I like crafts.  I can tell her how the flower punch has inspired me to decorate the mat of framed photo of my husband and me in bright springy colors, which will make an especially festive decoration during the Easter season.

Structure for Simple and Sweet Thank You Notes
(4-5 lines max):

  • Address the person by name, and thank them for the specific gift. (Never list the dollar value of a monetary present or gift card; refer to it instead as "generous".)
  • Add a line or two about how you intend to use the gift.
  • Thank the reader again, and close with your signature.

Sample Thank You Note Wording:

Aunt Lillian,

Thank you for the generous birthday gift you sent.  With it I was able to purchase a beautiful flowered serving dish that I've had my eye on for months.  It looks so perfect on a shelf in my kitchen and really completes the room.  I also can't wait to use it at an upcoming baby shower I'm hosting for a friend, since it coordinates perfectly with its floral theme. Thank you again for thinking of me on my birthday.


For Those Who Hate Thank You Writing - Establish a Truce
I only recommend this for your closest friends and family members, who you talk to on a regular basis.  It really seems to go against my whole philosophy of doing things, but I wouldn't tell you about it if it wasn't so liberating.

Establish a no "thank you note" truce.  My mother-in-law and I established this one year after the holidays, and it has been great!!!  We simply agreed that neither of us were obligated to write the other a thank you note, since we can acknowledge the gift when it's received or next time we see each other.  I did send her a written thank you note for the wedding presents she gave my husband and me, since that was a special situation, even though it occurred post-truce.

My friend Jessica and I have known each other for so long (before we were old enough to think about thank you notes), so we have an informal truce against thank you notes, too.  We talk almost every day over email, so we'll acknowledge each other that way or when we talk to each other by phone on our birthdays. 

There are definitely situations where a truce can work, but I'd be very careful about implementing one. The last thing you want to do is seem ungrateful. The best time to approach a truce is when the other person mentions dreading thank you note writing after a big occasion or the holidays, when it will really feel like a blessing to them and not necessarily to you at the time.

 Do you have any thank you note-writing tips?  
What do you think about having a no "thank you note" truce?

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