How to Write a Thank You Note

'thank you' written in Scrabble tiles
(Nick Youngson/nyphotographic.com/CC BY-SA 3.0)

A thank-you note is a type of correspondence in which the writer expresses gratitude for a gift, service, or opportunity.

Personal thank-you notes are customarily handwritten on cards. Business-related thank-you notes are usually typed on company letterhead, but they, too, may be handwritten.

Basic Elements of a Thank-You Note

"[The] basic elements for writing a thank-you note should include:

  1. Address the individual(s), using a salutation or greeting. . . .
  2. Say thank you.
  3. Identify the gift (be certain to get this one right. It does not look good to thank Mr. and Mrs. Smith for the lingerie when they sent you a toaster.)
  4. Express how you feel about the gift and what it will be used for.
  5. Add a personal note or message.
  6. Sign your thank-you note.

Within this framework, there is a great deal of latitude. When preparing to write a note, sit for a moment and consider your relationship with the person to whom you are writing. Is it intimate and personal? Is it someone you know as an acquaintance? Are you writing to a complete stranger? This should dictate the tone of your writing." (Gabrielle Goodwin and David Macfarlane, Writing Thank-You Notes: Finding the Perfect Words. Sterling, 1999)

Six Steps to Writing a Personal Thank-You Note

[1]Dear Aunt Dee,

[2]Thank you so much for the great new duffel bag. [3]I can't wait to use it in my spring break cruise. The bright orange is just perfect. Not only is it my favorite color (you know that!), but I'll be able to spot my bag a mile away! Thanks for such a fun, personal, and really useful gift!

[4]I'm really looking forward to seeing you when I get back. I'll come over to show you pictures from the trip!

[5]Thanks again for always thinking of me.

[6]Love,

Maggie

[1] Greet the recipient.

[2] Clearly state why you are writing.

[3] Elaborate on why you are writing.

[4] Build the relationship.

[5] Restate why you are writing.

[6] Give your regards.

(Angela Ensminger and Keeley Chace, Note-worthy: A Guide to Writing Great Personal Notes. Hallmark, 2007)

Thank-You Note Following a Job Interview

"An essential job-seeking technique as well as a gesture of courtesy is to thank the person who interviews you. Write a note immediately after the interview and before a decision has been made. State what you liked about the interview, the company, the position. Emphasize briefly and specifically your suitability for the job. Address concerns about your qualifications that came up during the interview. Mention any issue that you didn't have the opportunity to discuss. If you felt you misspoke or left the wrong impression, this is where you can correct your interview--but be brief and subtle. You don't want to remind the interviewer of a weak point." (Rosalie Maggio, How to Say It: Choice Words, Phrases, Sentences, and Paragraphs for Every Situation, 3rd ed. Penguin, 2009)

Thank-You Notes to College Admission Offices

"Call it a testament to how carefully students court college admissions offices these days: Thank-you notes have become the new frontier. . . .

"Miss Manners, Judith Martin, who writes a syndicated etiquette column that runs in more than 200 newspapers, says she, for one, does not think thanks are needed for a campus visit: 'I would never, ever say, "Don’t write a thank-you note under any circumstances." I don’t want to discourage them. But it is not really a situation that is mandatory.'

"Still, some admissions advisers [disagree].

"'It seems like a small thing, but I tell my students that every contact with the college contributes to their perception of you,' said Patrick J. O’Connor, director of college counseling at the private Roeper School in Birmingham, Mich." (Karen W. Arenson, "Thank-You Note Enters College Admission Game." The New York Times, Oct. 9, 2007)

A CEO's Thank-You Notes

Dear Bloomberg Businessweek Friends,

Thank you for asking my perspective on writing thank you notes. In my 10 years as President and CEO of Campbell Soup Company, I sent out over 30,000 notes to our 20,000 employees. I found it was a powerful way to reenforce our strategies, to let our employees know we were paying attention and to let them know that we cared. I kept my notes short (50-70 words) and to the point. They celebrated accomplishments and contributions of real significance. They were virtually all handwritten to make the communication more authentic and personal. It is a practice that I highly recommend.

Good luck!

Doug

(Douglas Conant, "Write a Thank-You Note." Bloomberg Businessweek, Sep. 22, 2011)

Thank-You Note to Anita Hill

"Anita Hill, I want to personally thank you for what you did for us twenty years ago. Thank you for speaking up and speaking out. Thank you for your quiet dignity, your eloquence and elegance, your grace under pressure. Thank you for illuminating the complexities of female powerlessness and for explaining why you didn’t complain when the offense first occurred, and for describing how cowed and coerced a woman can feel when she’s hit upon by a man who controls her economic destiny. . . ." (Letty Cottin Pogrebin, "A Thank-You Note to Anita Hill." The Nation, Oct. 24, 2011)

See Also