How to write a thank-you note

Many people underestimate the power of a simple handwritten thank you note. These days it seems easy to send a quick email, text message or phone call. They all get the job done, right?

But a handwritten thank you note says more. It says that you went out of your way to sit down and write to those who did something for you. A handwritten thank you note conveys thoughtfulness and sincerity and is the perfect way to express your gratitude to anyone and for any occasion.

People often struggle with knowing what to write in a thank you card. But, no matter how hard it may seem to get started, if you remember these easy step-by-step instructions; you’ll be a pro in writing your own thank you notes.

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How to Write a Thank-You Note

Step By Step Thank You Note Wording:

When drafting your thank you letters, use the following guide to make sure you don’t leave anything out.

Start with a Greeting

Open your card with a greeting addressing the recipient. ‘Dear,’ is a standard salutation that is commonly used for notes and cards or you may also decide to just use the recipient’s names.

One thing to make sure, is that you’re using the correct form and spelling of the person’s name and anyone else’s names you might be using in your thank you message.

Examples of thank you greetings include:

How to Write a Thank-You Note

  • Dear Aunt Rose and Uncle Joe,
  • Aunt Rose and Uncle Joe,
  • To my Aunt Rose and Uncle Joe,

How To Say Thank You: Thank You Note Wording

How to Write a Thank-You Note

Why are thank-you notes important? How long does a thank-you note have to be? Here are the oft-forgotten fundamentals of writing a thank-you note.

Thank-you notes are not only good manners, but also good for your health! Yes, it’s true!

A study in Psychological Science showed that writing a thank you letter both improves the giver’s happiness and put the writer in more positive spirits. That’s the power of gratitude!

While many thank-you letter writers get concerned about the exact words they use, it turns out that the recipients were simply touched at the warmth and thoughtfulness of the letter itself.

So, starting writing thank-you notes—and write them more often! It comes at very little cost and benefits everyone.

Which occasions require a thank-you note?

A gift traditionally requires a thank-you note from the recipient, no matter what the occasion for the gift—a holiday, birthday, anniversary, religious event, award, or accomplishment.

Thank-you notes are also recommended when services have been performed (especially as a favor or for free), when hospitality has been provided, or in appreciation of generosity or thoughtfulness.

When should a thank-you note be written?

Immediately. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes, and the less appreciative you will appear.

What is needed for a thank-you note?

Traditionally, a blue or black ink pen on fine stationery, a blank card, or suitable notepaper.

How do I write a thank-you note?

Write a draft first. Before using your “good” paper, gather your thoughts and jot them on a piece of scrap paper.

Keep each note short—three or four sentences is fine. You can express your thanks just as sincerely as you can in several paragraphs.

  1. Write something personal/emotional about the giver.  Do not use the word “I”: A thank-you note is not about you, it is about the person who gave you the gift. Some examples include “You are so thoughtful!” or “How did you know … ?” or “Your presence at [EVENT] was a gift, but the [GIFT] made it a truly special day.”
  2. Comment on what you will do with the gift (especially if it is money) and/or how you will use the gift (e.g., in school, on vacation, at work, in the kitchen, etc.). Be specific. “Thank you so much for the beautiful set of wineglasses! We really enjoy entertaining, so the glasses will get plenty of use”).
  3. Express your thanks for the gift and the giver, e.g., his or her thoughtfulness or generosity or on what a special place he or she occupies in your family or heart or circle of friends.

Remember: Be authentic, be original, be sincere.

Once you are satisfied with your thank-you sentences, write them on the “good” paper.

  • Start with “Dear [NAME],”
  • End with cordial regards, e.g., “Sincerely,” or “With love,” or “You’re the best!” or “Yours truly,”
  • Sign the thank-you note.
  • Address the envelope, put a postage stamp on it, and mail it.

Can I print—not write in cursive—a thank-you note?

Printing a thank-you note is acceptable, but cursive is a nice touch (as long as it’s legible).

Can I just say “thank you” verbally to the giver?

You can—and should—say “thank you” to the giver when you receive a gift, but a proper appreciation should be expressed on paper and sent by mail.

Can I use email, social media, or the phone to say “thank you”?

You can express your thanks in those ways, but nothing beats a thank-you note written on paper and sent in an envelope.

5 reasons to send thank you letters now more than ever

Gratitude goes a long way, and you can never show too much of it in the workplace. Writing — or emailing — a thank-you note is a small but meaningful way to acknowledge an employee’s work or a colleague’s dedication.

This small gesture of writing a note leaves a lasting impression. I know that I still keep certain thank-you notes that make me smile to look at long after I was sent them.

But they don’t just make you feel warm and fuzzy, they’re also a smart, tactical way to network — and in some cases, they can make all the difference in getting the job or getting promoted.

Harvard Business Review uses the case study of Tim, an employee at a sales organization who didn’t get a management promotion, partly due to not saying “thank you” in a CEO’s email about his good performance. Some may say this is an overblown reaction, but knowing how to acknowledge other people is a key part of becoming a manager.

“It doesn’t take long to say ‘thank you,’ but it does take caring,” the HBR author Peter Bregman said in his defense of the CEO not promoting Tim to a management job.

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“Not answering someone’s communication — text or email or phone call — is not an accepted norm, it represents a fundamental breakdown in communication about which I often hear people complain.

Tim might be good at certain aspects of his job but he’s not ‘doing his work well,’ if he’s not acknowledging the people around him.”

And more than helping you in your career, thanking and acknowledging the people around you is part of the job of being a good human.

How to write a thank-you note

You can dash off a “I-received-your-email” brief thanks of acknowledgment for administrative tasks, but longer notes around gratitude deserve more than two words.

The Washington Post‘s Miss Manners recommends not starting out a thank-you note with an actual “thank you,” because it makes the personal gesture sound as generic as a Hallmark card.

Instead, she recommends starting with an emotional connection between you and the recipient: “Start with a statement of emotion — that you were delighted that they came to your party, or thrilled when you opened their present,” she wrote. “Then a friendly line about the donors (such as that you remember something they told you, or that you hope to see them soon). A line about your own plans — summer, college or work — is optional.”

Most thank-you notes for job interviews are an easy formula of four sentences: The first one to say you were happy to meet them, the second to thank them for interviewing you, and the third and fourth to share some personal connection or refer to a non-work topic you discussed at the interview, so they can remember you as an individual.

What to Write in a Thank You Card

First, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, may I just say, “Thank you for reading this piece about thank you note wording! I mean it. Thanks!”

Now, see how easy that was? It speaks to you personally, it’s specific, and it’s genuine—which makes all the difference in the world. And which is why adding a thoughtful thank you phrase into a thank you card will let the recipient know you cared enough to make the effort.

If you’re wondering where to even begin, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to offer you a little guidance with coming up with thank you messages that are both sincere and considerate. Hey, we’ve got you covered! Consider us your own personal writing assistant…and this your own personal gratitude guide. So, let’s get inspired and get grateful!

“Just wanted to say thank you” note

There are a number of people in your life right now, whether at school, work, or in your family, who deserve to be thanked. And they may not have done something for you personally, but maybe they simply deserve to know that someone notices the way they’re always so kind, or to be told their smile always makes your day a little brighter.

  • Here’s a little note to say “thank you” for your positivity and cheerfulness. Just seeing your happy face and big smile every morning puts me in a great mood for the rest of the day!

Thank you for the gift

Regardless of the size, shape, style, or expense of a gift, a shout-out to the gift giver is basically the best way of saying, “Hey, you know that thing you bought me? I got it, and I love it!” Describing that thing, even how you’re going to use it, eat it, or read it in the future, helps the recipient know that the gift is not only received, but also appreciated.

  • Thank you so much for the amazing juice maker you sent me for my birthday. As you know, I’ve been wanting to try juicing for a while, and now I can’t wait to give it a try!! I appreciate you supporting me in my new healthy lifestyle, and by the way…nice way to get me to drink my veggies, Aunt Monica!

Thank you for the money

Sometimes the best gift to receive is the type that folds flat and fits right in your wallet—cash! Saying thanks for money can be tricky, so it’s best to talk less about the amount and more about what you’re planning to do with the unexpected windfall.

  • Thanks so much for your thoughtful gift. We’re having so much fun planning a family fun day at the Children’s Museum, and we’ll be thinking of you the whole time!

Thank you for the act of kindness

This thank you message is for thoughtfulness someone has done for or shown to you. Examples may include helping you out in a pinch, being there for you, supporting you during a time of loss, or just thinking of you for no reason at all. Thanking that person is a way of completing the cycle of kindness.

  • What a lovely surprise! Coming home from the doctor to find some sweet treats on our doorstep not only made us feel special, but made Andrea feel better already, too! Your thoughtfulness and caring are really appreciated. Thanks, neighbor!
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Thank you for the support or help

There are all kinds of people who selflessly rise to the occasion when someone’s in need, and they deserve big-time thanks. Remember to make sure to describe and compliment the one-of-a-kind person they are, and how much their help was needed.

  • Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without your time, effort, and hard work, our “Save-the-Earthworms” fundraiser would not have been the tremendous success it was. Those donuts and caffeine runs truly made the difference, and I don’t even know what I would have done without your last-minute hot glue gun handiwork! Again, my deepest thanks.

Thank you for the hospitality

Did they provide you with a bed, a roof over your head, dinner, endless hot water, clean towels? Don’t forget about the smiles, laughs, and conversations you shared. Add to these your own personal highlights from your time together, and you’re sure to be invited back!

5 Parts of a Well Written Thank You Note

After receiving a gift, attending a dinner party, or leaving someone's house from an overnight stay, you know you need to write a thank you note. However, you might not know exactly what to say. Most people want to send them, but it can be a huge struggle for some. They don't always know how to put their thoughts into words.

If you are at a loss for words when you sit down with paper and pen and try to write something to show gratitude for someone else's generosity, follow this advice. You don't have to use fancy wording or write anything worthy of an award.

The main thing you need to do is show how much you appreciate the gift or hospitality. Even if you didn't care for the gift or if you didn't have a wonderful time, you should still send a thank you note. After all, the person thought enough of you to get you a gift or prepare her home for you.

Of course, you'll need to use some of your own wording, but with a basic outline, it shouldn't take too long to jot a thank you note to let others know how much you appreciate their gift, their hospitality, or their thoughtfulness.

At the beginning of the note, you need to be clear with the person what you are thanking them for and be specific. If this is for a gift at a shower, birthday party, or some other event that involved multiple gifts from a lot of people, have someone jot down who gave what as you open them.

If this is for an act of service, such as someone volunteering to mow your lawn or babysit your children, be clear. Mention the gift, service, or act you're thankful for and show what it means to you. Even when a thank you note isn't expected, thoughtful wording is important.

You might think that the importance of showing gratitude in your note is a given. However, there are some people who overlook writing a simple “Thank you,” even though that was the purpose of the note. Even if you don't care for the gift, you should send a thank you note with an emphasis on the person's thoughtfulness.

Phrases to help with the opening line:

  • Thank you for the…
  • I am grateful for…
  • I am thankful for…
  • I appreciate the…

Don't take the easy way out and simply state, “Thanks for the gift.” Although this is officially a thank you message, it lacks the personal touch that makes the note seem sincere. This will be the second part of the opening line or first sentence.

  • Thank you for the lovely candlesticks.
  • I am grateful for your warm hospitality.
  • I am thankful for your friendship and willingness to listen when I need to talk.
  • Thank you for watching my children during my dental appointment.
  • I appreciate the gift card to my favorite restaurant.
  • Thank you for hosting my family during the holidays.
  • Thank you for the gift, but most of all, thank you for being at my Bar Mitzvah to help me celebrate such an important event.

This may include what you plan to do with the gift or how it helped you. Most of the time this part will be the second sentence of your thank you note.

Here are some examples of this part of the thank you note:

  • My husband and I will celebrate our anniversary soon, and we will use the candlesticks to make the setting even more romantic.

How to Write an Effective Thank-You Note

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How do you continue to stand out after a successful job interview? Send a professional thank-you note or a thank-you letter to the hiring manager and interviewer via snail mail first and foremost, or email when snail mail does not make sense. No matter the person, gratitude leaves a lasting impression.

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“It is a common courtesy to thank busy people for taking the time to give you an opportunity to display your talents,” said Laura Kerekes, a human resources and people risk management consultant.

“In today's job market, anything you can do to differentiate yourself from the competition is good.

Sending [thank-you] notes may seem outdated, but everyone appreciates hearing that the time they spent was considered valuable.”

Let's face it, writing a business thank-you note can be hard work. They are written differently from a personal thank-you card because they need to be professional.

Many professionals have a lot of questions about writing a heartfelt thank-you note. It can be difficult to know how to thank someone or what to include in your letter.

For advice on where to begin writing a thank-you note, how to say “thank you,” and some of your other questions, read on.

Writing a great thank-you note is as easy as following these four simple steps.

The preparation for writing a thank-you note starts at the job interview. When you are in the interview, be sure to pick up business cards from all the people you meet with to ensure you have the correct contact information. Double-check the spelling of names and the mailing addresses.

During your interview, take notes about key points the interviewers discuss, along with what stood out to you and how you would fit in with the company. Just a few notes will serve as a helpful guide for your thank-you note. Being able to reference exactly what the interviewer spoke about will help you craft a heartfelt message.

Before you sit down to write your thank-you note, list all the relevant skills you spoke to the hiring manager about and how they fit in with the job you interviewed for. Then, once you start recapping your skills, remind the interviewer of how your skills tie into their hiring needs. Refer to your notes from the interview.

“There are [probably] multiple candidates interviewing for the position, and many of those candidates may have skills similar to yours,” Kerekes said. “Taking the time to let them know of your interest after the meeting and telling them you're already thinking about what you could do to create value for their company could set you apart from the competition.”

When writing your thank-you note, you don't want to come off as desperate, but you don't want to be too cavalier about your interview experience either.

“By simply saying 'thank you,' the impression you make is that you're confident but not desperate, skilled but not selfish,” said author S. Chris Edmonds, founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. “You're not demanding they hire you or demanding they let you know by Friday, at latest. You're being nice and emphasizing your talents.”

Many experts advise sending a thank-you email within a day of the interview to ensure timely delivery. However, handwritten thank-you notes mailed the night of your interview to also ensure timely delivery make more of an impression. And yes, you can certainly send both an email and snail mail. 

According to a Harvard Business Review article by John Coleman, handwritten notes are unusual, but they can be effective when sent in conjunction with an emailed thank-you.

They take time to draft, each word carefully chosen with no undo button or autocorrect to fall back on. A handwritten thank-you involves selecting stationery, paying for stamps and visiting a mailbox.

The note indicates investment, and that costliness indicates value, according to Coleman.

“While saying 'thank you' is important, the beauty of a well-crafted handwritten note is that it can show deeper investment and appreciation than a simple thank-you can,” he wrote.

Some experts recommend looking up sample cover letters or email templates as a guide.

When I graduated college, I met with a career transition coach who advised me to ignore everything about the cover letter approach and instead use an old-fashioned blank card and simply write a few heartfelt lines, thanking the hiring manager.

Keep in mind that hiring managers are busy with clients, other staff and vendors, so you can't expect them to read a note that's more than a few lines long.

Timing is an important aspect of sending a thank-you note. Regardless of the actual schedule of the hiring process, the time between the interview and the note is important.

“Send a quick email [thanking them] within 24 hours,” Edmonds said. “Mail your handwritten thank-you within 24 hours as well. That way, it'll arrive a day or two following your email note, adding gravitas to your thoughtfulness.”

The timing of the hiring process itself should be discussed during the actual interview, so it shouldn't be part of the actual thank-you note. Kerekes advised waiting until the agreed-upon “hear back” date to follow up again. 

“Respect the process that the company has set,” she said. “It looks desperate when applicants follow up even when they know the company is still working through the process. The only exception to this would be when you have another job offer and you need to get back to the other employer with a decision.”

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