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How to Write Memorable Thank-You Notes

Updated on February 19, 2009

As in all writing, when writing thank-you notes, think of your audience. Put yourself in the shoes of the person whom you want to thank. How would you like to be thanked? What words or phrases would you like to read in a thank-you note?

  • Thank you
  • Appreciate, grateful, indebted
  • Happy, elated, excited
  • Surprised, surprising, unexpected
  • Timely, just in time
  • Just what I needed, what I was hoping for

Above is a partial list. You can brainstorm on your own or check the thesaurus to come up with more and different phrases.

Making It Special

Thank-You for a Gift

Whether you are writing several thank-yous for an event or a single thank-you, you should write each one individually. Write each thank you with the particular person you want to thank in mind.

Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's a favorite aunt or your best friend that you need to thank. Sometimes it's not so easy. Sometimes it is a cousin you find abrasive, or someone you were forced to invite that you don't really like. Some will expect a thank you and some won't. Everyone deserves a thank you, but a thank you that is obviously just a form letter is little better than no thank you at all.

To make thank-you notes special in every case, include some kind of personal observation about the person and/or the gift. For example,

  • "How did you know I collect stuffed animals?"
  • "This will remind me of that summer we visited."
  • "You noticed that I liked this when we were together."
  • "I love this."
  • "I have wanted this since I was eleven years old."
  • "You must have hunted high and low for this!"
  • "This must have been a lot of effort on your part."

Mention the gift so that they know you know what they gave you. Avoid comments about the price or monetary value of gifts. Remember the old cliché, it is the thought that counts.

If a gift is obviously given with malice, you have my permission not to write a thank-you note for it. But most of the time the giver is well meaning, and if you don't know whether the gift was meant well or not, you need to assume that it was and thank the giver accordingly, no matter what you may think of them personally.

Thank You for an Intangible

Sometimes we receive things that are difficult to quantify. A loved one is ill or passes away and a neighbor brings over a casserole. You have to take your spouse to the hospital and a friend watches the kids. Someone goes out on a limb to get you a job interview. These are all occasions to send a thank you.

Here's a classic:

"Thank you for last night."

Be sure to include a red rose.

 

Belated Thank-You

Many times in our busy lives it is difficult to get around to sending thank you notes. Perhaps considerable time goes by and you begin to feel awkward about sending the thank you. You should send it anyway. You could apologize for sending it late, but it is not a requirement. Better to simply write the thank you note as if you are sending it in a timely manner. Otherwise, you risk diminishing the gift.

"Sorry it took me so long to write this thank you note. I was very busy."

They might well respond, "Don't bother."

Thank You as Weapon

Sometimes a thank you note is an appropriate means of communication for something other than gratitude:

"Dear Boss,

Thank you for the worst seven years of my life. Thank you for using me like a cheap hooker, taking all the credit for everything I did, and throwing me under the bus at your first opportunity.

What goes around comes around, pal.

All the best,

John Smith"

Comments

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    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      I usually use store bought one's actually, or hand draw them. But then I send them and don't have them anymore. I will make a thank you note and post it someplace for you in the next few days.

    • profile image

      \Brenda Scully 

      9 years ago

      oh no i can't draw i just cut and paste, but i enjoy doing it it is therapeutic.... post one up you have made how about it.....

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      I agree, Brenda. Homemade thank you cards are fun to make and fun to get. I like to draw a real rudimentary one and then talk about all the trouble I went to. :)

    • profile image

      \Brenda Scully 

      9 years ago

      I LOVE TO SEND THANKYOU CARDS........ making them youself adds to the fun too.....

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thank you. Be my guest. :0)

    • marcofratelli profile image

      marcofratelli 

      9 years ago from Australia

      This is great Tom. Only just saw it now. Mind if I link to it in a software package I'm making to give away with my next hub? :)

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      The thank-you as an expression of gratitude adds meaning to the lives of both the sender and receiver. Thank you, Glassvisage, for stopping by.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 

      9 years ago from Northern California

      Wow! I think that you definitely hit all of the ways to write a memorable thank-you card, positive or not :) I like the idea of using one as a weapon... Creative! I am just a big fan of thank-yous overall. I always keep a blank stack at home just in case!

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      You'll get better with practice and writing for your audience, SC, I have no doubt.

    • S_C_Baker profile image

      S_C_Baker 

      9 years ago from California

      Good advice! I'm terrible at writing thank-yous, so it's definitely needed.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thank you for the good advice, Einron.

    • einron profile image

      einron 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

      Wonderful to say thank you for whatever you receive. It is the giving that counts, not the value of the gift. Never look a gift horse in the mouth. Giving darts is a no no. Be gracious always and you will find yourself happier.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thank you Elena! What a great idea!

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 

      9 years ago from Madrid

      The thank you as a weapon is fun!  I'm with you on belated thank yous, better to send them as if they were timely, or you're pretty much making a fool of yourself, unless you're very humorous acknowledging the lateness, as in:

      "Hey, I really meant to send this note before, then I thought I'd wait for the one year anniversary to roll around and say thank you properly, roses and all, but then I got antsy and really couldn't wait till next year to tell you how much you mean to me -- THANK YOU!"

      I think this would work! Laugh!

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      9 years ago from St. Louis

      Tom, you are absolutely right. I usually forget to give her bus fare! How'd you know?

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      Ya, Mr. Golden, every job feels the worse for feeling one has no alternative. I don' t have it so bad, m'self, thank God.

      Ya, Christoph, yours seems a good note to fold the money in. :0)

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      9 years ago from St. Louis

      Great hub, Tom: It's really a simple thing to write a thank-you note, and it can mean so much.

      I find it beneficial to send a thank-you note after a one-night stand. Something like this:

      Dear ?????

      Thanks for the roll in the hay. You were certainly in the top half! Glad you understand about the "no strings attached" thing, even though we didn't actually talk about it, I could tell you and I are on the same page about this.

      So thanks.

      Feel free to use it, Tom, should the need ever arise.

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 

      9 years ago from Free and running....

      No sir, but I'm working on it anyways, I thought my last boss was a nut, but my current one fired me today, and the number two boss said to ignore the last phone call and to carry on, that I'm doing a good job, if only the economy were better...

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      Hi Bruce! I will check out that link!

      Hi Golden! Not in this economy, eh?

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 

      9 years ago from Free and running....

      I like the thank you weapon. I wish I could use it though.

    • Bruce Elkin profile image

      Bruce Elkin 

      9 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada

      Excellent, Tom. One of my writing teachers (at a distance) Carolyn See recommends writing "charming note" to people you interact with. (in her book Making A Literary Life). And here's a nifty little video about famous football QB Payton Manning writing appreciative notes to retired players he admired -- http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=3889519

      Great, hub. Thanks.

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