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Thank You Notes for Gifts or Services Rendered

Updated on September 30, 2010

I sat down to write thank-you notes today and had a feeling that I was doing something unusual, something epic, something even historical. It would have been easy to rattle off an email, to let my spoken “thanks!” at the moment of receiving the gift be enough; it would have been even easier not to write a thank you note at all. But I slid open my stationary drawer and selected a few cards, tested a few pens to make sure they would flow as swiftly as my thoughts would, and began. “Dear _____,”

That was as far as I got for a few minutes, because I realized that it had been much too long since I had written this person, and there was much too much that they should have been thanked for that I had not thanked them for. My notecards were quickly filled and quickly addressed. I am wondering now why I don't do it more often when I know from personal experience how important it is.

A traditional thank you note
A traditional thank you note

How to Write a Thank You Note

Ideally, a thank you note should be written within a week or two of the favor given, as promptitude shows your appreciation. Begin with an address of affection. “Dear _______,” is never too affectionate for acquaintances, coworkers, family, or friends. Name and comma is for short to-do notes and emails: pieces of communication that need to be communicated quickly and to the point. A thank-you note is opposite of all this by definition. Remember that this is not a business letter; you are not trying to be concise or to-the-point. You are not trying to get someone to do something or convince them of anything except of the fact that you appreciate them. The point of this letter or note is to praise, describe, or admire, in words, the thing you were given. You want to make the giver happy they gave you the gift, and be blessed in their generosity.

Be effusive. Be flattering. Be sweet. Be descriptive. But be truthful. If you can’t find something nice to say then you are not looking hard enough. If you don’t like the color, can you at least say it fits well? That you are already using it? That someone complemented you on it? That the gift testifies of the giver’s generous and thoughtful nature?

If you know the person fairly well or have attempted to keep up a relationship, friendship, or closeness to them, it is an added benefit to thank the person for more than the obvious, and to include personal anecdotes or tidbits from your daily life that could show how you are using or appreciate the gift. Some of the sweetest thank you notes I have gotten included stories about how they used the item I gave, or specific information about how the gift met a need, encouraged, or blessed the recipient.

Thank-you-for-the-gift-I-like-it-a-lot,” notes are unacceptable.

Handwritten thank you notes show that you care enough to take the time to write.
Handwritten thank you notes show that you care enough to take the time to write.

Does it have to be handwritten?

Why a handwritten note? Isn’t a verbal expression of thanks enough? What about an email, text message, or post on their facebook wall? The answer is in the non-written, unspoken etiquette guide of character and graciousness. A hand-written note shows that you cared enough about this favor done to you that you chose to take the time and effort to compose your thoughts and painstakingly write out those thoughts in tangible form for the other person to read. There is nothing like being sent something that someone has held in their own hands, inscribed with their own ball point pen and scrawling letters, and sealed with their own spit. Sometimes it takes something physical to bring a point home, and internet or instant communication doesn’t have the same effect. Many business professionals agree that emails are great for efficiency, scheduling, quick communicating of concepts, and reaching many people at once. However, when it comes to personal relations, they agree that nothing can take the place, or influence, of a handwritten thank-you note.

Why write thank you notes?

Are you grateful for a service rendered? Has anyone given you their time, energy, resources, money, friendship, prayers, encouragement, faithfulness, or hard work? If so, you should be grateful, and you should express that gratefulness to them.

Many owners of small businesses mail a handwritten thank you note as soon as a business transaction with a customer is completed. As a result, they have a higher customer retention rate than other businesses of similar kind. I know that I am more likely to buy from a store again if I receive a thank you note after completing a purchase with a specific store.

Make friends and influence people.
Make friends and influence people.

Thank you notes make friends and influence people. If you have received a gift from a family member, friend, coworker, or acquaintance, it is your duty of geniality to write a note expressing appreciation and gratitude for what they have given you. Not only will this be the glue in your relationship, but it will also build your reputation and character because it shows humility. A proud or self-consumed person would not make the time to write a thank you note because he assumes that he was deserving what was given to him, or that he was entitled to it. He takes the gift or service rendered for granted. “Of course they gave me their time; of course they served me. My talents and superiority demand fealty of the highest order. They shouldn’t be thanked for something it was their duty to do.”

When is a thank-you note appropriate?

A thank you note is appropriate more often than not, though obviously a thank you note after the receipt of a hershey kiss or a band-aid is not necessary. Check out the list below to find which services or gifts should trigger a written thank you note.

Write a thank you note if:

You had dinner at someone’s home as a guest

You stayed at someone’s home as a guest

You were given baked goods

Someone gave you a service that you would normally have had to pay for

Someone gave you a gift (with a value over ten dollars)

Someone went out of their way to meed your need or emergency

Someone donated to a personal cause of yours

An employee served you faithfully

A client made a purchase from you

Someone has been unusually encouraging, sacrificial, or hardworking on your behalf

Thank you notes to fathers, mothers, grandparents, siblings, and friends are always acceptable and appreciated, especially when there has been no apparent reason for the note. A note of appreciation or praise out of the blue will often lift someone’s spirits above the clouds. Stop procrastinating or stalling for time. Open that card, take the cap off your pen, and write.

© 2009 Jane Grey

Your note of appreciation out of the blue will brighten someone's day.
Your note of appreciation out of the blue will brighten someone's day.

I am grateful for your comments!

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    • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Leavitt 

      10 years ago from Oregon

      Nell, that made me laugh! He writes badly-- and it could definitely be better. You write much better than he does and I hope you will continue to write for people who appreciate it.



    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      10 years ago from England

      Hi, I quite agree with you about writing, either thank you notes or even normal letters. I was having this conversation just the other day. I had received an e-mail from someone I did not know, to see if I wanted to write something for his web page. He just said, straight from the first line, I think you write not bad, but it could be better!, would you like to wrtee for me? Spelling mistake included!! As you can probably guess, I deleted it! thanks again, and very good point. cheers Nell

    • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Leavitt 

      10 years ago from Oregon

      Nice work, Kendall! I'm impressed. I thought thank-you notes had become a lost art! And you're right about penmanship: another lost art, wouldn't you say? Thanks for reading!


    • Kendall H. profile image

      Kendall H. 

      10 years ago from Northern CA

      After just finishing thank you notes for the holidays I sat down to read this hub. Great timing! Thank you for the timely reminder that little things like thank you notes are often the best way to show appreciation. Plus it's a fun way to practice your penmanship!

    • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Leavitt 

      10 years ago from Oregon

      That's a good insight, Springboard. I think we often take our ease of life and ease of communication for granted. Rather than using it to advantage and making our relationships grow with it, our relationships actually can be harmed because we no longer value time and effort.

      Thanks for your comment!


    • Springboard profile image


      10 years ago from Wisconsin

      I think its true that we live in a time where as much as we have many more tools of communication than ever before we are actually more disconnected than ever before.

      This put that thought into an interesting perspective.

    • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Leavitt 

      10 years ago from Oregon

      Thanks for reading, Duchess! I know your notes will be special to the people who receive them.

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      10 years ago

      It never hurts to be reminded that the little things mean so much! Great Hub. Now I have a few thank you notes I must write and post!

    • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Leavitt 

      10 years ago from Oregon

      And thank YOU, Rose, for reading! This hub was just as much a lesson to me as to everyone else. I try to be be practicing what I am preaching.

      Yes, I just love handwritten letters! There's really nothing like it, as communication goes.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 

      10 years ago from Michigan

      I just want to say Thank-You for reminding us to do thank-yous! Ah, the handwritten letter ... such a wonderful gift! I need to get back on the ball and write more letters! Great article, once again, Jane. I like how you started out with your own story; it drew me right in.

    • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Leavitt 

      10 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you for your comment, Quill!

      I think the gift of time is meaningful to people, and thank you notes show you are willing to give time out of gratitude. I also agree with you about the importance of bringing back the old fashioned courtesies of a hundred years ago.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      In the world we live in today its easy to simply thank people as they are at our finger tips. In the old days we actually had sit and write with card, paper and an evelope, then we needed to post it.

      We have gotten lazy indeed and I thank you for the reminder we need to return to some old fashioned effort to bless others with a genuine Thank You.


    • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Leavitt 

      10 years ago from Oregon

      You're welcome, tnderhrt23, and thank you for leaving your kind comment! I think we get lazy because we are used to a fast-paced, instant society. Hand written and and mailed thank-you notes seem slow, but we don't realize that it is the slowness that makes it more meaningful.

    • tnderhrt23 profile image


      10 years ago

      Lovely, thought-provoking HuB! It is easy to get lazy in this day and age, but the effort behind a hand-written thank you is so much more meaningful and sincere. Thank you for the reminder!


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