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How to Say Thank You: The lost art of saying "thanks" via Thank you notes

Updated on April 4, 2013

When I was growing up my mother instilled in me the importance of saying thank you.  The art of appreciation isn’t reserved just for when someone holds a door open for you or does a favor for you.  Saying thank you is truly a forgotten art.  I am trying to teach my children much in the same ways that my mother taught me.  Christmas and Birthdays are the two main times that I am dedicated to sending out thank you notes for, but I’m not stuck on just those two occasions either.  When someone sends a gift, you should say thank you.  They took the time to send it to you, and you should take the time to say thank you.


When sending thanks, many people just think that it is acceptable to pick up the phone and say thank you or to send an email saying thank you.  I disagree with this.  While I do pick up the phone and say thanks, on occasion, I still follow it up with an actual thank you note.  Many times if the sender doesn’t hear from you, they won’t know that you received what they sent, so calling to say you received the gift is a great way to let the sender know that you received the gift.  However, I still feel it is important to follow the call up by sending an actual thank you note.  If you are sent an electronic gift, such as an online gift certificate, or an email notifying you that someone ordered you a magazine subscription, or some other electronically sent gift, then an email thank you is warranted.  The sender sent a gift electronically, therefore sending an electronic thank you is acceptable.  This is the only time where I feel an electronic thank you is warranted.  If someone takes the time to mail something to you or to have something mailed to you, you should take the time to sit down and write them a note of thanks, and place that back into the mail to them. 


When writing a thank you note, you do not need to write a dissertation on how happy you were to receive the item, recanting your exact experience of opening the gift and how it made you feel.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, simply writing “thanks” or “thank you” in a card or on a piece of paper will not suffice either, mind you.  I use a simple formula when writing a thank you note: greet the sender, thank them for the specific item, wish them well and then close your note.  Sometimes a person may send you multiple items, in this case you can say “thank you for the gifts.  I especially liked” and insert your favorite item.  If someone sends you cash or a gift card, it is a nice idea to tell them what you bought or what you will buy with the gift they sent to you.  This way the sender knows that you put their gift to good use, whether it was a need or greed purchase that you made with the gift.  The sender just wants to know that you used it and that it went towards something you need or wanted.


When writing thank you notes for gifts to your children, I always find that it is good practice to include a picture of your child with the gift that was sent.  This can be as simple as snapping photos of your child opening gifts or of your child playing with the toy or wearing the outfit that was gifted to them.  This is just an added nicety, and not really a general requirement.  Grandparents and long distant friends and relatives especially appreciate this sentiment, as they don’t get to see your child that often. 


On the topic of thank you notes from children, I write them for my children until they become an age where they can write thank you notes themselves.  At first, when they are learning to write, I may just have them write “thank you” and then sign there name at the bottom of the note I wrote, or even just writing there name, if that is all they are capable of.  Children that do not write yet can draw pictures on the card or paper, or even a scribble from a young toddler is a nice added touch.  Once the child is of an age that they can sit and articulate out a basic thank you note, I pass the duty on to them. 


To many out there, this may seem trivial or silly even.  Saying thank you is so important though.  It lets people know that they (or what they do) have been appreciated.  It takes only minutes, but the feeling of joy that it leaves lasts a life time. 


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