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Writing Thank-You Notes: A How-To

Updated on November 23, 2011

Every year, just days after the Christmas presents had been unwrapped, my mother would sit all of us down at the kitchen table with a stack of thank-you notes and a list of who we had to write to. This charade would happen twice a year - once after Christmas, and once after our birthdays.

The art of the thank-you note is something that is being lost - many people in this day and age choose to forgo this etiquette standard. Some choose to skip the formality of writing a note and perfer to thank gift-givers over the phone, in person, or through an e-mail or quick Facebook comment. Others may opt to not thank the generosity of others at all. But for me, a thank you note is irreplaceable.

Now I'm going to channel my inner Miss-Manners (and my many years of thank-you note writing experience!) to help you compose the most basic of thank you notes!


When to Write the Thank-You Note:

The optimal time to write a thank-you is within two weeks of receiving the gift - but remember: Better late than never! Even if you were given a gift for Christmas and didn't get around to writing the thank-you note until August, a super late thank-you is still better than no thank-you at all!

Components of the Thank-You:

First step - address the gift giver. "Dear Aunt Gertrude..." See? This isn't so hard, is it? 

The best, and most obvious, way to start a Thank-You note is with a "Thank You!" Make it personal. "Thank you for the bundt cake pan" sounds far more personal than "Thanks for the gift."
Exceptions: If the gift was any form of money - cash, check, giftcard, etc... Do not specify the amount. Simply say "Thank you for the very generous gift."

It is also a good idea to talk about the gift and how you use it (or plan to use it...)

  • "Thank you for the vase. It looks absolutely lovely on our dining room table, and hopefully it will inspire Mike to bring me fresh-cut flowers more often *wink wink*"
  • "Thank you so much for the Ikea giftcard. I haven't spent it yet, but I've had my eye on some fancy throw pillows for awhile now."
  • "Thank you for the digital camera - I've been needing one for a long time now! I'll be sure to put it to good use and send you updated pictures of the kids soon!"

Don't feel the need to lie about something. Pick one good thing about it - telling your Aunt that the hideous sweater she sent you is "so warm and comfortable" isn't necessarily a lie - as long as you omit the "but it's uglier than a naked mole rat," or the "and I'm sure that it will make a comfortable bed for the dog."

Finishing Off a Thank You:

The note can be as long or as short as you want it to be. You may consider information about the event for which the gift was sent. "Graduation went well! I didn't trip on stage when they called my name - Victory!" (Note that this is NOT the time to update this person on everything in your life - it is a note with the express purpose of thanking them for their kindness.)

You might also consider a nod to the future - It can differ from the close friend or family member, "I love you and I will call soon, but I just wanted to take time to say thank you!" to the distant relative, "You are in my thoughts, and I hope you are well."

Before ending the note, throw in one last thank you - "Thanks again for the lovely gift!" and end with whatever closing you are most comfortable with. "Love, Regards, Sincerely..." - Take your pick!

Writing a thank-you note doesn't have to be a painful ordeal, but in case you need more help, check out the link below:


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    • laurathegentleman profile image

      laurathegentleman 5 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

      Thank you for the comment, whowas.

      I think that in a world where our communication has become limited to shorter messages and less personal responses (i.e. Twitter and Facebook,) the thank you note has become even more crucial!!

      Thanks for stopping by, and even GREATER thanks for the kind message and feedback!

    • profile image

      whowas 5 years ago

      Hi laurathegentleman,

      This hub is short and sweet and very important. The art of writing thank you notes is, as you suggest here, dying out. However, I consider it one of the many small ways in which we can maintain a culture of kindness and appreciation. It is so easy to do and a real pleasure.

      It is one of those little but significant gestures that keep us civilized and connected in a personal way - when we live in a world seemingly ever greedier, more egotistical and thoughtless.

      Very important hub. Thank you!

    • laurathegentleman profile image

      laurathegentleman 6 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

      Very clever, DFiduccia! You are very welcome, and it's my pleasure! ;)

    • DFiduccia profile image

      DFiduccia 6 years ago from Las Vegas

      I felt that this was the most appropriate place to express my appreciation of having you follow me. Thank you very much.

    • laurathegentleman profile image

      laurathegentleman 6 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

      Thank you, sestasik, for the comment! I'm glad it was helpful!

    • profile image

      sestasik 6 years ago

      Great hub with some useful information on thank you notes!

    • laurathegentleman profile image

      laurathegentleman 6 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

      @Escapes - Thank you for your comments! Thank-you note writing is a good habit to get into, I hope your children stick with it! I know that when I take the time to give someone a gift, I like to hear a thankyou. :)

    • Escapes profile image

      Escapes 6 years ago

      Unfortunately, you are right, writing and sending a thank you note is becoming a lost art. That's really too bad because the giver appreciates the gesture probably as much as the receiver enjoys the gift. I still make my kids write and send them. Hopefully, that will continue as they get older.