How to Write a Thoughtful Thank You Note

This is part of our weekly How To series

Boy do we have a lot to be thankful for this year.  We have been hosted by friends, family, and strangers all over the U.S. and Canada.  We’ve also received some individual sponsorships to defray our costs in getting to volunteer opportunities.  With all this generosity we have gotten good at writing thank you notes.

I imagine that with Christmas just 2 days away you may be writing thank you notes soon too, so here are some of my tips.

When do you need to write a Thank You note?

Thank you notes are always nice, so it’s never wrong to write one, but a note is especially called for if you were not able to thank the giver in person or if the gift has benefitted you in some way that you can share with the giver.  The best part about gift giving is seeing the joy on someone’s face when they receive your gift, but not everyone can give their gifts in person.  A nice thank you note that conveys that joy is a great way to reciprocate.

When should I send a Thank You note?

Simple, after you receive the gift and before you use the gift.  There are exceptions to the use clause, but in general it is a good rule of thumb so that you don’t forget to send the note.

What should I include in a Thank You note?

A simple layout would look like this:

Dear ….  (name the giver in whatever way you usually refer to this person)

Thank you so much for the …… (be specific about what they gave you).  I really appreciated the …. because …. .  (Include an example of why you liked the gift or how you plan to use it).  **** Note: Another approach would be to focus less on the gift itself and instead focus on thanking them for taking the time or thoughtfulness to send you a gift.  Even if you do not think you will use the gift or even plan on regifting it, be sure to thank the giver for their time and effort (and avoid lying about liking something that you really do not for risk of future embarrasment and harm).

Next customize with recent news or a wish to see them soon or asking about recent news with them.

Close by thanking the giver again and wishing them a Happy Holidays or another appropriate wish of good will.


Your name

Can you send an email or call instead of a hand written Thank You note?

Yes, but consider the circumstances.  In general, many people find a hand written Thank You note to be particularly thoughtful.  However, if you main way of communicating with the giver is through email, that may be an appropriate alternative.  Also, if you have not talked to this friend or relative on the phone in awhile, that might be a very nice reason to call and share your joy with them.  A phone can be particularly nice if you want to share an immediate reaction.

Well, those are my suggestions, what about you?  Do you write handwritten thank you notes?  As a gift giver what kind of thanks do you like to receive?




4 responses to “How to Write a Thoughtful Thank You Note

  1. Sharon, thanks for the timely topic. I mourn the loss of the gentle custom of the handwritten thank-you note, even though texting/e-mail/call of course “counts.”

    In 2011 I returned to my tradition of sending cards of all types, in part because when my mom died in March, I received only one, while my older sister’s mailbox was filled with heartfelt expressions. Surprised by how that stung, I resolved to go the extra mile with mailed greetings.

    I love your format; it’s what I use, too!

    Thanks again,

    • I’m glad you appreciated the post. I think your story highlights the importance of reaching out to our family and friends in thoughtful ways, especially in their times of greatest need.

  2. Great Post. It’s great to see people writing thank you notes. The next time you have to write one, check out A service that let’s you send print thank you notes to friends and family. We even have a technology that allows you to create a font out of your own handwriting.

    Let’s us know what you think and have a Happy New Year!!!!

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