Writing thank-yous does not have to be a daunting task. Get yourself some stationery, proper postage, and black ink.
Even if your handwriting is poor, you must hand-write your notes. Do not type them. No excuses.
There are six-points to the proper thank-you: Learn them, know them, use them— they will not fail you.
1. Greet the Giver
“Dear Aunt Audrey,”
That’s the easy part, but you would be surprised how many people forget it.
2. Express Your Gratitude
“Thank you so much for the hand knitted scarf.”
Use the present-perfect tense, which essentially means write as if whatever you say is happening in the moment.
Also important—never directly mention money. “Thank you for the fifty bucks,” could instead be “Thank you for your generosity.” All cash denominations become “your generosity” or “your kindness.”
If you are writing to thank someone for an intangible (such as them allowing you to stay at their place while you were in town), first define what the intangible thing is, and then make the gift sound as attractive as possible. In other words, don’t say: “Thanks for letting me crash your place.” Instead say: “Thank you for your hospitality.” Don’t worry if it sounds overly simple; the point of writing the note is to create a simple expression of a heartfelt sentiment.
3. Discuss Use
“It gets quite chilly here in the winter, so it will get a lot of use when winter comes.”
Say something nice about the item and how you will use it.
Don’t lie. Let’s say you hate the scarf. How to say thanks? Find the one thing about it that is nice and discuss it—but don’t get carried away. “It is such a lovely shade of green” works.
If it was a gesture, like allowing you to stay at their place, you can follow the lines of “It is so nice to make a personal connection while traveling. I really appreciated my time with your family.”
If the gift was cash, allude to how you will use the money, but do not itemize your planned purchases line by line, instead simply say: “It will be a great help when we purchase our new home.”
4. Mention the Past, Allude to the Future
“It was great to see you at my birthday party, and I hope to see you at the family reunion in October.”
Why did they give you the gift? What does it mean to your relationship with the giver? Let the giver know how they fit into your life. If it’s someone you see infrequently, say whatever you know: “Dad tells me you’re doing great at Carolina, and I hope we cross paths soon.” If it’s someone you’re in regular contact with: “I’ll call you soon, but I wanted to take time to say thanks.” If it’s some errant family member you have little or no contact with, simply go with “You are in my thoughts and I hope you are well.”
“Thank you again for your gift.”
It’s not overkill to say thanks again. So say it.
Simply wrap it up. Use whatever works for you: Love, Yours Truly, With Love. Then sign your name.
Now get it in the mail. Even if your friends and relatives are not thank you note writers, be the one who sets precedent. Thank-you-note writing is one of the loveliest traditions to have been compromised by the information age. Let’s start a movement to revive gracious living.