What to Say in a Thank You Card

I am beginning to wonder if sending thank you cards is becoming a lost art. It seems these days, at least for me, when I send a gift it’s hit or miss whether or not I receive a thank you note for it. This can be particularly frustrating if the gift is sent in the mail – you are left wondering if it was ever received. Yes, I know, I can pay for tracking through the postal service, but knowing it was delivered is not quite the same thing as knowing the intended recipient got it, opened it, and had some sort of reaction to what was inside.

OK, maybe I don’t want to know if they hated it, but I would still like it to be acknowledged; for the time and effort I took to find something I thought they’d enjoy to be recognized. Is that selfish on my part? To want a simple note of appreciation? Am I being too demanding on the part of etiquette standards? I don’t think so.

So in order to help my own cause, I am offering here my guide for how to write a thank you note. It’s really simple. And I wonder if some times thank you cards don’t get written because “I just don’t know what to say”. Well, so much for that excuse! It’s easy. Pick up pen and paper and follow the rule of threes (basically things are always better in threes).

Well, OK, there are actually 6 lines to a basic thank you note, but three substantive lines. Here goes:

  1. Salutation
  2. Thank you for the [specific item]
  3. Provide one or two reasons why you specifically like the item. If you didn’t like the item, be kind, be vague, refer to the effort the giver put into choosing the item for you
  4. Add a sentence about how you will use the item / have used the item and enjoyed it. If it doesn’t seem likely that you will you may need to skip this line, or include a line about the sender’s thoughtfulness in thinking of you.
  5. Repeat your thanks.
  6. Sign your name

Oh, did I mention that thank you notes are most effective if sent in paper form?

There are some occasions I’ve sent electronic thank yous, but I’ve then followed up with paper versions. For example, when I got out of the hospital earlier this year after unexpected surgery, I sent a quick electronic thank you to a coworker who, out of the blue, had sent me flowers. She had sent me an e-mail to check in on me so I was replying and mentioned my thanks for the flowers. But her gesture was so kind (she had missed the opportunity to contribute to the office flowers and felt she needed to do something on her own) that it deserved a special written thank you as well.

My mom and I still exchange handwritten thank you cards for birthdays and Christmas gifts and even for “listening to me on the phone last night when I needed to talk”. It gets a bit ridiculous at times, since we usually see each other, particularly for Christmas and those notes sometimes end up looking like laundry lists, but still, it’s the sentiment behind them that counts.

If you’re still not sure what to say, here are some sample thank you’s following the layout given above:

To a relative:
Dear Aunt Mary, Thank you so much for the set of hand towels you sent us as a house warming gift. The colors match our new guest bathroom so perfectly, and you know how much Steven is a fan of penguins. We can’t wait until you can come visit us to give them a work out yourself. Thanks again for the best wishes on our new home. Sincerely, Jane

To a boss:
Dear Marilyn: I just want to say thank you for allowing my husband and me to use the company’s tickets to the city’s orchestra last night. Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons has always been one of my favorite pieces and I so enjoyed hearing a live performance of it. It was a wonderful evening out. Thanks again. Eleanor

To a friend:
Dear Rachel, Where do I begin to say thank you for the salon day for my birthday? As you know things have been rough for me these last few months, and a day of pampering was just what I needed. Not to mention spending the day with my best friend to gossip and vent! We have to do that again sometime SOON! Thank you thank you thank you. Kim

For the unwanted / unliked item:
Dear Emily, Thank you for the cat and dog salt and pepper shakers / figurines that arrived the other day. They were such a surprise to find in the mail. As you know I am quite an animal lover and I am always amazed at what you are always finding and sending my way. I know these will find a special place. Thanks again. Sarah

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I hope these samples and the 6 simple steps outlines above will help you out the next time you face any thank you note angst.  Remember, as with the gift itself, it’s not so much what you write, but that you do write — it’s the thought that counts.

Thank you for reading!



1 Comment

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One Response to What to Say in a Thank You Card

  1. No time today to write a new post; I’m trying to figure out how to let people follow my blog by e-mail….. we’ll see if this works.