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How to Write: Thank You Notes

17 May

Thank you notes do not serve the purpose of simply naming (and sometimes also describing) a gift someone sent you. More often than not though, that is exactly what we send out, if we manage to send anything at all:

“Dear Friend, thank you so much for the beautiful red silk scarf. I love it.”

Not so great, right?

This post in the How To Write series is meant to help you write thank you notes well. And we begin by understanding one subtle difference: a thank you note is different from just a thank you. They are not one and the same.

Four Tips for a Proper Thank You Note

First, one should always acknowledge the specific item you received. The reason this is important is because it shows you paid attention to the specific gift the giver chose for you. This is especially important in group giving situations; like a party where someone receives a significant number of gifts. You want to thank each person for the specific gift they gave you and show that you paid attention to who gave what.

Second, it is very good practice to mention why you love the gift, or why the gift was meaningful to you. If you received a beautiful red silk scarf and you appreciate its quality, mention that aspect of it. If you received something like a gift card, something appropriate and apt to say is that you are so glad the giver gave you that option.

Third, anytime you can make the note about the giver, you should. Even in just a small way. For example, if your incredibly artistic friend whom you admire so much gave you a gift, you could write something like, “Thank you so much for the beautiful red silk scarf. I have always admired your eye for beauty and your ability to create it, too. This scarf will serve as a great reminder to me of your talent I so admire and our friendship.”

Sometimes, we receive gifts from people we aren’t exactly fond of. Sometimes, people give gifts not by choice, but by obligation. Hopefully, those instances are rare for you, but how do you thank someone who gave you a gift you don’t like? And you know they don’t like you? The answer is simple: you do the same way as above.

However, that brings me to my fourth tip: tell the truth. If you love the gift, you want to express that sentiment. If you didn’t like the gift, don’t hype it up, just say thank you in a short and sweet note. Don’t include any untruths in your note.

An example of a Thank You Note in an office setting.

Appropriate Timing

When do you send thank you notes? Anytime someone gives you a gift valued at about $5 or more is a good practice. If someone gives you something, no matter how small, and includes a tag or card, then 100% of the time should you send a written thank you note.

If you are ill and people stop by, leaving you things to make you feel better or perform some other act of care and concern, you should write a thank you note. If someone close to you passes away, you should write a note to anyone who came to the funeral or visitation, left flowers or made a donation. But as with all notes, send a thank you note anytime you intuitively feel you should or anytime you just want to.

Thank you notes are a simple and elegant thing. They serve as powerful acknowledgement of our appreciation and respect, and they allow us to take time to really, truly offer thanks to someone else.


Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.


Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in the How to Write series. Read the others here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes


2 Responses to “How to Write: Thank You Notes”

  1. Carol May 20, 2012 at 9:17 AM #

    Elegant and wise advice, thanks for sharing!

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