How to Write a Better Thank You Note

Photo by Alexandra Stefanec

Photo by Alexandra Stefanec

 

If you are a twenty-something, I am sure your character has been colorfully painted many times by a grandparent, politician or professor. “You millennials are tired, entitled, and ungrateful!” As your attention span fades to the tone of, “When I was your age…,” you wonder if your elders could actually be right about something. As fun as it is accepting an insult as a potential truth, I think it is worthwhile to examine how we express gratefulness in a world that see us as otherwise. 

If you know me, you know that thank you notes are my specialty (besides schnitzel). I love to write, and more importantly, I love expressing how the things in my life have impacted me. And with gift-giving being one of my primary love languages, there’s no denying that I love expressing gratitude for the gifts I do receive. My thank you notes are handwritten on beautiful cards, are sent timely, and are known to make the recipient cry. They are so impactful in expressing how thankful I am that I often get a call thanking me for the thank you note.  Handwritten thank you notes are a lost art for millennials in the world of e-cards and Facebook. Embracing the revival of thank you notes will contribute to redemption our loathed generation.

In this post, I am going to walk you through the entire process of writing a genuinely heartfelt thank you note worthy of making any stone-cold bitch cry. Why you should be writing thank you notes, great card recommendations, and how to write in a way that expresses gratitude on a level deeper than the gift you are thankful for are what’s happening in this post. Enjoy, and happy writing! 

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Why You Should Be Writing Thank You Notes

 

Boost your mood

For most of us, the bulk of letters are written during the holidays. But have you ever thought of writing a gratitude letter when you are feeling down? Research from Kent State University has shown that the more letters of gratitude you write, the happier and more satisfied with your life you will be. You can read more about this research here: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-11/ksu-swt112508.php . Yes, thank you notes are for the recipient, but if you can’t get yourself to write one in the first place, it is worthwhile for the immediate benefits you will have after writing one. Take it from a thank you note writer herself- the mood boost is no joke! Sitting down and being totally focused on that one person and what they mean to you, it is an overwhelmingly loving and positive experience. Articulating the depth of their meaning to you is so moving as the writer, but echos ten fold to the reader. 

 

Life-long proof of love and care

Aside from boosting your ‘happiness’ levels, writing thank you notes is a lifelong memory that can be forever cherished by the recipient. Do you have any old love letters, or cards from those who have passed? Knowing that the warmth of the writers hand and heart touched that page is an invaluable feeling. The utter bliss of reading an old birthday card from my Amee (grandma) catapults me to my younger and more vulnerable years spent in her comforts. Nothing I own or could buy compares to the value I have in those hand written notes from her. It was a proof of her love and care that I miss everyday. Gift the proof of your love to someone in your life, even without occasion.

 

Too affordable not to

If you are not writing thank you notes because emails and texts are free, shut up. Writing a note by hand takes a time, energy, focus, and a little money. And the recipient knows that, which is why it has such and impact on people. In a world where it is easier to do things instantly like send a text, I challenge you to take the longer and more thoughtful route. The impact of a handwritten note runs circles around a text. Doing so will cost you less than a Starbucks and speak volumes about your character. Not only that, but people are more likely to be generous to those who are truly grateful for what they receive. 

 

Improve your creative writing skills

I have been writing thank you notes for as long as I can remember, thanks, Mom! And I can whole-heartedly say that they have challenged me to write very descriptively. Each of my thank you notes are more creative than the last, and I am not challenged like that in any other area of my life. I am pushed to do a deep introspective dive, which brings about new phrasing, vocabulary, and sentence structure. The versatility is limitless! I will guide you through how to engage your creative mind later in this post. 

 

Send one, receive one

The emotional impact of a thank you note is contagious, and sets the standard for others. Let’s face it, it’s impressive to receive a thank you note from a young person. Because people want to be just as highly regarded as you are for sending that note, they will send one too! I have been told by adults that they didn’t start writing thank you notes until receiving one from me. It’s contagious!

 

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Where to Buy Great Cards

I am of the opinion that in order to find really lovely cards, you have to buy online. And yes, I mean plan ahead people! While what you write on the inside is most important, what’s on the outside is what will determine if the recipient will keep it out on their counter. Local stationary shops usually have the best curated selections, but I can always count on Etsy and Paper Source to have a wide variety of options. You didn’t think I was going to send you off with no recommendations, did you?! Plain cards are sold everywhere, so I won’t recommend those simply because I don’t think you should send uninteresting cards. I have scoured the internet to make a collection of really special cards for any sender or recipient. I have broken the cards into Floral, Art, Unisex, and Minimal/Abstract. There is something for everyone within these categories. 

Floral Cards

    ⁃    Floral Printable Template: https://www.etsy.com/listing/219796454/thank-you-card-template-printable-thank?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=thank%20you%20cards&ref=sr_gallery-3-6

    ⁃    Fern Thanks Card: https://www.etsy.com/listing/205847246/thank-you-card-fern-thanks?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=thank%20you%20cards&ref=sr_gallery-3-4

    ⁃    Baroque Blooms All Occasion Set: https://www.amazon.com/M9634OCB-Baroque-Blooms-All-Occasion-Arrangements/dp/B01BYLR28G/ref=sr_1_12?srs=15321100011&ie=UTF8&qid=1519334223&sr=8-12&keywords=floral+art+greeting+cards

    ⁃    Rifle Blue Floral Bouquet Set: https://www.papersource.com/item/Rifle-Blue-Floral-Bouquet-Thank-You/10003315.html

    ⁃    Woodland Greeting Card: https://riflepaperco.com/shop/stationery/greeting-cards/woodland-thank-you-greeting-card/

 

Art Cards

    ⁃    Baroque Blooms All Occasion Set: https://www.amazon.com/M9634OCB-Baroque-Blooms-All-Occasion-Arrangements/dp/B01BYLR28G/ref=sr_1_12?srs=15321100011&ie=UTF8&qid=1519334223&sr=8-12&keywords=floral+art+greeting+cards

    ⁃    Jacquest Louis David Boxed Set: https://www.amazon.com/Jacques-Louis-David-Boxed-Cards-Envelopes/dp/B071P1TKZJ/ref=sr_1_39_a_it?srs=15321100011&ie=UTF8&qid=1519333993&sr=8-39

    ⁃    John Singer Sargent Boxed Set: https://www.amazon.com/John-Singer-Sargent-Boxed-Envelopes/dp/B072BWF1BJ/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=BMKJXH5Y4DFM893MZEKY

 

Unisex Cards (men, lots for you here)

    ⁃    Thank You/ Have a Nice Day Set: https://www.terrapinstationers.com/collections/everyday-stationery/products/copy-of-fuck-you-have-a-shitty-day-cards

    ⁃    Golden Rooster Set: https://www.terrapinstationers.com/collections/everyday-stationery/products/golden-rooster-a6-note-cards

    ⁃    http://www.sideshowpress.com/product/champ-ribbon-card/

    ⁃    Champ Ribbon Card: http://www.sideshowpress.com/product/champ-ribbon-card/

    ⁃    Crest Card A Million Times Over: http://www.sideshowpress.com/product/crest-card-a-million-times-over/

    ⁃    Fox Correspondence Card Set: https://www.etsy.com/listing/533832373/fox-correspondence-card-set-in-copper?ref=shop_home_feat_1

    ⁃    To My Favorite Person: https://www.etsy.com/listing/122340736/to-my-favourite-person-letterpress?ref=shop_home_active_5

    ⁃    Most Excellent Individual: https://www.etsy.com/listing/496647224/most-excellent-individual-letterpress?ref=shop_home_active_9

    ⁃    Custom Thank You Cards: https://www.artifactuprising.com/photo-cards/thank-you-photo-cards

    ⁃    Special Delivery Post Card: https://shop.llk-c.com/collections/all/products/special-delivery

    ⁃    First Class Mail: https://shop.llk-c.com/collections/all/products/first-class-mail-postcard

    ⁃    Thankful Card: https://thesocialtype.com/collections/all/products/thankful 

 

Minimalist/Abstract Cards

    ⁃    Stella Thank You Note: https://shop.moglea.com/collections/gratitude/products/stella-thank-you

    ⁃    Very Thankful For You Set: https://shop.moglea.com/collections/gratitude/products/very-thankful-for-you-set

    ⁃    Painted Thank You: https://shop.moglea.com/collections/gratitude/products/painted-thank-you

    ⁃    Volcano Painted Liner: https://shop.moglea.com/collections/gratitude/products/volcano-painted-liner

    ⁃    Sorbet Painted Liner: https://shop.moglea.com/collections/gratitude/products/sorbet-painted-liner

    ⁃    Minimal Modern Thank You Card: https://www.etsy.com/listing/562092390/minimal-modern-thank-you-card-abstract?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=modern%20thank%20you%20card&ref=sr_gallery-1-10

 

Writing the Note

If you have never written a thank you note, it can be daunting starting out. What do I even say? This isn’t just some copy and pasting shit, people. What I write, and what you write needs to be sourced from how you feel and how the person/gift contributes to your life. BE GENUINE! If you are writing disingenuously, you shouldn’t be doing this in the first place. I am holding your hand opposite of your pencil. Yes, pencil.

The Utensil 

Using a pencil in key in the drafting stage. With it, you don’t have to worry about choosing the right words the first time, scratch out marks, or white out. Using a pencil allows you to through out different thoughts while perfecting your penmanship. If you feel like you want more of a security blanket, get on your computer to type your draft first to avoid too many eraser marks. Just make sure that the final note is written in pen. Black is best.

 

Dear______,

The creativity starts now. Address the note in a way that represents the relationship between you and the recipient. If I am writing a letter to my Auntie D, I will begin the letter saying, “My Sweet Auntie D,” because she is a sweet angel from above. If I was writing to my twin sister, I might address the letter with, “To my source of unending pain.” KIDDING! The point is, reflect the relationship in the way you start the card. If you have a nickname for the recipient, now is the time to use it.

 

The First Three Sentences

If you are writing this note as a response to a gift, your first sentence should reflect the moments and instances surrounding the gift. Try and think about how the close interactions before and after the gift impacted you in the big picture. Start big and go small. Be genuine. For example, I go Santa Fe during Christmas to spend time with Garrett’s family. During that time, we exchange gifts. When I think about the gifts that were given to me by Garrett’s family in Santa Fe, I know that what I really valued most was the time I spent together and how inviting they are. Knowing that these are my genuine, big picture feelings, my first two sentences are where I express how wonderful it was to spend another holiday with them in my favorite city.

The second sentence will refer to how their beautiful homes and warm hospitality are something I treasure year after year. Be selective with your language. See how I used “treasure?” Try to use verbs and adjectives that most closely describe how you feel. These words are the powerhouses of your letter that drive the impact.

The third sentence is where I like to remind both of us of how lucky we are to have each other during this holiday season, and everyday. Which…we are! Be reflective about the value they hold in your life. Dig deep, and be vulnerable. The tears usually come when the writer reveals exactly how they feel about them. Those words give a sense of love acceptance that will hit them like a tidal wave. 

    If it’s Mother’s Day, tell her how lucky you are to have been born into her loving arms that have protected and sustained you through everything. Elaborate through specific times where you felt that way.

        If it’s Father’s Day, tell him that he was the first man you ever fell in love with, to which all others must follow. Remind him of the times where he provided for you and protected you. (Those are men’s two primary instincts, by the way)

    If it’s a birthday, tell him/her of the first time you knew you would be friends, and how your life is greatly enriched by your friendship.

 

The Middle

Now that you have started wide, narrow in. If you have a gift to thank them for, the third or fourth sentence is the place to do it. Let’s say you received a blanket as a birthday gift from your Mom. What is the gift, and how does it contribute to your life? Well, a blanket keeps you warm, which has been especially handy during these February snowstorms. So say it! This is the time to embrace humor appropriate to the relationship. People can almost hear your voice narrating your note, so throw in some of your humor! Maybe something like: 

“The blanket you gave me for my birthday this year has been a godsend in my freezing apartment during these crazy storms. I would be lying if I didn’t contemplate wrapping myself in it and walking to class! I am sure Kanye is trying to sell that look somewhere.”

If you think the sentimental route would be more appropriate, you could say something like:

“The blanket you gave me for my birthday this year has been a godsend in my freezing apartment during these crazy storms. You know as well as I do that money is too tight around here to spend on cozy housewares. You treated me to something I couldn’t get myself to buy, and that meant the world to me. I think of you every time I curl up in my new blanket, and it makes me just as warm as I feel when I am with you.” 

 

The Tidal Wave

You have acknowledged the gift, now widen the lens again. This is where the tears come if you are being direct, kind, and honest.  Acknowledge that the relationship that you have with that person is a gift itself, nevertheless the generosity of the gift they gave you. Let the following sentence drive home the value and place that person has in your life, and how they guide and impact you. Referencing to the example above, you could say:

“To be a daughter of a loving mother is a luxury enjoyed by very few, and I am thankful for the everyday gift of our unbreakable bond. For reasons I will never understand, I am the one who gets to walk alongside your vision of excellence. For everything you do for me, I am forever grateful.”

Can you see how that could make a mother cry? And there model can be molded into a note for anyone! Notes with tidal wave sections like this need to be read a few times over because it is so charged. Aren’t those words you would want to keep forever? YOU can be the person to make someone feel the overwhelm of love and appreciation. 

 

Signing Off

After a gobsmacking “Tidal Wave” section, end the note gently. Let your last sentence resemble something like:

“Thank you again for the wonderful gift, and I can’t wait to see you next month! Give the dog kisses for me!”

After you have written your last sentence, you need to decide how you want to sign your note off. I like to sign off thank you notes with “Yours,” because it is the more personal of signatures, but avoid saying "thank you" again. You just dropped an emotional bomb on them, don’t over do it. Here are some closing options.

  • Most Grateful

    1. Love

    2. With Love

    3. Lots of Love

    4. Yours Truly

    5. Warm Wishes

    6. Hugs

    7. Warmest

    8. Warmly

    9. Take Care

    10. Xoxo

    11. Sincerely Yours

    12. Yours Lovingly

    13. Your Friend

    14. Missing You Dearly

    15. Fondly

    16. Your favorite child

 

Sending the Card

If you can, deliver the card in person. Is it an extra measure, absolutely. But again, it is a labor of love that will hit the recipient hard. Imagine how special you could make a person feel by hand delivering a letter containing language like that. If they can read it with you there, its actualizes those words. If you are geographically restricted, just send the card in the mail the same day you write it. There is a window of time to do these things, and the recipient should ideally get a thank you note within 30 days of giving the gift. Doing so will demonstrate that you prioritize gratitude, and will be still be relevant to the reader.

You guys, THAT’S IT! This is a topic I am so passionate about (strangely), and I think it is so important. You have the power to give someone such tremendous joy just through words. Be the person who leaves someone better than you found them, and you can do it through a thank you note. This post is over 3,000 words, and was a labor of love to say the least. If you thought this post was helpful and could benefit others, share it! If you need help with any of the thank you notes you are writing, I can answer promptly through my Contact page. Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below, and I will see you back next Sunday. A shorter post is next, I promise!