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Thank You Note Etiquette

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A woman holding a card Kohei Hara/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The purpose of a thank you note is to show your appreciation for a gift or service that someone has provided for you. The ideal form of gratitude is a handwritten note or letter. However, an email or phone call will suffice, but even then it’s not a bad idea to follow up later with a letter that requires paper, a pen, and a stamp.

Thank You Note Guidelines

Each thank you note should be different and meaningful to the recipient. If you are an organized person, you might want to keep a stack of cards on hand so you won’t have to run out to the store and purchase one every time you need to thank someone.

Guidelines:

  • When you have multiple thank you notes to write, such as after a birthday party or shower, make sure you send the correct message to each person. One way to keep this straight is to have a trusted friend jot down the person’s name beside what he or she gave.
  • If you receive the gift in the mail, you may send a brief email letting the person know you received it. Follow up with a written note.
  • Most of the time, a thank you note can be short and to the point. However, if you have more to say, there is nothing wrong with a long thank you letter.
  • Be specific about what you are thanking the person for. You don’t want to simply say, “Thank you for the gift.” That may give the impression that you can’t remember what the person gave you.
  • State how the gift or service will be, or has been, used.
  • Wrap it up with a personal comment.
  • Send your thank you note as soon as possible.

Examples of Thank You Notes

Not everyone is blessed with the gift of knowing what to say. If you are someone who struggles with the right words to express your gratitude, follow some of these examples and tweak them to make them fit your needs.

Examples:

Tone

The tone of your message should match the relationship you have with the person you are addressing it to. For example, a letter to a lifetime friend will be more intimate than one you would send to a prospective employer. If you are in doubt about how your message comes across, set it aside for an hour or two, and then come back and read it aloud.

A business letter will be much more formal than one that is personal. After a baby shower, thank you notes to your friends may be fun, light, and perhaps even humorous. When thanking a client for a gift, you might want to have a more straightforward message, unless you are absolutely positive how a humorous message will be perceived. If in doubt, don’t try to be funny.

Clarity

Make sure the message in your thank you note is clear. Check it for spelling and grammar after you finish writing it. You may want to write a rough draft before copying it on the stationery or card that you wind up sending.

When It Is Not Necessary to Send a Thank You Note

Almost any gift or good deed deserves at least a brief, handwritten thank you note. If in doubt, send one. The worst thing that will happen is you will be considered “too polite,” and that’s not a bad thing.

There is one time when you don’t need to send a thank you note after receiving a gift. If the person sent flowers to thank you for something you did for her, just pick up the phone and let her know how much you appreciated her thoughtful gesture. Otherwise, you may find yourself sending thank you notes back and forth for a very long time, to the point of being ridiculous.

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