How to Write a Thank-You Note

business man signing contract document


Overcoming Thank-You Note Writer's Block

Computers and phones, texts and tweets have made life so impersonal that something as simple as a handwritten thank-you note really stands out. It shows the recipient that you took the time to find a pen that actually works, locate the cards you bought just for this purpose, open to the inside and... STOP. You have the common ailment known as “thank-you note writer’s block.” But, if you consider who you’re writing to and what you’re thanking them for, it’s easy to make each thank you personal, sincere and unique.

For Money or a Donation

Money may be the most-appreciated gift of all because you can do anything your heart desires with it. Since the giver usually doesn’t know what you want, it’s up to you to tell them: “Thank you so much for your generous gift. It’s going right into my college fund!” Or, “It will definitely be put to good use on our honeymoon!” Contrary to older etiquette guidelines and your Great Aunt Gert, experts today agree it’s OK to mention the dollar amount by saying, “Thank you for the $50,” if you want to. Do say how you plan to use the money. If the gift was a donation on your behalf, explain why the cause is such a passion and what the money will provide. For example, “Thanks to you, 100 more puppies will receive care this month,” is both specific and heartfelt.

For the Gift You Love, Maybe, or Not

Whether someone chose a gift from your wish list or wedding registry or surprised you with something else you love, tell the person what you love about it. “You know how I adore purple!” or “Now my collection is complete!” If, on the other hand, the purple dinosaur with the blinking eyes is not your style, focus on appreciating the thought behind the gift, such as, “I’ll think of you every time I see it.” What if you received several similar gifts and can’t recall who gave you any of them? Don’t guess. Just show your gratitude for their kindness. If the giver attended your special event, tell the person how pleased you were to celebrate with them, as in, “Most of all, I’m so glad you were able to share my special day.”

After an Interview

Sending a thank-you note after an interview serves two purposes. One, it shows you value the interviewer’s time and appreciate being chosen for consideration. Two, it’s another chance to get your foot in the door. Mention something you talked about that was different, lengthy or made you both laugh, so the interviewer will remember you. Send a handwritten note one or two days after the interview and a longer, thank-you email four to five days later. Make them remember you twice.

After a Funeral

It isn’t necessary to thank everyone who came to the services or the home, just those who did something extra. Maybe they sent flowers, made a donation or brought food. If musicians or clergy supplied their expertise, you may wish to thank them, too. A short note of just a few sentences will do, sent within two to three weeks after the funeral. “Your visits were such a comfort to Gerald,” or “The turnip and tomato casserole was just what we needed,” is appropriate. This is the one time you can use preprinted cards and just add a personal thought, or even have someone else write the notes on your behalf.

For a Scholarship

Sending a thank you for a scholarship shows that the committee made a wise choice in selecting you. Many times, it’s a condition you must meet before receiving the funds. These notes are often longer, and, if so, they should be typewritten in business format, giving details about what the scholarship will enable you to accomplish. If you’re still at the stage of being in the running for the award, sending a handwritten note after the interview will help you stand out. Saying something like, “I am honored to be considered for this scholarship, which will allow me to undertake advanced study of ancient Peruvian rock formations,” could just clinch the scholarship for you.

To a Boss, Teacher or Mentor

When someone takes you under their wing or makes a special effort by giving their time and energy, it can be tough to put your gratitude into words. Begin by naming the kindness you’re thanking them for, such as, “Thank you for all you’ve done this past year in helping me get the Prince Project off the ground.” Next, add some specifics as to what the person did that were particularly helpful. “Sharing your technical knowledge enabled us to get organized, start sooner and gain interest from people who otherwise wouldn’t have noticed us.” Continue with a few specifics and how enjoyable it was working together. Add a simple compliment, such as, “Your enthusiasm was contagious and kept everyone moving even on the difficult days.” Finish by looking toward the future. Instead of, “I look forward to working together again soon,” as most people say, add some panache by writing, “I look forward to following your lead again,” or “... setting the world on fire together again soon.” Use your judgment whether to hand-write a short note or type a longer, more businesslike thank you.