When it comes to appropriately expressing appreciation for a gift, it’s hard to beat a handwritten thank you note.
Some folks will tell you that a phone call or an email or even a simple spoken “thanks” at the time of receipt shows sufficient gratitude — don’t believe them.
Although any of these options would better than nothing, none will leave the lasting impression of a handwritten note.
This courtesy has largely fallen by the wayside, but that just means you’ll stand out all the more when you abide by the time-honored tradition.
Some of the children in our family are huge letter-writers, but others need a little more encouragement.
One of my sons has been procrastinating on this task for months now, so I thought a little review of how to write a proper thank you might be in order.
What follows are the guidelines I (try to) teach them.
Basic outline for a proper thank you note
What am I supposed to say?A proper thank you note will, at a bare minimum, contain at least three sentences. Here is an acceptable outline you can follow:
Thank you for the __________. I am looking forward to __________. I appreciate your __________.
A few examples of 3-sentence thank you notes
This same structure can be used in any number of circumstances:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith,
Thank you for the Barnes & Noble gift card. I am looking forward to reading the books I bought with it. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Thank you for the sweater. I am looking forward to wearing it this fall. I appreciate your knitting it for me.
Dear Aunt Betty,
Thank you for the waffle iron. My husband and I are looking forward to eating homemade waffles. We appreciate your coming to our wedding.
Thank you for the puzzle you gave me for my birthday. I am looking forward to working it with my family. I appreciate your friendship.
This is just a bare-bones outline, but it will suffice even if you elaborate no further.
Note that in each case, the gift is clearly identified. You should make every attempt to do this.
Resist the urge to vaguely write, “Thank you for the gift.” If your note is too generic, it will sound lazy — as if you copied the same exact wording and sent it to everyone.
Of course, this outline should just be considered a starting point. More is always welcome.
A few longer examples
Look at how much warmer and more personalized these six-sentence thank you notes sound:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith,
Thank you so much for the Barnes & Noble gift card you sent for my graduation. You know what a bookworm I am! I’m looking forward to reading the books I bought with it: WONDER by R.J. Palacio and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green. Have you read either of those? I’ve heard great things about both and am so excited to finally be able to enjoy them, now that I don’t have any classes to study for. I really appreciate your kindness and generosity.
Thank you so much for the beautiful sweater you sent me. What a surprise it was to get it in the mail this afternoon! It fits perfectly, and I’m looking forward to wearing it this fall. I love the color and pattern you used—and that wonderfully soft cotton yarn. You did a terrific job on it. I appreciate your knitting it for me and will think of you every time I wear it.
Dear Aunt Betty,
Thank you for the new waffle iron. It is exactly the one we wanted. My husband and I are looking forward to eating lots of homemade waffles. It will be so much fun getting to cook them ourselves in our very own kitchen. We appreciate your coming to our wedding to celebrate our special day with us. Thanks again for being there, and for the wonderful gift.
Thank you for the puzzle you gave me for my birthday. I’m looking forward to working it with my family. We’re all puzzle fanatics, as you know, but we’ve never tried piecing together a 3-D puzzle before. It looks challenging! We’ll probably set it up in the dining room instead of the kitchen table, just in case it takes longer than usual. I appreciate your friendship and would love for you to come help us assemble this thing!
Whether you write a few sentences or fill up the entire card, your note is sure to bring a smile to your recipient’s face. Who wouldn’t love finding a bit of sunshine amid all the bills and sales flyers stuffed in the mailbox?
Are you a letter writer? Do you want to be?
More Letter-Writing Inspiration
Want more inspiration and resources for celebrating “National Letter Writing Week?” Check out the following posts:
- All-Occasion Greeting Cards – This set of free printables includes a variety of folded note cards with a matching envelope template.
- Free Printable Thank You Notes – Now that you know how to write a thank you note, get busy. 🙂 I laid out these thank you cards just like the designs above. Pretty picture on the front, blank inside to write your own greeting.
- Free Matching Envelope Seals These pretty stickers match our thank you card designs perfectly.
- How to Write a Thank You Note – An instruction guide for kids — or parents — who’d like to express their gratitude, but haven’t a clue what to say.
- Free Printable Birthday Calendar – If you like letter writing like I do, you won’t want to restrict that activity to a single week. Use this handy birthday calendar as a prompt for sending special snail-mail greetings all year long