How to Write a Thank You Note

How to Write a Proper Thank You Note | An easy-to-follow guide for both children and adults from www.flandersfamily.info

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.

Thank You Kid

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:

Dear __________,

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.

  • Dear Grandma,

    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.

  • Dear Sally,

    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.

  • Dear Grandma,

    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.

  • Dear Sally,

    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?

Free Printable Thank You Cards

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

Free Printable All Occasion Greeting Cards

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  1. Another question. Maybe it’s elementary…but maybe I’m still a kindergartner because my growth was stunted because I acted like a highschooler when I really should have not feared man but God and grown up instead of pretending to be grown up when I wasn’t.

    Is to glorify God to display who He is?

    I appreciate your patience. I’m really broken. I hope against hope that I’m not broken beyond repair.

    1. I can promise that you are not “broken beyond repair,” Rebekah. The very fact you are asking these questions is evidence God is working in your heart. He delights in bringing beauty out of ashes, and He has promised to see the work He starts in us through to completion.

      Yes, I think displaying, magnifying, reflecting, and proclaiming who God is to the world around us are all good examples of what it means to bring glory to Him. But all those outward acts must flow from a heart that has been made new by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. So the inward acts of contemplating God’s goodness, praising His attributes, communicating with Him in prayer, and reading, memorizing, and meditating on His Word are also ways that we glorify Him.

  2. This is a valuable exhortation – firstly for myself, and then for me to pass along to all of my little ones. I still have thank you cards to write from our wedding 11 years ago! ?

    I have been apprehensive to “praise men”. And personally, I would rather someone praise or thank God for something I have done than to receive thanks from the person myself without them thanking God.

    What I’m saying is, how do I avoid the pitfall of practicing my righteousness before people in order to be seen by them? And how do I discourage that in others? How do we be a thankful people without becoming an idolatrous people?

    I hope this makes sense.

    1. Yes, that does make sense, Rebekah. But I’d hate for you to let those concerns paralyze or silence you.

      Expressing gratitude is simply good manners. And it is a habit that is especially refreshing in the entitled age in which we live. Yes, we recognize God as the ultimate source of all life’s blessings, but you can still encourage those who’ve served as His hands and feet by letting them know how deeply you appreciate their kindness.

      Here is something God taught me a long, long time ago: Whether it be writing, singing, speaking, or using any of the other gifts God’s entrusted to me, if I wait to act until I’m 100% certain my motives are completely pure, I will never do anything. Like the unfaithful servant who buried his talents in the ground, I will squander all the good things God has provided if my fear of misusing them keeps me from using them at all. And then, Satan will have me exactly where he wants me — silent, scared, inwardly-focused, and utterly ineffective.

      So instead of getting caught up in that line of reasoning, I pray that God will be glorified in everything I do, that He’ll use my words and actions to point others to Jesus, that He’ll forgive me for any hint of selfish pride in my motives and root that out of my heart — and then I pick up my pen and write, or open my mouth and sing, or stand up and utter testimony to the goodness and faithfulness and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died to save sinners like me and you.

      1. Thank you so much for your encouragement! I have been avoiding writing…for fear that I would dishonor God somehow. I read over my comment, it somehow sounds self-righteous, although I don’t mean it that way. I want (increasingly so) for God to be thanked for any good that may be seen in me because I KNOW that NOTHING good dwells in my flesh. I’ve written at times, knowing God gave me the words and understanding… (Humanly speaking, I’d probably be pronounced dumb, as I didn’t even finish 10th grade)…but I’ve been locked in by the fear of not dotting all of my i’s and crossing all of my t’s. That doesn’t seem to reflect hope in the grace of God…I’m beginning to think I’ve gotten the gospel all sorts of wrong.

        I will be thinking about what you’ve said. Thank you for your time. ?

        1. I didn’t think your question sounded self-righteous at all, Rebekah, but I did think it sounded familiar and relatable. I used to struggle with a similar thought process about music.

          I’ve always enjoyed singing and grew up in a church that featured “special music” before the sermon every week. But I felt conflicted in my teens and early twenties every time the music minister asked me to sing a solo in that time slot: Was it all right for me to accept the invitation? What if I did a good job and it was well-received? Would I become prideful? Was it worth the risk? Or what if I flubbed up miserably? What kind of offering would that be to the Lord? And after the service, when people told me they enjoyed my song, how could I answer in a way that would give all glory to God without sounding uppity? It was enough to make my head spin.

          THAT was the context for what I wrote in my earlier reply. I eventually learned to sing whenever I was asked, to be thankful for the opportunity, and — when people complimented my voice or delivery afterwards — to smile and say with sincerity, “Thank you! I love to sing and am always happy to do so!”

          Because that is true. And do you know what? God allowed me to goof up just enough to keep me humble. Ha! Most of the time though, then and now, I feel God’s pleasure when I sing the way Eric Liddell felt His pleasure when He ran. It’s the way every one of us should feel whenever we’re using the gifts and talents God has given us to encourage, bless, and build others up and to bring glory, honor, and praise to His name.

          1. I wanted to share a testimony that I wrote this morning with you! You greatly encouraged my heart! And I hope to make it a more prayerful venture… Writing that is! Thank you for your encouragement and example!

            Would you be free from fear and anxiety — even sexual impurity?! Look to Jesus! And walk with those who will help you keep your gaze fixed on Jesus!

            I believe I may have begun by the Spirit… Or perhaps I never did. I have been tangled in holding myself up by my own bootstraps, looking to myself to please God — exhaustingly impossible! One fails and then feels as though they must do “penance”. Somehow, I had that mixed up with believing that Christ was my only hope.

            He remains my ONLY hope…but I am focusing (with the help of others from the ministry at settingcaptivesfree.com) on the cross of Christ and all that was accomplished — I’m far from having it all worked out — but I have more hope, in that my salvation does NOT rest on my ability to “keep the law”, but in Christ’s keeping it perfectly for me — thereby He IS the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! He is the propitiation — the payment — for my sins and for the sins of the whole world. I’m not saying that we should continue in sin that grace may abound! I am saying that I am moving into more peace (and hopefully joy eventually) as I believe that if I do sin, I have an Advocate before the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He IS my Righteousness.

            …and the gates of hell do not want me to believe it! Don’t believe them.

            God does not lie — believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved! In my faithlessness, He remains faithful.

            What wonderous love is this, oh my soul?! It is a love that is captivating my heart — by looking to the law? No, by fixing my eyes on Jesus crucified! The law will NEVER save a person! The grace of God shown to us in the face of Jesus Christ will, because He is willing! Are we?

            Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

          2. Yes, Christ is our only hope. I’m so thankful that He loved us enough to die in our place, and that God has promised to finish the work He has begun in our hearts!

  3. Thank you so much for all your posts. You are witty and on target with ministering to families spirituality and practically. I love the simplicity but need for this article on Thank You Notes. You are discipling through your writing. My God bless the increase of your ministry.

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