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The Art of the Thank You Note

The Art of the Thank You Note

When the gifts have all been given and received and you’ve finally started to relax into your post-holiday eggnog haze, remember there’s one last point to check off your holiday list: the thank you notes. These notes of gratitude are important in showing appreciation to those who took the time to think of you, your team, or your principal during the holidays.

It’s recommended to send a thank you card within two weeks of receiving a holiday gift. Ideally, your note should be sent out within a week of receiving the item or experience, which can include a holiday party, but whenever there are large amounts of cards to write, like around the holidays, two weeks is a much more manageable time period.

Whenever possible, a handwritten thank you card is always best, because it shows extra thought, time and effort. Especially in the digital age, handwritten thank you notes are more impactful and give added emphasis to what you are saying. 

“A thank you is an opportunity rather than an obligation,” says Daniel Post Senning, great-great-grandson of Emily Post and a co-author of “Emily Post’s Etiquette,”18th edition. “The medium becomes part of the message.”

The key to a great thank you card is that it sounds as genuine and thoughtful as the gift that was sent. That said, there are differences in tone depending upon the reader. For a note to a colleague or employer, salutations and content may remain professional and more formal, whereas a family thank you may include more affectionate and familiar language. 

If you’re writing on behalf of your employer, it’s recommended to find a neutral tone that won’t be seen as too formal to family, or too casual to work associates. You might run a list by your principal to check for preferred salutation, nicknames and signature to personalize each note.

Emily Post’s Everyday Etiquette suggests the following format:

  1. Use a salutation.
    • Formal/Professional – Dear {{title}} {{last_Name}},
    • Professional – Dear {{first_Name}} {{last_Name}},
    • Close Professional/Social – Dear {{first_Name}},
    • Social – Dearest {{first_Name}},
    • Good friend – First name, Nickname, or Initials
  2. First sentence – Thank them explicitly for the specific gift or act for which you are writing the letter.
    • I am so thankful/grateful for…
    • I want to say how much I appreciated…
    • I am writing this note to acknowledge…
    • I want you to know how much I value…
  3. Second Sentence – Personalize the note with an original thought about the things you are thanking for, the effort or thought behind it, what it means to you and the relationship.
  4. Third sentence (optional) – Pull the focus back and think about the future. Suggest future actions or direction or develop the thought from sentence two.
  5. Fourth sentence – repeat the thanks or offer a concluding thought.
  6. Use a closing.
    • Formal/Professional/Social – Sincerely
    • Professional/Social – Best regards, Regards, All the best, Best, Respectfully yours, Cordially
    • Social/Personal – Yours truly, Warmly, Affectionately yours, With great affection, With love, etc.

Here’s an example of a thank you note for Uncle Gordon who gave you an espresso maker.

Dear Uncle Gordon,

You clearly know how much I enjoy my morning latte, and I could not be more thrilled with my new coffee maker! Thank you for such a thoughtful gift, which I assure you will be a household favorite. We’re so looking forward to seeing you on Easter, and please send my love to Aunt Mary.

Love,

 

And an example for a colleague, Alex, who got you a new day planner:

Dear Alex,

It was so thoughtful of you to think of me this Christmas; Thank you! I am truly enjoying mapping out the coming months in the lovely day planner you gave me. Thanks for helping to keep me on track!

Best regards,

 

As we wrap up this delightful season of gratitude, let your words serve as a testament to the warmth and joy each gift has brought into your life. Remember, a well-crafted thank you note is not merely a gesture of politeness but an opportunity to let someone know how much their efforts were appreciated.

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