Helpful Hints for Writing Proper Thank-You Notes

Helpful Hints for Writing Proper Thank-You Notes

Helpful Hints (from Rosalie Maggio, author of “How to Say It”)

*** Early gifts? When gifts arrive early for an event, do not write thank-you notes until after the special day.

*** Mention the money? Some authorities recommend not mentioning the amount of a money gift. They suggest instead writing about the other person’s kindness, generosity, or, perhaps, extravagance. Other authorities recommend mentioning the exact amount and telling how you plan to spend it. Generally, people don’t want to hear that you’re saving it, unless they know you have a special college, travel, or house down-payment fund. If the donor has indicated some purpose for the money (”I want you to buy yourself a really good pen that you’ll have all your life”), be obliging.

***When you are thanking someone for a gift, dinner party, favour, or advice that wasn’t at all to your taste, focus on the giver rather than on the gift. Express your appreciation for thoughtfulness and generosity rather than for the gift or favour itself. It is generally possible to find something to say that is both truthful and positive of either the gift or its giver.

*** To respond to a congratulatory message that is flattering and enthusiastic about your achievements or talents, say “thank you” first of all. Then be gracious. Eleanor Hamilton says, “A compliment is a gift, not to be thrown away carelessly unless you want to hurt the giver.” It is easier to handle a compliment if you reflect it back to the giver (”how nice of you to write,” “your letter touched me,” “how thoughtful of you”).

*** A few letterwriting authorities dislike seeing “Thanks again” at the end of a thank-you note. However, this is a popular and harmless way of reminding the other person of the purpose of the letter. If you like it, use it.

*** When more than one person gives you a gift, personalized thank-you notes are sent to each person. You do not need to do this when you receive a gift from a family (even when all five of them sign the card) or when you receive a gift from a group such as your bridge club, teachers at your school, your co-workers. You can write one letter to the group but be sure that it is circulated or posted so that everyone who contributed to the gift sees it.

*** Elizabeth Post, continuing Emily Post’s work as an etiquette resource, says the thank-you note is one of the three kinds of lettters that should be hand-written whenever possible (the other two are letters of condolence and formal replies to invitations). She excepts typed thanks when they are part of a long, personal letter to family or friends. Business thanks can also be typed, although the handwritten note carries a little warmer message when that is the effect you want.

*** When you need to thank many people, it is appropriate (and, in some areas, expected) to insert a thank-you notice in the local newspaper. The nurses, doctors, hospital staff, friends, and family who helped someone through a long and demanding illness are often thanked this way. The funeral of a public figure may inspire hundreds of notes of condolence, which are best acknowledged in a newspaper announcement. Recently-elected officials thank those who worked and voted for them. The wording is simple and warm: “We wish to thank all the generous and loving friends and family who sent cards and gifts on the occasion of our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.”

*** An effective job-seeking strategy as well as a gesture of courtesy is sending a thank-you note after a job interview. Write the note immediately after the interview (before a decision is made), mentioning what you liked about the interview, the company, the position. Since most of us have our most brilliant thoughts an hour or so after the interview, you can add them to your thank-you note along with any words that might redeem parts of the interview that didn’t go well. Writing the note gives you a chance to emphasize your interest in the position and to illustrate your self-starting attitude and expressive talents. It may also make you a stand-out as many people do not write thank-yous for an interview.

*** Business entertaining is often taken for granted, but a brief thank-you is appreciated and builds goodwill: “Business people appreciate receiving a thank-you letter because it adds a touch of warmth to the cold world of business.” (Harold E. Meyer)


I like to climb mountains, read Nietzsche, and explore the West Coast.

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