What to Write in a Thank You Note (Plus Card Samples)
Every year, I always knew one of my Christmas presents ahead of time—a pack of thank you cards. I hated writing them, but my mother insisted. They always had to be finished before the end of winter break, and sometimes even earlier. She had high standards and a sort of formula I was supposed to adhere to. I had to keep trying until I got each note right.
In later years, my skills came in handy when writing thank you cards for high school and college graduation presents. Thank you cards may not be fun or glamorous, but they are important. This simple formula will help you write effective ones as painlessly and successfully as possible so you can appropriately thank gift givers without laboring for a weekend.
Make a Gift List
The first step in writing thank you cards is creating a list that includes each gift and who gave it to you. It's best to do this as quickly as possible, while the gifts are still fresh in your mind. If you can, work on this list while opening your gifts. This may not be possible on Christmas or at a birthday party, but it is very feasible if you're opening graduation or wedding presents on your own time.
This helps save you from embarrassment later when you can't remember who gave you what or accidentally wrongfully attribute a gift! Nothing will make you seem ungrateful more quickly than obviously not knowing what a person gave you.
My mother always insisted on two specific things:
- Each note must name the gifted item.
- Each note must say something truthful (and polite!) about the item, how it will be used, etc.
The second one is always the tricky part, but I think it is the most important. Jotting "Dear Autie, Thanks for the present, it is so nice" is overwhelmingly insincere sounding, even if it's the truth. Instead, specifically say what you will use it for, when you will wear it, where it will be placed in your home, etc. If you absolutely hate the item in question, do not lie or simply make something up—it will sound fake, at best, or you'll get trapped in your lie later when you can't remember what you made up! Find something you can appreciate about the item or, at the very least, make a truthful statement Here are a few examples:
Thank you for the homemade sweater. You must have really put a lot of time into it! I don't think I have that kind of patience. I admire your dedication.
I received the necklace you sent. Where did you find it? I've never seen anything like it before! I love unique accessories and know I won't accidentally match anyone else when I wear it.
If you do genuinely like and appreciate the time, allow your enthusiasm to show by getting specific:
Thank you for the jacket! It fits perfectly and I love the color. I plan to bring it on our camping trip next weekend. I'm going to be so warm!
Thank you for the painting! You must have gotten all the artistic talent in the family. I can't wait to hang it in the living room—it's perfect for that blank wall above the end table.
It is always important to write notes and send them out as quickly as possible. Sometimes you really can't write them immediately, but write them as soon after opening the gift as you can. Even if a present was the absolute best thing you've ever received, sending out a note half a year late will make it seem like you didn't enjoy the item. Prompt note writing makes the gift giver feel appreciated (and you won't have the thank you writing task hanging over your head any more!).
Do You Write Thank You Cards?
In the professional world, it has become customary to thank a potential employer for an interview. When writing a thank you for an interview, it is very important that you get it composed and on its way as soon as possible - most people recommend sending a note within 24 hours. If you're short on time, it is even socially acceptable to send a thank you email or place a thank you phone call for an interview. Don't send a thank you letter for an interview at a fast food place or mall store, but one is appropriate for a professional position.
The formula for an interview thank you really isn't all that different. State the position and, if you can remember, the interviewer(s) by name. Thank that individual for "Finding the time in his/her busy schedule to grant me an interview." Then, make a statement to the effect of "The position, as described to me, appears to be a perfect match for my skills and interests, and I know it would help me grow professionally." In short, you want to sound like you think you're a good candidate without being overly pushy. Conclude by offering "I look forward to hearing your final decision and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions."
I don't know anyone who looks forward to writing thank you notes, especially not when there's a long list of card recipients, but it's one of those tasks that's best done promptly. By making a list of gifts and givers while the event is fresh in your mind, you can avoid embarrassing missteps. Then, arm yourself with the list and sit down with your notes and a pen to write them according to the simple formula of naming the gift and saying at least one polite, sincere thing about each item. By writing your cards and sending them out promptly, the gift givers will feel appreciated and you'll have one less post-celebration task hanging over your head!