Put It in Writing: The Art of the Thank You Note

Why, how, when, and to whom to send a personalized thank you note
By Bill Lindsey
Bill Lindsey
Bill Lindsey
Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.
November 19, 2021 Updated: November 19, 2021

A proper thank you note showing appreciation for a holiday or birthday gift or a considerate action is a core concept of good manners. As a pleasant bonus, it can also result in unexpected benefits for the sender.

Why Send a Thank You

As children, we learned at an early age to write thank you notes after receiving birthday or holiday gifts (or risk Mom’s wrath), usually keeping them as brief as possible, such as simply, “Dear Grandma, thank you.” A sign of being a respectful member of society is having an awareness of the importance of acknowledging thoughtful actions. A handwritten thank you note shows appreciation for a gift or action and respect for the giver.

How to Send a Note

E-mail, texts, and instant messaging are efficient ways to communicate in our busy daily lives, but they’re not an appropriate way to send a thank you note. According to Justin Trabert of Artful Matters, “A thank you note must be handwritten.” He says: “I suggest using monogrammed stationery or a customized stamp featuring a photo of you and your family. If you don’t have stationery, write a personalized message on a tasteful thank you card from a card store.”

When to Send It

Trabert says: “My rule of thumb is to write and send the note no later than a week after receiving a gift. By sending a handwritten note right away, you show the gift giver how much you appreciate the gift and respect their generosity.” The bonus to acting promptly is that it allows you to relive and relish the pleasure of opening the gift and appreciate the great people in your life.

Who to Send It To

In addition to sending a thank you note to a gift-giver, the practice should also be extended to those who have provided assistance on a personal or work project or performed some other act of kindness. As an example, consider sending a note to a neighbor for helping with a garden project or hosting a holiday party, or to a supervisor offering career advice, or to those on a committee you chair.

What to Say

The person giving the gift took time away from all their other responsibilities to consider, select, and then give a gift they felt would be perfect for you. You return the favor by letting them know it really is exactly right and how much you’re enjoying it. If the gift was cash or a gift card, let them know how you’ll be spending it. The goal is to acknowledge how their kind action brightened your day.

Bill Lindsey
Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.