How to Write a Thank You Note (a Real One)

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Handwritten notes are like sending a hug through the mail. They have personality and character, attributes a computer screen will never have. Let me show you why, when, and how to write a thank-you note.

How to Write a Thank You Note

Need some quick advice? Here are the nine steps to write a thank-you note. Read on for a thorough guide!

How to Write a Thank You Note

  1. Use nice paper or a card.
  2. Find a pen with ink that doesn't bleed or smear.
  3. Begin, “Dear __________,” (insert person's name).
  4. In the first sentence say, “Thank you,” and what you are thankful for.
  5. Write at least one sentence of appreciation for the act of kindness or gift.
  6. Say something nice about the giver.
  7. Write your closer, such as Regards, Sincerely, All my best.
  8. Sign your name.
  9. You don't have to put your address on the inside of the card.

Those are the quick steps. Now read on for a longer guide.

Why You Should Write a Thank You Note

It is easier and quicker to send a text message, an email, or a voice message to say “thank you.” However, if the purpose of the thank-you message is to convey your deepest, most sincere gratitude, taking the time to carefully write a message by your own hand, and not your secretary's hand, will mean more to the recipient than an instant media message.

When was the last time you wrote a thank-you note? A real thank-you note on a piece of paper that goes into an envelope with an address written on it and a stamp stuck in the upper right-hand corner?

Too long, right?! Let's write one together today.

What Is a Thank You Note?

A thank you note is a short informal written message of thanks to another person for a specific action. Thank you notes are brief, often no more than five sentences.

The key word is brief. We are not talking about the changes in currency prices or the bird call of a painted bunting here. If you want to write about your summer activities or about how many litter boxes you have, write a letter instead.

Joe Bunting wrote an article about writing letters, which you can read here: What Letter Writing Can Teach Us. But a thank-you note is not a full letter.

Why You Should Send a Thank You Note:

  1. You should send a thank-you note because my mother said it is a good idea.
  2. To connect with another person.
  3. Send a thank-you note because you want to say thank you.
  4. The biggest reason to send a thank-you note is because you are a kind, considerate person. And you always want your friends and acquaintances to know how much you appreciate them.
  5.  Because you are thoughtful.

There is simply nothing as personal as a handwritten note. In a stack of bills and flyers, it’s a treasure in a sealed packet, full of promise and potential. —Dan Post Senning

Supply List for Thank You Notes

Before you begin, make sure you have all of the following on hand:

  1. Notecards or stationery.
  2. Stamps
  3. An address.
  4. Pens.
  5. A few minutes of your time.

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9 Steps to Write a Thank You Note

Writing a thank-you note might sound intimidating, but it is actually quite simple when you follow these nine steps.

1. Use nice paper or a card.

What is nice? Hmmm . . . a standard piece of printer paper, eight and a half by eleven, and an envelope are nice and acceptable. Personal stationery or a plain set of notecards is also nice.

What is not nice paper? A piece of paper ripped out of a notebook with a coffee stain on it, the back of your grocery list, or the back of a power bill would not be considered nice stationery.

2. Use a pen.

Your best choice is one with ink that doesn't bleed or smear.

3. Begin “Dear __________,” (insert person's name).

Check the spelling of the person's name. If Margaret wants to be called Margaret, don't call her Maggie. At least Maggie is not named after a non-stick spray like my name.

If you are on a first-name basis, call the person by their first name. If you don't know the person very well, or they are “The Big Cheese” in a company, use Mr., Ms., or use the full name.

Keep the salutation polite and friendly. “Yoh” or “Hey” or “What's up?” might work with your college roommate, but it is a bit casual for a business or professional thank you note. And don't “Hey” your great aunt. Address the card “Dear Aunt Margaret,” not “What's up, Maggie?”

Sigh, I am being a bit bossy. Who am I to tell you what to call your Aunt Margaret?

Only you know your relationship with your dear aunt. Please address the card in the same manner you talk to her. Which I hope is always polite and respectable.

4. The first sentence should have the words “thank you” in it.

And say what you are thankful for. Be specific.

Thank you for the beautiful sweater. Thank you for introducing me to your editor. Thank you for being the best friend I had in grade school. Thank you for being the best mommy in the world. Thank you for cleaning my seven litter boxes. (I can dream. Right?)

5. Write at least one sentence about how much you appreciate the gift.

Thank them for their gift of ten kittens, or tell them how much their act of kindness meant to you. This sentence makes the note more personal.

6. Say something nice about the giver.

For example, tell them you are looking forward to seeing them the next time you are in New Orleans. Or tell them how you wished you lived closer so you could help them shovel their driveway.

7. Write your closer, such as Regards, Sincerely, All my best.

These are all polite and not too informal. “Chow baby” is too informal, and “chow” is actually spelled “ciao.” Don't use the word “love” unless you actually love the person. Signing an email “xo” might give the recipient the wrong idea.

8. Sign your name.

Use legible handwriting. This is not a prescription; it is a thank you card.

9. You don't have to put your address on the inside of the card.

Remember, this is not a letter, it is a note. Please put your return address on the envelope. Write clearly.

When to Send a Thank You Note

Not sure when a thank-you note is appropriate? Here are six times to send a thank-you note:

1. When you receive a present.

Whether the present comes in the mail or in person, remember to send a thank you note in response.

2. When someone introduces you to someone else.

If someone helps you connect with someone new, send them a thank you note to show your appreciation for their kindness.

3. After you interview for a job.

Yes, send a handwritten thank-you note after a job interview. The handwritten note will help you stand out in a mass of interviewees.

However, according to an article by Molly Triffin on Interview Etiquette in Forbes, you should send a thank-you email to everyone you met in the interview process within twenty-four hours. Managers make quick decisions, and your written note might arrive after they have already made a hiring decision.

So, I suggest do both. Send a handwritten note and an email.

4. For an act of kindness.

When your mother comes and helps you pack up your house when you move from Minnesota to California. And then again five years later when you move from California to Pennsylvania.

Yes, even thank your mother. May no kindness go unthanked.

5. For a huge act of kindness.

When someone comes and cleans all your seven litter boxes without being asked. That hasn't happened yet. But if it does, I will mail a handwritten note.

6. For friendship.

Send a thank-you note to a dear friend because you want them to know how much their friendship means to you. You realize life is precious, and you don't want to get hit by a bus and not have them know you valued the friendship.

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The Six Biggest Thank You Note Rules You Should Never Break

There are six unbreakable rules when writing thank-you notes:

1. Don't ask for anything.

Never, never, never in ten million years ask for something at the end of a thank-you note.

Thank you, and, oh by the way, can you do this for me _______________. This is a big NO will a capital N and a capital O. Here is an example of what not to do.

Dear Mr. Faraday,

Thank you for introducing me to the President of your company. I appreciate your kindness in helping me meet Mr. Wise Sage.

I have enclosed a copy of my manuscript. Will you please read it for me and give it to the editor in charge of acquisitions?

Sincerely,
Pat Asksfortoomuch

2. Don't tell the person you hated the gift and want to return it.

3. Don't send a printed form letter with your signature printed at the bottom.

4. Don't have your secretary write your thank-you cards for you and then you sign the note. I don't care if you are the President of the Company. Write your own notes. The only way you can get out of this is if you don't have hands.

5. If you spell a word wrong, don't cross it out and keep writing. Get a new card and start again.

6. My husband said, “Don't use profanity.”

Do you write thank-you notes? How do you feel when you receive one? Please tell me in the comments. I always love to hear from you.

PRACTICE

For today's practice, take fifteen minutes to write a thank-you note. Get a notecard, or a piece of paper and write a thank-you note. Then put it in an envelope and mail it.

You don't have to share the contents of your thank-you note here, as it might be personal, but please share that you wrote the note.

If no one has given you a gift in a box with paper and a bow, think of someone who has given you their time, has offered advice, or has supported you with encouragement, then write them a thank-you note.

xo
Pamela

Pamela writes stories about art and creativity to help you become the artist you were meant to be. She would love to meet you at pamelahodges.com.

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31 Comments

  1. ruth

    This is a subject close to my heart. Nothing replaces the hand written note. I try to write them weekly to those who mean the most. “Thanks for being you.” By the way, thanks for your superb posts on Write Practice; if I had your home address I would send a note today!

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Ruth,
      You are so thoughtful to write notes every week to your mostest friends. I know mostest is not a word, but that is okay
      And, thank you for thanking me for writing here. I love getting mail. My address is P.O. Box 314, Pottstown, PA, 19464. And, then I can write you a thank you note, for your thank you note.
      xo
      Pamela

      Reply
        • Pamela Hodges

          Heidi,
          And I will write you back. 🙂
          xo
          Pamela

          Reply
  2. nancy

    When teaching the thank you note, I always made my kids and my students use one sentence (or more) to say exactly why they liked the gift or gesture: Thank you for the museum tour I learned… or the most interesting part was … Thank you for the scarf. It matches perfectly with my new dress. Thank you for the wonderful dinner. It’s always fun to see the creative things you do with liver. Etc.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Oh Nancy,
      I love liver. What a fun thing to thank someone for.
      And, I thank you for your suggestions on being specific with a thank you note.
      I wish you all the best.
      xo
      Pamela (I like to sign off xo, even though I said to be careful when using the hugs and kisses. I like to think of my readers as friends.)

      Reply
  3. Heidi Bender

    The last thank-you note I wrote was on Saturday thanking my niece for including me in her wedding as a bridesmaid and for the gifts she gave me.

    I love the example thank you note with the 10 kittens and CatVille, PA! I have a site about writing thank-you notes (www.tonsofthanks.com) and sometimes will include cats in the examples or use the name of my cats as the person’s name in the example.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Heidi,
      How wonderful to be included in your nieces wedding. And how thoughtful of you to send a thank-you note.
      Thank you for the link to your site about writing thank-you notes. I will have to check it out.
      Thank you.
      xo
      Pamela

      Reply
  4. Ken

    It seems quite common that people think, “That was nice,” but do not communicate it. Presumably imagining that other people are telepathic.

    This happens even when it is in the other’s interest to say thank you. Even greedy and selfish people often do not say thank you or acknowledge. And they wonder why they don’t get a gift next time. Or don’t get any help next time they ask.

    It is a strange phenomenon!

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Ken,
      Yes, it appears that we are unable to communicate telepathically. Perhaps when we can we won’t need to sent mail anymore.
      A kind word, or a hug in the mail is always welcome.
      Thank you for commenting.
      xo
      Pamela

      Reply
  5. LilianGardner

    Thanks for this post, Pamela,

    It makes me feel good to know that hand-written notes do not appertain to the past. Do they still teach school children how to write letters?
    I send hand-written Christmas, Easter and Birthday cards to family and close friends because I too, consider it to be a special way of communicating. I love receiving hand-written letters. When I see my address on the envelope I know who the letter is from because I recognize the writing. (These are a rarity now) I’ve treasured special cards and letters; re-reading them brings me close to the dear people who sent them to me. Sadly, many of my younger friends think that hand-written cards and letters are ‘old fashioned’ and that email is handy and ‘modern’.
    Now the only hand-written notes I receive are those on a Christmas or birthday gift.

    Keeping in touch by phone, Skype, email is good, but writng those friendship, thank you, greeting notes are priceless.
    I can see your mailbox overflowing with notes after reading your post.
    Hugs, because you’re a friend, and because we both love cats.

    Lilian.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Lillian,
      It is special to get a letter in the mail. I can recognize my mother’s handwriting at fifty paces.
      You are right, a handwritten letter is priceless. I still have the letters my father wrote to me. And, I have letters from my grandmother to one of her friends. She died when my mother was three.
      An overflowing mailbox would be wonderful. Even one letter from a friend would be wonderful. And a letter from a friend would always be answered. Especially if she liked cats.
      And a hug for you.
      xo
      Pamela

      Reply
  6. Eva P. Scott

    I save the thank you notes I’ve received and read them again at times. I have not written a thank you note in a while. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Eva,
      I save thank you notes too. I like to go back and read them. The kind words and painted flowers always brighten my day.
      I needed the reminder too.
      xo
      Pamela

      Reply
  7. Alexandrite

    I always, well, I think I always, send handwritten thank you notes/cards. I love picking out just the right card to match the person, whether it’s blank inside or not. While writing, I am reminded of how much that person has done for me. Most of my friends do not send written thank yous, even ones I send ones to for gifts, actions. I love writing letters, and my family and friends say they love to receive them (and say they miss them when I don’t write for a while), but I either don’t get a response back or only a one- or two-liner note!

    I once gave a friend my five year old, fully-functional, low mileage, in great condition car. He finally, after about two months, gave me a thank you on a post it note! I helped, financially and in other ways, a niece get into college. She never sent a thank you, and actually quit after the first year!

    I honestly don’t know if it’s my relatives and acquaintances, but more and more, I rarely get a written thank you. I now tend to give to strangers and organizations more often than to family and friends. I don’t expect a written thank you and don’t feel the loss.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Alexandriete,
      Yes, feeling the loss. I know what you mean. And, it’s not as though a person is kind because they want to be thanked.
      But, not being thanked, even verbally, does feel like a loss.
      I am always grateful when someone takes the time to text me a thank-you. At least I know they got the gift. So a text would be like a piece of cake, and a thank-you note would be like getting the whole cake.
      Not hearing at all, would be like no cake.
      You sound like you have kind heart. I hope the loss of thank you notes doesn’t take away your joy.
      Sending you hugs,
      xo
      Pamela

      Reply
  8. OkieWriter

    I have written thank you notes for over 40 years and will continue to do so until I can no longer write . . . okay, let me clarify that by saying until no one is able to read my handwriting!! I feel very fortunate to have the need quite often to write a quick thank you note to a friend or acquaintance. I hope that need continues to arise!!

    Reply
    • Heidi Bender

      My grandma wrote thank-you notes until she was 100! Then she decided she was done writing notes (any kind of notes, not just thank-you notes).

      Reply
      • Pamela Hodges

        Your Grandma was a wise woman. She knew how to take of herself.
        xo
        Pamela

        Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello OkieWriter,
      You look like a bookcase. So nice to meet you.
      You are so kind to write thank you notes. My husbands grandmother wrote thank you notes until the day she died. We have the desk she wrote from.
      I pray your handwriting is always legible so people can be blessed by your kindness.
      xo
      Pamela

      Reply
  9. David

    I haven’t written a thank you note in a very long time – I know, I’m now on the naughty list – sorry, teacher, I’ll try to do better next time. 🙁

    One of the keynote speakers at my son’s college graduation this year mentioned in his speech the importance of handwritten thank you’s (He was sharing how much others had helped him on his personal road to success). This to a graduating class of some 2000+ tech-savvy, instant messaging, face-booking, tweeting graduates with newly acquired BA’s and MA’s.

    He received quite an applause for the comment …

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello David,
      Ah, you are not on the naughty list yet. Actually, in my classroom there is no naughty list. There is always hope and joy.

      The keynote speaker at your son’s college graduation sounds very wise. Is your son home for Thanksgiving this year? Like today?
      Perhaps you and your son could sit down and write a few thank you notes today. And, if you don’t have any notecards, then just brainstorm today who you want to thank. Then tomorrow go shopping together for notecards and stamps.
      Have him write a thank you note to every professor and every person who invested in his life in college.
      I think you have more power to shape your son’s life by example than any keynote speaker from a podium.
      And, today, I am going to write a few thank you notes myself.
      I wish you all my best. Thank you for your honesty.
      xo
      Pamela

      Reply
  10. LaCresha Lawson

    Writing thank you notes are classy and sophisticated. Good for our children to learn to be courteous and cordial.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello LaCresha Lawson,

      Thank you for reading my article and commenting.
      Yes, learning to be courteous and cordial is important.
      I wish you all my best,
      xo
      Pamela

      Reply
      • LaCresha Lawson

        Thank you so much. And, you as well.

        Reply
  11. Judy Swofford

    I also write a thank you note to the hosts of a dinner party or any sort of party. I thank them for including me in whatever the occasion. I have step-great-grandchildren, ages 7 and 5 whom I’ve never met, that live in another state. I have sent them books as gifts for their birthdays and Christmas since their births. I have yet to receive a thank you or any acknowledgement that the gift had arrived from their parents or the children. Am I to assume the gifts are unappreciated?

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Judy,
      I love your photograph. You are very kind to write thank-you notes, it shows your kindness and your heart.
      And, it makes me sad that the gifts you send to your step-great-grandchildren are not even acknowledged. I seriously don’t understand why people can’t even call to say the gifts have arrived. Maybe they don’t have your phone number, or maybe they lost the package the gifts came in and don’t have your return address. Or maybe they take the gifts for granted.
      I think it is hard to not change the habit of gift giving based on the response. I don’t think we give gifts so we get a thank-you. I would never want to un give a gift, but a thank-you card would be like getting a hug in the mail. And, who doesn’t like hugs?
      Wishing you all my best,
      Pamela

      Reply
      • Judy Swofford

        Thanks Pamela,
        I will continue to send the children gifts. It’s not their fault they haven’t been taught to write a note or acknowledge they received their gift. Maybe when they are older, I’ll send them personalized stationery, stamps, and an etiquette book for children.
        Judy

        Reply
  12. Karen

    Thank you Pamela! Your advice was exactly what I was looking for to help with structure and ideas for writing thank you notes! Please keep up the good work!

    Reply
  13. Mogal

    When should I wrote a thank you note for help that is ongoing, but short-term? Various friends and family have been providing childcare while we deal with a family health issue. The whole experience will last about a month. Most of those who have already helped will provide the same assistance again over the next few weeks. Should I wait until the month is over or should I send notes right away? If the latter, should I send a second round of thank you notes at the end? Thanks for your guidance!

    Reply

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