The Art of Writing a Thank-you Note

Graduates, you’re going to be getting lots of congratulations from family and friends, and along with that, you will probably get gifts! That’s nice. Now write your thank-you notes.

My dear mom taught me the art of the thank-you note by example. In fact, at 91, Mom’s still the best note writer I know. Here’s what she taught me.

  1. Be prompt. Mom always writes and sends her notes off within a week of receiving a gift. If someone mails me a gift or check, I like to call them so they know I got it. But the call doesn’t take the place of a formal thank-you note.
  1. Keep it classy. Notecards don’t need to be expensive, but they should be appropriate, clean, and have envelopes that fit. Since you’ll have lots of thank-you notes to write, you may want to purchase some that say “thank you” on the front, but something that represents you is good, too. (I like turtles, so I have some note cards with a turtle embossed on the front.) Write with blue or black ink, not a pencil. Pay attention to grammar and punctuation; otherwise, it looks like you didn’t really care.

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  1. Be sincere. Think about how much this person cares about you. Think about the time they took to think of a gift for you. (Even writing a check takes time and effort and an outlay of money.) Show you appreciate the act of giving as much as the gift itself.
  1. Make it conversational. Ask them how they are doing or what plans they have for the summer. Tell them your plans—especially where you’re going to college!
  1. Make it specific. Write more than the bare minimum. “Thank you for the gift” sounds like you wrote this on an assembly line and it could have gone into anyone’s envelope. Acknowledge the gift specifically: “Thank you for the book How to College by Andrea Brenner.” Then tell how you are using it or plan to use it: “My parents and I have done the first two activities that you marked for us, and I’m looking forward to reading all the sections you marked just for me.” Tell why this gift was a good one for you: “It’s really going to help prepare me for college, especially with budgeting my time and money.” If the gift is money, tell them how you plan to use it: “This will go into my books and supplies fund.”

Finally, even though I’ve just given you Mom’s detailed, impeccable rules for writing thank-you notes, don’t let worry about doing it right keep you from putting pen to paper to write. Even the bare minimum is better than nothing. You know, just do it.

Graduates, write your thank-you notes!