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3 Easy Steps for Lovely Thank-You Notes

@ ProofreadingPal
November 30, 2022
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Thank-you notes are always welcome and appreciated. Seriously. Whoever opened a thank-you note and got snarky (except for some Karens out there, who don’t count)?

According to Emily Post, “No fill-in-the-blank cards, no pre-printed cards, no phone calls, no emails, and no generic post on your website!” And while I agree with four of those, I think the “no email” rule has gotten a little old. I’d probably put “no texting” instead.

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The important part of Post’s advice is the emphasis on being personal, and whether you write it on stationery or electronically, it’s easy to write thank-you notes people will read with a smile.

[Side Note: Thank You vs. Thank-You

From what I can tell from modern usage, “thank you note” is generally accepted. However, two words that together modify a third word should be hyphenated, as in “thank-you note,” so that usage is technically more correct.]

Making It Personal

Thank-you notes, like all other writing, must consider the audience. So no group emails. No CCs or BCCs. Making it personal means you’re writing to Aunt Matty, not “Aunt Matty and Family.”

You need to remember that someone has done something nice for you and be genuine in your desire to thank them. Hey, maybe you’re not really in the mood at the time. I am close to a couple who got married and celebrated Christmas and the birthday of the groom all in one week. By the time the couple had waded through a hundred presents, they were pretty numb. They still sent lovely notes by following these three simple steps.

1. Be Specific

The #1 thing about a real thank-you note is that you name the gift. You can’t use generic terms, like “the lovely gift” or “your thoughtful present.” You need to name the gift and be specific; don’t write “makeup” or “clothes.” It must at least be “mascara” or “dress pants.”

Don’t get so specific you sound like a robot. If someone gave you a Langstrom 7” gangly wrench, you can just say “wrench,” or if they gave you a crossover handbag, you can just say “purse.”

But it’s 100% necessary you name the item. If you’re about to open a mountain of gifts at a shower or other function, either take careful notes or delegate that task to a friend. Nothing says, “I’m a jerk,” better than not remembering who gave you what.

2. Be Complimentary

If you think the lamp is butt-ugly or if the blender almost chops off a finger, so be it; the person you’re writing to gave you something they thought you would like, and it’s that mental effort you’re grateful for.

And by combining Steps 1 and 2, take care to be specific in that complimentary language. Stay away from “nice” and “thoughtful,” unless you can elaborate. Consider words like

  • Handy
  • Flattering
  • Stunning
  • Professional
  • Personal
  • Sturdy
  • Luxurious

3. Say How You’ll Use It

The final component of a good thank-you note is to say you’re making the gift a part of your life. This is what changes a rubber-stamp “thank you” to a truly personal note.

The present is a toaster with wide slots? Say you love being able to toast bagels in it without their getting stuck.

The present is a portable tire inflator? Say you’re so pleased you can use it to inflate the tires on both cars, all the bicycles, and the giant snowman you put on the lawn for Christmas.

The present is a sampler of super-spicy hot sauces? Say you’re going to do the Hot Wings Challenge at home with your friends.

The present is perfume that smells like birthday cake? Say you’re going to wear it around your friends and ask them to guess what the aroma is supposed to be.

And that’s it! Name the gift, compliment the gift, and say how you’ll use it. Oh, and don’t forget to say “thank you.”

Sarah P.

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