How to Write a Heartfelt Thank You Note

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Struggling with the right way to say thank you? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

The practice may seem outdated to some, but sending a handwritten thank you note is a timeless and memorable way to express your gratitude. The art of letter writing has unfortunately been lost among our readily available technology, but the sentiment will be appreciated—guaranteed. But figuring out exactly what to say may be a challenge for some. Whether you’re new to the art of writing thank you notes or you just want to freshen up your technique, here are some guidelines on how to write a thank you note that is personal, heartfelt, and memorable. If you need a bit of inspiration to get writing, see how writing thank you notes helped this woman connect to what’s important in life.

Received a present? Consider a thank you note.

There are many occasions to write a thank you note, such as after a job interview or to express gratitude after someone has done you a favor. But the most common occasion to send along a note is after you receive a gift. Even if you didn’t ask for the gift, don’t like the gift, or you said thank you when it was handed to you, it’s just one of those times when you should write a thank you note.

It’s also important to note that with all of this technology we have, thank you notes don’t necessarily have to be handwritten—although the recipient will surely appreciate it if you take the time to pull out a pen and paper. There are certain etiquette rules that have changed over the last decade, so while it’s still important to express your gratitude, an email or text message can suffice.

Be concise but specific

Now it’s time to get down to how to write a thank you note. The note doesn’t have to be long (three or four sentences is just fine), but it must mention the gift, your delight in it (try to be specific—“I wore it last night and got so many compliments”), and your appreciation for the sender’s time, effort, and thoughtfulness.

And what you write should ultimately sound like you. Saying that the serving piece is “absolutely stunning” when words like that have never crossed your lips will come across as insincere, says Anna Post of the Emily Post Institute. Try to use the same tone as you would to the reader in person.

Make the reader feel special

Addressing your appreciation for the sender themselves will have a powerful effect on someone you care about (“I feel so lucky to have a friend like you”). Mention something specific you love and appreciate about that person (“Your compassion for others has always inspired me”).

Just like you express your excitement for an event when you RSVP, you can keep the excitement going after the event too. Nothing makes someone feel more special then when you tell them that you are looking forward to seeing them again. This shows that you value your relationship, which is more important than any gift. So end by mentioning the next time you might see them, or look ahead (“We’re so excited for the honeymoon, we’ll tell you all about it when we get back”).

Don’t procrastinate

Keep stationery on hand so you can write the note as soon as possible. At the very least, this lets the sender know the present arrived at its destination, but it will also leave a lasting impression on your loved ones. Now that you know how to write a thank you note, learn why saying thank you is one of the little etiquette rules you should always practice.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest