The Secret to Writing a Truly Heartfelt Thank-You Note

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

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The practice may seem outdated to some, but sending a handwritten thank-you note is a timeless and memorable way to express your gratitude.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 perfect thank-you note is short and sweet, as well as personal and heartfelt. 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 make your thank-you note meaningful.

1. Received a present? Consider a thank-you note mandatory. There is no substitute for this one. You do not get a pass if you didn’t ask for the gift, if you don’t like the gift, or if you said, “Hey, thanks,” when it was handed to you.

2. Get out a pen (preferably blue or black ink) and a piece of stationery—a plain white or off-white card will do.

3. Be concise but specific. 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.

4. Make your thank-you note authentic. And what you write must 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.

5. Make the reader feel special. Addressing your appreciation for the sender him or herself 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.”)

6. End by mentioning the next time you might see them, or looking ahead (“we’re so excited for the honeymoon, we’ll tell you all about it when we get back.”)

7. 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.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest