How to Write a Heartfelt Thank-You Note

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There's no secret formula for how to write a thank-you note, but these tips will 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The practice may seem outdated to some, but sending a handwritten thank-you note is a timeless and memorable way to express your gratitude.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 to our readily available technology, but the sentiment will be appreciated—guaranteed. Of course, figuring out exactly what to say (or when to write a thank you note) can be a challenge. Whether you’re new to the art of writing thank-you notes or just want to freshen up your technique, the guidelines below will teach you how to write a thank-you note that is personal, heartfelt, and memorable. Aiming for more humor than heart? Try these thank-you memes.

When to write a thank-you note

There are many occasions that call for writing a thank-you note, such as after a job interview or when someone has done you a favor. And most people know writing a thank-you note is just good wedding etiquette. But the most common reason to send along a note is receiving 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, you should still write a thank-you note.

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.

What to write in a thank-you note

This is the trickiest part, so let’s talk about how to write a thank-you note. For starters, it 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.

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 while writing as you would in person.

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

Just like you express your excitement for an event when you RSVP, you can keep the anticipation going after a get-together with a thank-you note. Nothing makes people feel more special than telling 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 your thank-you by mentioning the next time you might see them. Or look ahead with a note like, “We’re so excited for the honeymoon. We’ll tell you all about it when we get back.”

Do you need to write a handwritten thank-you note?

With the 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 put pen to paper. There are certain etiquette rules that have changed in the last decade, so while it’s still important to express your gratitude, an email or text message can suffice.

Now that you know how to write a thank-you note, learn why saying thank-you is one of the etiquette rules you should always practice.

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Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is an assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who focuses on digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pick-up lines, and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists, and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.