The Lost Art of the Thank You (and a no-fail template)
Ben and I have been listening to a book about the habits of self made millionaires and I’ve been addicted to entrepreneurial podcasts for the last few months. They almost all mention something about a morning routine. So many of them talk about the power of gratitude. But the most surprising reoccuring habit I noticed? Thank-you card writing. At least four incredibly successful entrepreneurs I’ve listened to in the last few months credit part of their success to their habit of sending prompt and regular hand-written cards.
Today I’m not going to theorize on the relationship between handwritten cards and success, but it did reinforce my goal to mail a card a week for 2017. But mostly, I wanted to commit to sending a bit of cheer to the people who make my life brighter because is there any small act that brightens your day quite like getting an unexpected letter in the mail?
Yeah, I don’t think so either.
First things first, when should you send a Thank You note?
I would definitely err on the side of sending one if the thought has crossed your mind (because who doesn’t love a cute little card?) but here are a few situations to consider:
- When someone has given you a gift
- When someone hosted an event at which you were the guest of honor (baby shower, bridal shower, birthday lunch)
- When someone hosted a dinner party
- When someone let you borrow something
- When someone hosted you overnight
- When someone supported you through a hard time (emotionally or physically with meals, babysitting, help with housework or errands, etc)
Second, when is the right time to send one?
Send a thank you note as soon as you possibly can. Once you’ve finished unpacking from a weekend away, drop a little note in the mail – the sooner the better. But, if it’s been a week or two remember that “better late than never” definitely applies.
(Although I did find a small stack of wedding thank-you’s I wrote and never mailed a few months ago… which makes them FIVE YEARS late and I haven’t sent them so maybe “better late than never” only applies for the first year)
Third, pick the right words.
Whatever you write, you want to be genuine and sincere. Avoid anything that sounds too stiff or formal, especially when writing to a friend. I’m partial to thank yous that read the way you talk, with some thought and intention behind the words. Don’t write something you wouldn’t say, but take the time to think and then write what you would really like to say.
In a nutshell: be sincere, be specific, and be personal. Thank them for whatever it is, specify why you’re grateful/what you’ll do with it, or simply what the item is. Add in a personal touch (how you’re excited to use it, why you’re grateful for them, or how their gesture made you feel).
When you’re closing you can sign off with “Best, <your name” for more acquaintances or something more personal like “love ya, <your name>” for close friends and family.
Here’s a good guide:
Dear <insert name>,
1. Thank for gift/event/service
“Thank you so much for…”
“Just wanted to drop you a note to say thanks for…”
2. Say how you will use the gift/ what you loved about the event.
“I can’t wait to make homemade waffles in our new pan”
“I loved getting to catch up with you over that delicious dinner.
3. Name why you’re thankful for the giver
“I’m so thankful to have a friend like you in my life.
4. Re-iterate your thanks
“Thanks again for the wonderful….”
And if a handwritten note is out of the question
A handwritten note is always more meaningful and when you’re thanking someone for a big gift or labor of love, it is definitely called for. But, if you know that you just won’t get around to sending one, then any thanks is better than no thanks. If you must email, type out the same note you would handwrite, complete with Dear xxx and full sentences. Don’t go more casual on the message just because you’re using a more casual medium. Similar rules stand for text messages. In texts though, leave off the “Dear xxx” and instead include their name elsewhere in the message:
“Thanks so much for the wonderful weekend, Stacey. It is always so much fun to spend time with your darling family and I hope we can do it again soon.”
A few things to help you actually send the note:
Know your addresses:
Two years ago we finally put together a database of addresses for our Christmas cards and I was SO much better about mailing cards last year because I had addresses for close family and friends just a few keystrokes away. I love using an online service called “Postable” because Ben and I can both access the addresses from anywhere and it was easy to send the form out to family and friends to input their info.
Stock up on cute notes:
I ordered a handful of personalized cards from BasicInvite last month as part of my goal of mailing a card a week in 2017 and they have made it so much fun! I personalized a few of the wedding “thank-you” cards to say “Thank You (you’re awesome)” so they work well as a more casual thank you or note just to say hi. Having cute cards I’m excited to send helps me look for reasons to send cards (and so far has kept me on track!). I really love the photo quality of the picture cards (awesome for wedding thank yous or graduation announcements but equally great for birthday thank yous or grandparent’s birthdays) and the fact that the envelopes have little strips you peel away to get them to seal — no more gross tasting envelopes for me!
Keep stamps on hand:
Each time I deep clean a closet or drawer I find a handwritten note I never mailed. Sometimes it’s even addressed and in an envelope (although usually the envelope bears the name of the intended recipient and no address). I now keep a stack of stamps left over from our Christmas cards next to my cards and so from one seat at my desk I can do everything but drop them in the mail.
A big thanks to BasicInvite for working with me on this post, and for having the most adorable selection of cards. Check out their full inspiration gallery here (although it might make you want to re-do your wedding invitations, you’ve been warned). I’ve also already played with how the senior pictures I shot of my sister last falllook in their various graduation announcements – there are so many cute options!
Pin the template for later:
Such a great message. Thank you cards are sadly becoming a lost art. Thanks for reminding us how to tackle them and why they are so important.
Love, love, love this! It really does make a difference giving that personal touch.
Thanks for all these ideas.This post reminds me about sending thanking notes.Thanks for all the tips shared.
My friend and I were just talking about how no one writes Thank You letters/cards anymore. It truly is a lost art.
Many have come close, but yours is the best! I have been at this a very long time and I think that is why most people procrastinate. It is not that most people are not appreciative or thankful, It is just very frustrating trying to make sure you’re saying the right thing and setting it up correctly, etc., etc. I suppose in this case wrong is better than nothing. I am in my 70’s and now retiring and I must admit I have procrastinated a bit. I have set this weekend as my deadline. Just wanted to thank you for your help.