How To Write A Good Thank-You Note When A Text Won’t Work

At times, old-fashioned as it may sound, a text, email or Whatsapp will not do to say thank you to someone. Instead, pen and paper are required.

That someone you have to thank could be the parent of a friend, whose house you stayed at, your godparent or grandparent, who have gifted you something wonderful (and even if not) or someone who recommended you for a course or an internship or helped you out with something you needed.

Never miss the opportunity to write a thank-you note”, says Tina Seelig, the executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program in her best-selling book ‘What I Wish I Knew When I was 20’,showing appreciation for the things others do for you has a profound effect on how you are perceived.“ Of course, a normal – verbal – thank you – will be sufficient in the daily course of life, but if people make an effort for you, you should at least take the time to write them a note. After all, this will not take more than 10-15 minutes of your time and make a much more lasting impression than you may think.

Notepaper or cards are both suitable, because it is foremost the intention that matters, but a nice, crisp, (white or cream) card and a lined envelope will help to make a great impression. Plan out what you want to write and see if it all fits on a single side of the card or paper; you don’t want to be caught out in the end having to write in smaller and smaller font to fit it all in.

So, what makes a good thank you note?

Before getting down to the actual writing, remember to put a place and date and to use the right salutation. It will be much better to write ‘Dear Mr Bond’ instead of ‘Hi Mr Bond’, especially when you are addressing people older than you (which will be most of the time).

Once this is done, you may stare at the blank paper, pondering what to write apart from the mandatory ‘thank you so much for…’. But think of a thank-you note as a mini-mini essay, with a start, a middle and a finish.

Start & opening sentence (1 or 2 lines)

The easy part is your opening, in which you express gratitude at having enjoyed/received someone’s gift, hospitality or help in one form or another.

Middle bit (max 3 to 4 lines)

This part is the core, the descriptive part, of your thank-you note and is what will make it personal. You can write, for example about:

  1. What it was you particularly liked about a gift your received and how you will use it;
  2. What you particularly liked about your stay at someone’s house by recalling some anecdote or experience you had or lovely food you enjoyed during your stay;
  3. What your impression was of an interview for an internship/work-experience you were recommended for;
  4. How much you improved in a subject/sport/skill someone helped you with; or
  5. How much you are enjoying a course someone recommended to you.

If you manage to insert a bit of humour into this section, your note – and you - will certainly stand out.

Closing (1 to 2 lines) and greetings

Your end bit is easy. You re-iterate your thanks again – preferably in different wording – and write something forward looking, such as: “I look forward to seeing you soon/during my holidays/next week/month’, whatever is applicable. You can close with any form of greeting you feel comfortable with, and which reflects your relationship to the addressed, from a formal ‘Yours sincerely (slightly outdated), ‘with best wishes’ to ‘lots of love’….

Well written thank-you notes are a joy to receive. So, when in doubt, write that thank-you note. It can only do good.

Recommend links & reading:

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 – by Tina Seelig, 2009