The art of the thank you note. Always appreciated but so frequently forgotten. Saying a sincere thanks can absolutely make someone’s day, so why do the ones I send often feel so obligatory, especially around birthdays and the crunch of the holiday season?
I’ve been guilty, more often than I would like, of sending out late or lackluster letters that don’t truly capture how grateful I am for the sweet generosity someone sent my way. It’s never out of a lack of true appreciation, I just get so caught up in the return to regular life post-holiday that it slips my mind. And, when I do remember, it becomes more important just to get them out than to make them meaningful.
But, after inspiring the joy of giving in my favorite little ones recently, I intend to start doing things differently. I’ve resolved to start writing timely and expressive thank you notes. My resolution may be a little late, since it’s already well into March, but my thank you notes sure won’t be. Join me in making this year a year of sincere gratitude. Here are my tips and tricks to help you craft meaningful and memorable thank you notes that are gifts for your favorite gifters, in and of themselves.
The Medium Makes a Difference
Stationery has the power to say a lot without a single word; it can make all the difference when it comes to thank you notes. So, before the pen even meets the paper, it’s important to decide just which pen and which paper to pick. Personally, I think we should all keep a few sets of notecards and stationery on hand for various occasions, everything from simple blank cards that can be dressed up on a creative whim, casual all-purpose thank you notes, and personalized formal stationery. I’m known for stocking up on every cute or whimsical note card I lay my eyes on, far more than I may actually need to stash away. But the beauty of it is, I’m always able to find the perfect thank you seemingly designed just for any friend or family member.
Make sure to pick your paper according to the occasion at hand. A formal affair, like a wedding or black-tie bash, requires a formal thank you written on high-quality stationery. Steer clear of gel pens and colorful markers here, instead opting for the elegance of a black ink fountain pen. And script beats print letters in this case; taking time to craft each word with your best penmanship will imbue your note with a true sense of your heartfelt thanks.
Casual cards of gratitude have less particular parameters, so this is where I say to get creative. For birthdays, or if a friend treats you to lunch or flowers, simple stationery can do the trick. Just this past week, a good friend left me homemade chicken soup and sweet strawberry sorbet as I battled the flu, and my floral, but not too fancy, cards from a local gift shop were perfect!
DIY Marbled Cards and Envelopes
My one rule when it comes to paper is to steer clear of generic grocery store thank you cards. Instead, a better option that shows heartfelt appreciation is to make some yourself. With just a few household items, and a little ingenuity, I played around with this dip-dye card idea. Here’s how I did it—and the gorgeous colored marble results:
- Blank cards and envelopes
- Watercolor paint
- A mixing bowl used for crafts
- Paper towels
- Mix the watercolor paint in a bowl, leaving enough room to dip your paper. I tested the strength of the color on scratch paper first before dipping my cards right in.
- Dip your cards and envelopes into the bowl. Experiment with different angles or try layering the color in some areas. Get creative. Really, anything goes!
- Blot the cards on the paper towels to drain any excess water and then hang them someplace safe to dry.
That’s it! So easy, right? If your cards curve a bit, just stick them under a few books once they’ve dried completely to flatten them out. Then write, seal, send, repeat!
Find the “Write” Words
Having mastered your materials and made up your mind on the proper medium, it’s time to write! But what exactly do you say beyond the simple words of thank you? While there’s no steadfast set of rules, it can be helpful to have a general outline of how to compose a thank
you, so you can worry less about how to express your love, and more about the actual expression of it.
- Start with a greeting: Your initial introduction should reflect both the nature of the relationship with the person you’re writing to and the formality of the occasion at hand. Opening with “Dear So-&-So” is always a safe and classy start, but other options may feel more personal and appropriate. For casual letters, I sometimes begin with “Salutations!” or “To My Dear Friend.” However you say hello, always finish your address with a comma!
- Say thank you: Easy enough, right? Express your thanks right after you open your letter. Thank you notes are supposed to be short and sweet, and by leading with an expression of gratitude, you make the intention of your letter crystal clear, and give your appreciation the spotlight.
- Identify the gift: Make sure to be specific and thank the giver by naming the gift. It shows a greater sense of gratitude and personal interest in the exchange. If it’s a monetary gift, let the individual know what you plan to do with the funds, if appropriate.
- Reiterate your thanks before you finish: You don’t have to write long, drawn out thank you notes. A few short sentences that finish with a final thank you are all it takes.
- Sign, seal, and deliver: Last but not least, make sure to sign your note before sending it out. You can close with a traditional “Sincerely,” but I tend to choose a more meaningful closing statements, like:
- Kind regards,
- Best wishes,
- All my love,
- With gratitude,
The Fine Print of Formalities
No doubt the biggest issue with thank you note etiquette is the timeliness in which they’re mailed out. Punctuality is imperative, but perhaps the most difficult part to master. In general, a week is the longest you should wait before sending out your cards, but the sooner the better. I aim to write them within 24 hours, when the details of the exchange are fresh in my mind. If I wait any longer, especially around big holidays, I tend to forget who gave what.
Sometimes, I hardly know if a thank you card is a must or a thoughtful courtesy. Do I necessarily need to pull out my trusty pen and paper, or can a quick call suffice? While there’s no clear-cut answer, I always try to err on the side of sending a written note when in doubt. A note of thanks is always appreciated regardless of circumstances, so if you have the time to write one, I say go for it!
When all is said and done—and written out on gorgeous stationery—the most important piece of advice I can offer about writing thank you notes is that any way you express gratitude is the right way. Maybe it’s with an inspirational candle, or a “gem” of a gift in return, or even a piece of art. It can be a challenge to get those envelopes in the mail, but a much more enjoyable project if you keep that in mind and bring in a little creativity to process.
Sending a card to a friend, especially a thank you note, is a gesture that strengthens relationships and inspires deeper bonds. We all want to know we are seen, heard, and that someone is grateful to, and for, us. All it takes is five minutes, pen, and some paper. Here’s to making this year your most grateful year yet!