How to Write a Thank You Note: In 5 Easy Steps

Learn how to write a thank you note and show that you truly care. 

There are many ways to express gratitude, but few get the message across as effectively as a simple thank you note. Writing a thank you message can feel surprisingly difficult, however, as you might not know how to capture your feelings in words.

Not sure where to start? This guide explains why thank you notes are so important and what it takes to write a meaningful message. 

Why Write a Thank You Note?

How to write a thank you note?

A thank you note provides a powerful indication of your gratitude. This seemingly basic gesture can instantly make the recipient feel special. Yes, it's possible to share your thankfulness with a quick text message, email, or comment on social media, but these approaches do not carry the same weight as a handwritten note. 

The extra time and thought it takes to select a card (or stationery) and write a message by hand matters — and following that modicum of effort, it will not be lost on the recipient that you truly care. This display of caring may even help the recipient through a difficult time. 

Which Situations Call for Thank You Notes?

Thank you notes are merely appreciated in some situations and absolutely essential in others. The following are a few examples of times in which a well-written thank you message can make all the difference:

  • Wedding or baby shower. All wedding and baby shower attendees should receive thank you notes, regardless of whether they arrived with gifts. These should let recipients know that their presence was appreciated before listing any cards or gifts provided — and explaining how these items will make a difference for you and your loved ones.
  • Birthday party. Not all birthday parties warrant thank you notes, but this can be a great way to show thoughtfulness after a more formal occasion. Many parents write thank you notes after their children's birthday parties — and in many ways, these resemble the wedding and baby shower cards referenced above. 
  • Job interview. If you're lucky enough to land a job interview with a prospective employer, let the interviewer know that you're thankful for the opportunity. This shows that you are a conscientious person, of course, but it also can play a valuable role in keeping your name top-of-mind as the hiring manager considers various job candidates. During a competitive job-seeking process, this simple gesture could ultimately sway a key hiring decision.
  • Just because. Often, the most appreciated thank you notes are also the least expected. Spouses, for example, might write one another thank you notes after a tough week, in which one person worked especially hard or was extra helpful. Parents might write thank yous to their children for being proactive with chores or studying. Friends can thank their best buddies simply because they're grateful to have them in their lives.

Steps for Writing a Great Thank You Note

Now that you know when a thank you is warranted, you may be wondering how to write a thank you note. The process isn't as difficult as you might think. Follow these simple steps to take your thank you note to the next level: 

Step 1: Select a Card or Stationery

How to write a thank you note: Select a card or stationery
The stationery on which you write can also have an impact on your thank you note

While the content of the note is most important, the stationery on which you write can also have an impact. If you are drafting dozens of thank you notes, a pack of matching note cards should do the trick, assuming they're relevant to the situation. After a child's birthday party, for example, you might use thank you cards that match the event's theme. Formal thank you letters may be written on upscale stationery or within high-quality greeting cards.

Step 2: Address the Recipient

Now that you're equipped with the proper materials, it's time to start writing. Begin by addressing the letter. The opening will depend on how formal you want to be. This, in turn, will be impacted by the situation that calls for gratitude, as well as your relationship with the letter's recipient.

In most cases, something like “Dear ____” should work. However, if you prefer a slightly less formal approach, you can simply lead in with the recipient's name and a comma. 

Step 3: Describe What Happened to Make You Thankful

While the simple phrase “thank you” can bring a smile to anyone's face, it helps to explain why, exactly, you're sending the letter. What did the intended recipient do to make you feel thankful?

If you're struggling to remember what happened or why you're thankful, take some time to close your eyes and relive the moment. Any specific details you can include will make the note more impactful.

Step 4: Explain How the Recipient's Actions Affected You

Whether you received a gift or had the opportunity to interview for your dream job, your letter should make it obvious how you've benefited from the thoughtfulness of the person you intend to thank. This part of the letter could be as simple as, “Johnny LOVES his toy truck and has had so much fun playing with it this week.”

If you haven't yet benefited from the person's actions but anticipate that you will in the future, you can mention this as well. For example: “We have set up the new diaper pail and expect that it will keep our home smelling a lot fresher once our bundle of joy arrives and we start changing diaper after diaper.”

Step 5: Sign the Note

How you sign a thank you note will depend on who is supposed to read it. If the note is meant for a hiring manager, coworker, or teacher,  “sincerely” should be sufficiently formal. In these situations, you can also close with a final thank you, followed by your signature. 

If you're sending a thank you to a close friend or family member, it's often better to be a bit less formal. Often, this type of note will end with “love, ____.” Depending on your relationship, your thank you might also end with an inside joke.

The Final Word on How To Write a Thank You Note

Now that you know how to draft thank you notes and why they're so important, it's time to get writing. You'll never regret taking the time to let friends, family members, and other important people know that they matter.

FAQs About Thank You Notes

How soon should I write thank you notes?

The timeline for thanking someone depends, in part, on the situation that prompts this correspondence. With a job interview, for example, sooner is always better. For a baby or bridal shower, however, you may have a bit more leeway. If possible, aim to complete and send these notes within two or three weeks of the occasion.

A casual thank you offered to a friend or family member can be sent at your discretion — but if it's in response to a specific action (such as taking out the trash), it should be given soon enough for the recipient to remember the situation you're referencing.

Can I use a template for a thank you note? 

In some cases, it may help to use a template to guide your thank you note. This can serve as a blueprint so that you do not miss out on any important aspects of the letter. A variety of excellent templates are available online, but it's important to check that any option you use is relevant to your situation. A template that works wonders for a post-interview thank you might not be wise if you intend to draft a heartfelt message for your significant other.

Is it okay to include pictures or small gifts? 

Anything that makes a thank you note more personal is worth including. For example, a thank you after a child's birthday party might come with pictures that the birthday boy or girl colored.
 
Likewise, a wedding thank you may include magnets or photos of the couple, assuming that it's sent after the big day. In other situations (such as a closing gift from a real estate agent), the thank you might be accompanied by a small gift card or other token. However, keep in mind that while a thoughtful gift will be appreciated, the message is essential.

Can a thank you note be digital?

When in doubt, handwritten letters are far preferable to emails or social media messages. That being said, a digital thank you may be acceptable — it all depends on the situation. This approach is best reserved for casual shows of gratitude, in which a physical thank you card is not expected. However, if at all possible, it's worth your while to take the extra step and write a thank you note by hand.

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