Thank you notes are such a simple concept. A thank you letter, or note, shows appreciation for a thoughtful act, expression, or gift. Often the potential formality of a handwritten card can be intimidating to the writer. Many people think that the wording of a thank you letter has to be perfect before being signed, sealed and delivered which in return causes so much stress that the notes are never sent.
Before all the other rules, just remember that an imperfect letter that comes with heartfelt sentiment is better than a perfect note that was never written
Here is a simple guide to the do's and don'ts of thank you letters to help ease everyone through the process. You may discover that in some cases where you thought a written letter was required, it's not. I'll also give you a few sample letters just to get you started. But remember, this is just a simple formula to follow, you'll need to personalize your thank you note to make it meaningful to the recipient.
The Do's of Thank You Letters
Send your thank you letters as quickly as possible.
Letters may be sent on informal stationery, except for wedding thank you notes which are generally sent on formal stationery.
Always make specific reference to the gift that is the subject of the letter, such as "Thank you so much for the blue sweater. How did you know that was my favorite color?"
Always send letters in the following situations:
- Wedding gifts.
- For sympathy letters, flowers, or mass cards.
- To the hostess after a party that was hosted in your honor.
- For bridal or baby shower gifts.
- For gifts that were received by mail.
- After being entertained by your boss.
- Gifts received during a hospital stay.
- After being hosted as a houseguest for one or more nights (unless it's a close relative or friend who is doing the hosting).
- For notes or gifts of congratulations.
Thank you notes are not required in the following situations, but would still be a nice gesture:
- After being a guest at a dinner party.
- After a job interview (not required, but definitely a smart idea).
- For birthday gifts that were received and opened in person, and you already thanked the giver personally.
- When a friend has helped you out with a special favor such as babysitting, a meal when you were sick, running errands for you when you are incapable.
- To the sales representative who has entertained you personally as part of a business relationship.
The Don'ts of Thank You Letters
Don't delay in sending most letters. Generally, letters should be sent within a week of receipt of the gift or gesture. The only exception to this timing is as follows:
- Thank you letters for hospital gifts should be sent as soon as the patient is well enough to send them, whenever that is.
- The current guidelines for wedding gift thank you letters are that the letters should be sent within three months of receipt of gifts. However, given the potential monumental task that would pose to the bride and groom after their honeymoon, it makes sense to send notes out as soon as gifts are received (often wedding gifts are sent prior to the wedding date).
The importance of personalized thank you letters cannot be stressed enough.
Even though most thank you letters can be sent on informal stationery, that doesn't mean it's okay to use a piece of paper torn from your shopping list pad. Find note cards that reflect your personality, and keep a ready supply on hand. They don't need to cost a lot of money. In fact, if you shop diligently, you can find inexpensive, attractive cards in the dollar stores.
There's no need to lie if you dislike a gift. If something is not to your taste, you should still show appreciation for the thought that went into selecting it for you. You can always say "Thank you for the thoughtful (fill in the blank). I will always think of you whenever I use it."
Addressing Thank You Notes
Thank you letters should be addressed to the individual(s) who signed your gift card. In the case of a gift from a family, the envelope can be addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Pilato, and the salutation can be "Dear Donna and Joe." You can make reference to the remaining family members in the body of the note: "Please extend my thanks to Gina and Marie, and let them know how much I am enjoying the book."
The formality of your salutation should be based upon your relationship with the person whom you're thanking. For example, in the case of a thank you for a job interview, the salutation should read "Dear Ms. O'Brien" unless Ms. O'Brien gave you permission to address her by her first name. Similarly, a thank you for a wedding gift received from friends of your parents should be addressed to "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Cohen" unless you grew up calling them by their first names.
When composing a thank you note for hospitality, you may simply address it to your hostess (assuming she's the person who did the work), but include a thank you to the husband in the text: "Please let Aldo know how much we appreciate your gracious hospitality and his very amusing stories during dinner."
Here are a few simple examples of thank you letters for wedding gifts. As you can see, it doesn't have to be a thesis length document.
Dear Aunt Gloria,
Thank you so much for the beautiful stemware you sent to us. I know it will look wonderful on our table and we can't wait to invite you to dinner after the wedding so that you can see it for yourself. You have always had such wonderful taste in gifts!
Looking forward to seeing you on our big day!
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reingold,
Thank you for the lovely candlesticks you gave to us for our wedding. They'll be sure to keep the romance burning at our table for many years to come.
Dear Marjorie and Jack,
You two always know how to select the perfect gift! We just love the CD collection you gave us as a wedding present. You'll have to come by soon so we can enjoy our first dinner party together as married couples. We'll be sure to crank up the CD player that night to enjoy the new tunes.
Tina and Bill
The purpose of a job interview thank you letter is to express appreciation to the interviewer for taking time out of their busy schedule to speak with you. However,these letters serve the added benefit of keeping your name in front of the company as a candidate for the job.
Dear Ms. Brown,
I really enjoyed meeting with you earlier today and learning more about the office manager position at Widget Company.
As we discussed, I believe my 5 years of experience at Acme Company meets the requirements you have for filling this position. Although I've enjoyed working at Acme Company, I'm looking forward to new challenges and greater responsibilities as I continue in my professional career.
I look forward to hearing from you soon and thank you again for meeting with me today.
Baby shower gift thank you letters should be among the easiest ones to send. Most gifts cause a new mother to gush over the prospect of seeing her baby use the gift. The toughest challenge in this case is to get the notes out on a timely basis. There are just so many things to do when preparing for a new baby! And although formal etiquette doesn't require a note in this case if the gift was opened at the shower and the giver was thanked in person, it is still common custom to send out timely notes anyway.
Dear Mary Jean,
I just love the baby sleeper, receiving blanket, and bunny rattle you gave me at the shower. As always, you were too generous. I can't wait to use them with Baby - I know she'll look adorable in them.
I hope we can spend a little time together before baby arrives and I'm up to my ears in diapers!