Writing a Thank You Note

By Ali Hale

Sending a thank you note is always a lovely gesture – and often an expected one. I’m sure that when you were a child, your parents encouraged (or forced) you to write thank you notes for birthday and Christmas presents. As an adult, you should still make a point of writing a thank you note to express gratitude in a number of situations. These come in both personal and business contexts:

Personal

It’s appropriate to send a thank you note:

  • When you receive a gift (especially important for wedding gifts).

  • When you’ve been a houseguest in someone’s home (this is sometimes called a “bread-and-butter letter”).
  • When someone has done a particular favor for you.

Business

It’s appropriate to send a thank you note:

  • After attending a job interview.
  • After receiving a promotion or payrise.
  • After a business lunch, dinner or party.
  • When an acquaintance has given you their time and advice.
  • When a manager or professor has supplied you with a reference letter.
  • To co-workers who’ve given you a gift (this last one may fall into the “personal” category, depending on how well you know your colleagues).

Obviously, the types of thank you notes you write in a personal context (to your grandma, for instance) will differ considerably from the types you write in a business context (to an interviewer whom you barely know). I’ll cover the “personal” and “business” notes separately, outlining the general structure and giving you some examples.

Writing a Personal Thank You Note

If merely expressing your gratitude doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to write a thank you note, you might like to read these words of advice from Leslie Harpold.

I will also grudgingly tell you the hidden secret of thank you notes: They improve the frequency and quality of the gifts you receive. People like being appreciated, and if they feel you actually notice the nice things they do for you, they’re more likely to give an encore performance.
How to Write a Thank you Note

Ideally, your letter should be on paper rather than emailed. If you are emailing, you must send individual thank you notes rather than mass-emailing everyone who gave you a gift.

In most cases for a personal note, it’s not appropriate to set it out as a formal business letter. Instead, use good-quality notepaper or a nice greetings card.

Structuring a Personal Thank You Note

  1. You should put your address at the top (or, if you know the recipient will already have your address, simply put the name of your town and state). Add the date.
  2. Address the recipient as “Dear [[name]]”, then open the letter by thanking them for the gift, hospitality or kindness offered.
  3. Your second sentence or paragraph should give some indication of your enjoyment or use of the gift.
  4. Some people like to go on to share a little news, especially if they have been out of touch with the recipient for a while. Some etiquette experts, though, suggest that the thank you note should purely be about the recipient’s kindness, not about your own life. I believe that in a personal context, it’s fine to share your news.
  5. A good closing sentence or paragraph is one which looks forward to seeing or speaking to the recipient – especially if a reunion or holiday is coming up. Mentioning “thank you ” again is a good idea, to emphasise the point of the letter.
  6. You should not end with “yours sincerely” but with a less formal phrase; “love” or “love from” is often appropriate for relatives, or “best wishes”, “warmest wishes” or even “thanks again”.

Example of a Personal Thank You Note

Here’s an example, from the Etiquette Grrls’ book More Things You Need to Be Told (p56):

September 1, 2005

Dear Katherine,

Thank you so much for the wonderful book about nineteenth-century architecture of Long Island that you sent me. Not only was it the perfect present (I haven’t been able to put it down!) but it will certainly come in handy for my studies. You always pick the perfect thing!
Again, thanks so much, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Love,
Bitsy

As you can see, a thank you note needn’t be long to be friendly, polite and effective.

Writing a Business Thank you Note

Thank you notes are mandatory and expected in some situations. A recent survey by CareerBuilder.com found that:

  • Nearly 15 percent of hiring managers would reject a job candidate who neglected to send a thank you letter after the interview
  • 32 percent said they would still consider the thankless prospect but that their opinion of him or her would diminish

– advice from Write Express

As you can see, after a job interview, a thank you note may be a must. (This will depend on your career area and the business etiquette in your country.) And in any business situation, it never hurts to send a polite letter, whether or not you think it’s absolutely required.

A business thank you letter is somewhat different to the sort you send to your Grandma in gratitude for your Christmas slippers. Your business letter should:

  • Be typed, ideally on letter-headed paper. (Handwritten or emailed letters are okay if you know the recipient will prefer this.)
  • Be sent promptly (within 24 hours of an interview, for instance).
  • Be friendly but also professional. It would be very inappropriate to end a business thank you with “love from”.

Structuring a Business Thank You Note

As with the personal thank you note, there’s an easy formula to follow.

  1. Set your letter out as a proper business letter, using letter headed paper and including your address, the recipient’s address, and the date. (You can find instructions on US business letter format and UK business letter format here on Daily Writing Tips.)
  2. Address the recipient as “Dear [name],” erring on the side of caution regarding formality. (“Mr Jones” or “Dr Smith” rather than “Bob”).
  3. Start by thanking them for the interview, pay rise, promotion, event, or other occasion that you’re writing about.
  4. Go on to mention something specific about how it has helped you, or how you enjoyed the event. Be sincere, and make it clear how much you appreciate their time and effort.
  5. You may want to mention the next occasion on which you hope to see them – though try not to be presumptuous. If you’re writing a thank you note for an initial interview, don’t act as though you’ve already been given the job!
  6. End with “Yours sincerely” when writing to someone you don’t know well (an interviewer or acquaintance from another company). If you’re writing to your boss or manager, “Best wishes” or “Many thanks” might be an appropriate way to close your letter.

Example of a Business Thank You Note

There are some good examples at Business Thank You Note Samples, including this one:

Dear [City officials names],
We’d like to express our gratitude for the school administrators’ luncheon last week. The luncheon itself was very well done and enjoyed by all, but of course it’s the sentiment behind the gathering that means the most. The city’s renewed united commitment is a boost to the administration’s morale and a vote of confidence in the school’s future. For that, we thank you .
Best wishes,

As with a personal note, a business thank you letter needn’t be long. Indeed, since the recipient is likely to be busy, you should try to be concise and stick to the point. And make sure you double and triple proofread your letter – especially if it’s one you’ve sent after an interview, in the hopes of being hired. Early impressions really do count for a lot.

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28 Responses to “Writing a Thank You Note”

  • Clare Lynch

    I agree that it’s particularly important to send a thank you with wedding gifts – especially if you’ve ordered something from “the list”.

    I never received a thank you note for a wedding present I bought for some friends several years ago and to this day I don’t know if it’s an oversight on their behalf or if I somehow got lost in the shop’s paperwork.

    And, of course, it’s just too embarrassing to ask!

  • Saurabh

    If someone has contributed or commented on my blog, then should I send a thank you not to him/her too?

  • Ali

    Saurabh, I’m sure commenters and contributors would appreciate a quick email to say “thank you” — what a lovely idea! But most people wouldn’t expect it, so don’t feel that you MUST. If someone contributed in a large way (eg. they wrote a whole guest post), I think you should take a minute to send them a “thank you”.

  • rachel

    Shouldn’t it be “thank-you note”?

  • Ali

    Hi Rachel,

    Either spelling can be used. “Thank you” seemed to me to be more common, so I went with that!

  • Deborah

    Thank you for writing this post! I’m amazed at how quickly the art of the thank you note has died. That, along with RSVPs, return phone calls, and generally acknowledging those you know. Such is life…

  • letter samples

    hi,
    read your content. Liked it more over because even though thank you is just two words but it sometimes becomes very difficult to say. At times and specially in business world it is very important to express your gratitude towards your colleagues or clients. I am sure this article will help many people like me.

  • tmdesigner

    Original tip about… Surely thanks notes help to improve Customer’s Fidelization..! try my article directory and Thanks for sharing!

  • Liz

    This was a great and very detailed article, especially on the difference in structure for a regular thank you card and a business thank you card.

    Sad that we don’t write as many thank you / thank-you notes as before.

    Now we’ll just send an email 🙂

    Nothing beats getting a hand written thank you note in the mail from someone who appreciates what you did for them though.

    – Liz

  • Sarah

    I totally agree with sending out thank you notes! When my mother died we did not send out any thank yous for sympathy or funeral thanks and I now wish we had. It brings you in contact with those you haven’t seen for a while and keeps communication open.

  • Thank You Notes Girl

    What a great article! I actually think that using “Sincerely” or “Yours sincerely” is fine for personal notes if I’m addressing them to friends of the family who are older and more formal. I also like to use, “Regards,” “Warm Regards,” and “Kind regards” for notes (like funeral thank yous) to friends of the family that I am not personally acquainted with, but sent flowers.

  • Pat

    i went to two graduations this year and did not receive a thank you note from either person. Am I wrong in feeling like somewhere someone forgot to teach kids that it appropriate, even if you didn’t like the gift (I gave them each money) to at least acknowledge that they received it. I don’t feel that saying thank you at the party is not enough. Am I wrong?

  • Judy

    Does one write ones return address on a thank you note?

  • monica

    please help how can you explain star essay

  • Lydia Cerciello

    Your article is very informative. I wanted to know if it is an obligation to send a thank you note when someones sends merely a greeting card. (no gift) Thank you

  • Lydia Cerciello

    Your article is very informative. However, my question is does one have to send a thank you note when receiving a mere greeting card (no gift) Thank you

  • shabnam

    I have to send a professor a thank you letter for being so kind and to give me some piece of advise , I dont know ehat to say to be official !!!

  • Naresh S

    Please send me thank you notes as much as possible to my e-mail ID
    thank you

  • S.P.S.RAJEINDHRAN

    I need write a thanks letter to an institute who helping
    me for shramadana campaign in my living area.
    can you help me

  • P.B Raj

    I want to send a thank you letter to an author who has indicated my name in one of his recent research article. Though certain points were not positive, still I want to say thank to him.

  • Patience Avornyo

    I need to say thank you to my HR Director for her effort for finding a job for me in a different office after being told that i’m at risk of being made redundant.
    Regards

  • MW

    When you say “Thank you” to someone it simply shows that you care enough to thank that person 😀 Try to search for the deeper meaning of “arigato” ^_^

    Thank you for the info. it is very useful..:)

  • vandana

    hi , i had visited hdfc bank to know the process of RTGS. now have give hin a thank message for sharing there time with me.

  • angur miah

    I also need to say thank you to my manager. His always helping me out and everything. Never said it to him ever but tomorrow i will.

  • BH

    I have not received thank-you notes from several people to whom I’ve sent wedding gifts. Not only am I left wondering whether they even received them, but whether they disliked the gifts. If I didn’t like a gift from someone, I would still thank them. I’m appalled at the lack of consideration people can have, and how commonplace it seems to be compared to a generation ago – although most people I know actually do send thank-yous. The ones who haven’t have been younger. Parents are remiss if they don’t make sure their kids do that throughout their years at home.

    That being said, thank you for the great article!

  • Sylvia

    This is always a good reminder. I wonder about the scenario (right around Christmas, for example) when two people give each other gifts. Would a thank-you note be required in this case?

  • Ricky Crisci

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  • Maria

    I’m teaching my oldest child to write thank you notes. I’ve noticed the examples on the internet do not indent the 1st sentence. Is that the new excepted format? I always thought the 1st sentence was supposed to be indented?

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