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:
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.
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
- 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.
- Address the recipient as “Dear [[name]]”, then open the letter by thanking them for the gift, hospitality or kindness offered.
- Your second sentence or paragraph should give some indication of your enjoyment or use of the gift.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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.
- 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.)
- Address the recipient as “Dear [name],” erring on the side of caution regarding formality. (“Mr Jones” or “Dr Smith” rather than “Bob”).
- Start by thanking them for the interview, pay rise, promotion, event, or other occasion that you’re writing about.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 .
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.