How to Write
Thank You Notes, Cards & Letters

Learning how to write thank you notes, cards, and letters is easy. If you are not as interested in learning how to write thank you notes and are looking for samples click here. Here are some answers to general questions.

Is there a difference between thank you cards, notes or letters? What tools do I need?

People use these words interchangeably. Thank you notes and cards are typically used for personal correspondence. Thank you letters are used for business.
The main difference is that notes and cards are shorter. They suit the smaller space afforded in a thank you card or thank you note.

Even if you have mastered everything you need to know about how to write thank you notes, there is only so much to say about rice cooker (see free gift-specific, sample notes including, rice cooker) or new sweater that is actually interesting.

A thank you card is actually a card. For occasions where it is known that you are thanking a large number of people, such as a wedding , boxes of thank you cards are perfect.

A thank you note is a note of thanks written on personal stationery. A thank you note is appropriate when you are thanking just one person or a small group, such as thanks for being a guest in someone's home.

Smaller-sized stationery (the kind that comes in those cute pads) is ideal. The page looks odd when you have a short note floating on a full-sized piece of paper. I advise investing in personal stationery with matching envelopes. You can use them for other correspondence like invitations to small events. These days they come in such cool designs and are very inexpensive. Stationery is fun to shop for and makes a great emergency gift to have handy.

When I see somebody has really cool stationery, my opinion of their manners and rearing is elevated. Buying stationery is one of the most fun steps in learning how to write thank you notes!

Personal stationery is inexpensive, multi-purpose and easy to find at card stores, office supply stores, and even many of the larger chain drug stores.

Business letters or university/school letters, such as thank you for an interview, are longer. Use standard-sized, clean, quality paper. You can use the same paper and envelope that you use for your resume. Like other business letters, they are folded in thirds and mailed in a business-sized envelope.

Do I have to write it by hand?

The short answer is yes. Handwrite in cursive.

Some people feel the exception on this piece of how to write thank you notes advice, may be in business situations such as a thank you for an interview to a potential employer or university. If your handwriting is really bad, this is probably a good idea.

Do not be so quick to start typing your thank you letters. Hand writing your thank you letter may set you aside from the rest of the pack. (Most often just sending a thank you note puts you ahead of the pack.)

The power of hand writing a letter in business is not lost on even the most successful pop singer in the world, Madonna. She won the lead role in the movie version of the hit musical, Evita, by hand writing a four-page letter to director, Alan Arkin.

Also, it is key when learning how to write thank you notes that you practice writing in script and refrain from using red ink. Use blue-black or black.

When do I send a thank you note?

The sooner you send a thank you note the better. These days, thank you notes are most expected for wedding gifts, baby showers and funerals . It is ideal to send thank you notes for gifts of any kind, flowers, being a guest in a home, in gratitude of attendance for your special event (See these free sample notes for examples) , or a job interview. Really there is no wrong time to send a thank you note.

A tip for business letters is to carry stamped envelopes and your stationery with you to the interview. Remember to write down the names of all the people you are thanking while you are introduced. The second you get to your car or a nearby café, hand write your thank you letter and drop it in the mail. If you forget how to spell somebody's name, walk back or call and ask the receptionist.

Personal notes and cards are a little more forgiving. If you are a house-guest (especially little kids staying at Grandma and Grandpa's) you can drop it in their mailbox as you leave or tuck it some place where they will find it in their home. Make sure not to do this too soon so that they find the note while you are still there. It's just not as fun that way.

With personal notes, sooner is better, but late is better than not at all. You can write, "I have always regretted not sending you this note to thank you so I'm sending it now." Sometimes adding a gift for super late thank yous can ease the personal grudge or let the person know you are more grateful than you may have seemed.

Can I just send an E-mail?

The rule of thumb here is if you have been specifically directed to communicate via E-mail (like in a business situation) than it is fine. Also, if the recipient sent you the gift via E-mail or has sent you thank you cards or notes via E-mail, then cool, too.

If you can, avoid the E-mail. And definitely avoid a group E-mail. Especially avoid the group E-mail with everybody's E-mail addresses showing. Yikes!

Especially when you are just learning how to write thank you notes, practicing with an E-mail thank you (even a group thank you) is better than nothing.

However, you know you have really gotten into the art of how to write thank you notes, when you see that kicking it old school with an envelope and postage is a the classy way to go.

Does it have to be one of those stuffy letters I read in etiquette books?

No it doesn’t. If he or she is casual, you can be a little more casual if you like. If they are formal, then by all means make this letter a more formal affair. It is fun when learning how to write thank you notes to tailor your writing style to the recipient. By all means still be you, but be you appreciating them in the way they are able to recognize your gratitude for their generosity.

So hold off on sending the thank you card with a pig guzzling a beer with the words, “thanks for the grub,” to your great grandma as thanks for having you over for Christmas dinner. Unless, she digs beer of course.

What if I hate the gift or the party kind of stunk?

There is always something positive to say. Having trouble?

Check out the quotes and phrases link and see the phrases marked--neutral

The worst mistake when learning how to write thank you notes is to use this venue as a time to critique the gift. I know it sounds outlandish, but I’ve seen it happen. Don’t fall under the misguided belief that if you say something negative with a positive, it makes the compliment sound genuine. Negative thoughts or criticism is generally seen as “more honest.” If you are honest in your praise, then your negative thoughts and positive thoughts are equally honest. The fact that you choose to share the positive thoughts with a person is the way to show your gratitude and kindness.

Hold in the contagious idea of telling it like it is when thanking people in a speech or note. Thank you speeches, notes and letters are a venue for gratitude . There are plenty of great venues for telling it like it is—like talk radio and the letters to the editor part of the newspaper.

One last thing …

This is the most important tip on how to write thank you notes. If I were to say what the biggest mistake in learning how to write thank you notes was procrastination and avoidance due to perfectionism.

My mom was born in the Philippines. English is not her native language, but her English is great. When I get her E-mails, I love that I can even hear her accent when she writes. Yes, technically there are errors, but her English is FINE. Most people have no idea how funny and charming their natural writing style is.

They hold off on writing notes for fear of getting it wrong. When it comes to sending thank you notes or cards, you cannot get it wrong. Even if you never followed any of these guidelines. Everyone is always happy to receive your gratitude.

This is one of the top reasons why so many gifts and kindnesses go un-thanked. Do not get too hung up on how to write thank you notes the right way and just send one today.

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