The note was so unexpected, and so flattering, that I carried it around in the back pocket of my jeans wherever I went. One day, during a school field trip, it poured down enough rain to stain my legs blue from my jeans. I remembered the note, and soon found the ink on the note bleeding down the card. The once crisp note of appreciation was now a soggy mess.
I still have the note — I can make out most of the words, even though it is now also yellowed with age. A casual phone call or e-mail of thanks is nice, but not a treasure. A personal handwritten note is so significant, and so rare today; it will likely be kept and stored in a desk drawer for years to come. Handwriting and mailing a thank you note will take you more time than hitting the send button for an email. However, it’s a small investment when you think of the time the giver spent selecting, choosing and purchasing your gift. Now that the gifts are unwrapped, here’s a little primer on writing thank you notes. Which, really is, a gift within itself.
First, here are some thank you notes, reprinted from the Saturday Evening Post; 1/14/1956, Vol. 228 Issue 29, p38-38, 1p.
- Start with a supply of fun colorful stationery that you like. This will definitely make the task more pleasant, and something you might actually look forward to using. Yes, it is nice to have some made with your initials, but don’t let that stop you. Just get some cards! Avoid the swirl “thank you” – pick something plain and generic, as there will be some notes that you’ll want to send that will look silly with that big thank you on them. Use small cards – you note will be brief, and you don’t need all of that pressure of a blank page – it could give you writer’s block!! Post cards are perfectly acceptable too. Keep your stationery supply, and stamps, well stocked.
- Handwrite your note – it doesn’t matter how poor your handwriting is. The written word is so rare today; your note will be a rare sight of beauty.
- You say you can’t write? Any note that simply says thank you is better than no note at all. It’s just a matter of courtesy to let the giver know you received and appreciate the gift.
- Check the spelling of the giver’s name before you start to write.
- Make your note come alive by using present perfect tense. This means write the note as if it is happening right now. “I think of your kindness whenever I put those gloves on when I scrape the ice off the car windows in the morning.”
- Name the gift in the note. State what the gift is, how much you like the gift, and how you will use the gift.
- When the gift is cash, refer to the gift as a “generous gift,” “your kindness” or “your generosity.” Always mention how you will spend the gift. If you are saving it for a special purchase, just say, this is going into my college fund, or down payment for the house. Never mention the amount, or use the word cash or check, or moola.
- As with all good writing, use the word “you” more than “I”. Consider this famous quote: The six most important words: I admit I made a mistake. The five most important words: You did a good job. The four most important words: What is YOUR opinion? The three most important words: If you please. The two most important words: Thank You. The one most important word: We. The least important word: I.”
- Mention the occasion for the gift, and then allude to the future. “It was so great to see you at Christmas, and I look forward to seeing you at the reunion this summer.”
- Restate your thanks again at the closing of the letter.
- Two gifts the same? Keep it a secret. Planning on returning the gift or exchanging it? Keep it to yourself. If you don’t like the gift, praise the giver for thinking of something so original, and for the time she spent. Also, make sure to let the person know how much you appreciate spending time with them.
- If you have quite a few thank you notes to write, create a log with the name of the gift received, the date, and a place for when the thank you note was written and sent. This keeps you from feeling overwhelmed, and lets you work on just a few thank you notes at a time.
- Thank you notes should be sent within two weeks of receiving the gift. Establish a rule in your home; we don’t use the gift until the thank you note is written. Make it a family policy that no toy will be played with until the thank you note is written. It’s true, that sending thank you notes is becoming a lost art. Thank you notes are a great way to creating a sense of consideration for other people.