Tips and Inspiration for writing a memorable thank you letter.
When we receive a gift, or favor or when someone goes beyond the call of duty for us, we instinctively know that we ought to say thank you. Maybe even write them a thank you letter. It could also be for an interview, a scholarship, donation your organization received, or to a parent, sibling, child, doctor, babysitter, employee, or friend.
Thank you notes are an awesome way to show we are truly grateful – they instinctively say to the recipient that we value them and what they have done so much that we took the time to write.
Think about the neighbor who helped with snow clearing or lawn mowing. Or the mentor who took out time to sit with you and review your goals. Or your son’s high school teacher who helped him ace his mathematics exam. The list of thank you letter recipients is literally endless. The people whose presence and efforts make our lives a little easier than it would have been without them deserve our heartfelt gratitude.
Say Thank You For All Things. Big and Small.
While the temptation is to think that we don’t need to say thank you except we have received some big favor, learning to say thank you even for little things is a gesture that would never go unnoticed.
When done right, thank you letters can help a loved one, friend, or colleague feel special. And because people seldom forget how you made them feel, this simple act can endear you to your friends and family. Not just that, in a professional setting, it can help you stand tall amidst a crowd, especially if it is prompt and memorable.
Your thank-you note can take the form of a short note written in a beautiful card or a lengthier prose depending on what the specific situation is. But regardless of the purpose and format of your thank you letter, there are a few things to keep in mind if our goal is to communicate that some thought was put into the letter.
I have written more specific guides on how to write thank-you letters for various purposes in a number of other blog posts, the goal of this post is to get you started quickly with some general guidelines that apply, regardless of the specifics.
How long should your thank you letter be?
One popular question that gets asked when people are wondering how to write a thank you letter is this: How long should my letter be? A rule of thumb is to let the nature of what you are thanking the other person for dictate the length.
Most thank you letters are short and straight to the point but if you have a lot to say, there is nothing wrong with a lengthy letter.
Take for instance, a copy of this thank you letter written by the 44th US President that I found through a blog post on the Mental Floss website. The post contains a lot of classic examples on how to write a thank you letter.
It simply reads,
“Mr. Martel —
My daughter and I just finished reading Life of Pi together. Both of us agreed we prefer the story with animals.
It is a lovely book — an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.
(Signed, ‘Barack Obama’)”
So, I hope this example helps put you at ease to know that the length of your thank you letter has nothing to do with its impact. It’s really the warmth, candor, sincerity & thoughtfulness you put into the letter that communicates more than anything, how truly grateful you are. And it is what spurs them to want to help you out even more in the future.
Should you handwrite, type, or email your letter?
The answer to that would depend on the recipient and purpose of the letter. Are you trying to show appreciation for something that a friend, neighbor, colleague, or family member has done? A handwritten letter can feel more thoughtful. But when you are trying to say thank you for an interview opportunity or within a very formal setting, an email might be the most appropriate.
What tone should you write in?
In the same way, while trying to decide on the tone of your thank you message, it helps to think about your relationship with the recipient. A thank you letter to your boss within a very formal work setting would be more formal than a personal note written to a colleague that you hang out with outside of work hours.
Also, in deciding how to address the recipient, consider using whatever name or title feels most natural. This means that if you would normally address them by name, it shouldn’t be any different in the letter.
Say “Thank you for …” and be specific. While simply saying “thank you for the gift” might sound okay, it lacks the more personal touch that makes the letter more sincere. For example,
- Thank you for the beautiful jacket you sent me, Alice…
- I am grateful for mowing our lawn yesterday Alex…
- Dora, thank you for your help with babysitting Alistair on Monday…
- I just want to express my gratitude for the interview opportunity at Globacom Enterprises…
- Bob, we are very thankful that you had us over for dinner last Saturday…
Share about how they made you feel.
When your friend thought about sending you the birthday gift, chances are they did so in the hope that you feel appreciated on your birthday. Letting them know that you indeed felt appreciated and their gift wasn’t a waste would be a fantastic idea.
It not only speaks well of you, but it also makes them feel great about themselves. The ripple effect of this is that you become a more likely candidate for future favors because you made them feel great – by simply letting them know how you felt.
Here are a couple ideas:
- Brian, I walked away from our conversation feeling like a huge burden had been lifted from off my shoulders. Thank you for your listening ears.
- I was worried the whole of last week because I didn’t know what to do with John when I go in for my dental procedure. I felt super relieved when you offered to babysit him. You really are a Godsend.
- You had mentioned how you were short of funds last week so I never expected you to still go out and spend so much on a birthday gift for me. I felt really special and loved. Thank you!
- I had spent the last few days thinking hard about the different admission offers. The more I thought about them, the more confused I got. But thank you so much for helping me look objectively at the various offers in line with my academic goals. I finally feel like I can make an informed decision. You’re a life-saver.
Comment on what their service enabled you to accomplish or what you plan to do with their gift.
By helping the giver see that they were instrumental in meeting an immediate or future need that you have, it simply improves their satisfaction about the sacrifice they made to be a blessing to you. And it sure makes you a more likely candidate for receiving future favors from them. For example,
- Thank you so much for the wall frames. Ed and I were just trying to pick out a couple for the living room. You just saved us a lot of money. Thank you so much!
- The box you got me has more room than the one I currently have. So instead of using my old one, I would be taking it with me on my trip to Mexico next month. Talk about perfect timing!
Like we had discussed, every element of your thank you letter should elicit feelings of warmth in the reader so when it comes time to close the letter, use a warm closing.
- Your friend
- God bless you
- Feeling blessed
- Lots of love
- Beyond grateful
- You’re the best!
A Few More Things to Note
Here are a couple more tips to note on how to write a thank you letter:
- Finally, don’t forget to sign the letter. Signing the letter adds a touch of personality to your letter.
- Whenever possible, take the time to use a quality thank you card as opposed to just using a loose sheet of paper.
- Don’t delay in sending your thank you letter. You don’t want them trying to juggle their memories because they have simply forgotten what you’re thanking them for. So while it is never too late to say thank you, sending the letter while the occasion or event is still fresh in your mind and that of the recipient would generate maximum impact.
According to Hallmark Senior Writer Cat Hollyer, “Generally for gifts, I would say three days is good. But for things like a wedding or the birth of a baby, three months is generally the accepted rule.”
When writing to say thank you for an interview opportunity where a decision might be made within a short time frame, sending a thank you letter at the end of the business day or the next would be perfect.
Here’s an example of how to write a thank you letter in a casual setting:
Feel free to use any of the elements we had discussed that pertain to your specific situation without feeling the pressure to include all of them in any one letter. Remember that you don’t have to say something that isn’t necessarily true about how their gift or service made you feel.
Even if you didn’t find the gift helpful, their thoughtfulness is worth appreciating and you can make that the subject of your letter.
Thank you very much for the muffins. It was thoughtful of you and your husband.
My wife’s favorite muffins are carrot muffins so you can imagine her delight when she opened the bag and realized that was exactly what you sent us.
We had planned to spend yesterday evening binge-watching House of Cards and we usually like to do that with a couple of snacks handy. Your muffins came at just the perfect time. You needed to see us curled up on the couch enjoying our carrot muffins while we watched.
They really made our day and we just wanted to say a very big thank you!
Here’s an example of how to write a thank you letter in a more formal setting:
Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the position of Social Media Manager at Thoughtful Greetings.
I was really fascinated after listening to the introduction you gave about your company’s history and culture. To think that you’ve only been at the company for two short years, I was particularly impressed by the significant role that you have played in their history.
I was led out of your office thinking about how incredible it would be for me to work at Thoughtful Greetings. I look forward to bringing my social media expertise, time management skills, and team player approach to your department.
Thank you once again for taking out the time to interview me today.
To help you locate this guide very quickly when it’s time to write a thank-you note, here’s a Pinterest friendly photo that you can save to your board for easy retrieval.