How to write a thank you note that really means it

Thank you notes and letters – in our modern age, are they necessary?

Yes, in a word.

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Writing a thank you note makes the reader feel you really appreciate them.

In a society where too much is taken for granted, stopping to thank people for gifts, help, good turns, business recommendations and more is extremely welcome and a reminder of past courtesies, in this grab-it-that’s-mine-so-you-f***-off culture of ours.

At a more cynical level, saying thank you –especially but not exclusively in the business arena – can pick you out as a preferable option in whatever it is you do.

I’ve just been having a good look around some of the sites and the over-riding common denominator seems to be a pretty well-worn outline, which give or take some adjustments goes something like this:

  • Thank you so much for …. (whatever)
  • I am so grateful because it is just what I/we wanted / needed / got me/us out of trouble / saved my life / made all my hard work worthwhile / made the difference between success and failure / etc
  • I couldn’t possibly have managed without your gift / help / money / expertise / hard work / kindness / friendship / etc
  • When appropriate, I would love the opportunity to invite you for dinner / lunch / drinks / coffee / send you a copy of (whatever) / etc to confirm my gratitude
  • In the meantime, once again, thank you very much for (whatever.)

Of course, there’s not much wrong with that outline. Except for one small point: it’s a ready-to-wear outline that will fit almost any requirement you can think of for a thank you note or letter. The outline does offer you the chance to personalise your text because you have the option to insert whatever it is your thanking for, and why it was so opportune / welcome / timely or whatever. But in my view you need to take it to the next level.

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Handwriting is best

Now, let’s get personal – really personal

I know this may be difficult when you are, say, writing thank you notes to 200 wedding guests for their gifts, but a genuine personalisation that’s a significant step beyond the obvious will make the difference between people thinking “aha, here’s the “bread and butter” letter and “wow, they really do appreciate it.”

For more articles on how to write better for social communications, check out over 300 further articles right here on HTWB

(It’s amusing to consider that here in the UK our Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton a.k.a. the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge invited 1,900 guests to their wedding in 2011, so I bet they’re still writing all the thank you letters for gifts even now…!)

By all means use the outline I’ve, er, outlined above, but try to incorporate one or more of the following:

  • Not just how much you loved the cocktail glasses, but also how much they remind you of the great times you shared at cocktail bars when you were both single

    thank you,thanks,note,letter,card,email,how to say thank you, what to say

    Try to personalize your thank you so your reader knows you really have thought about it.

  • Not just how much you appreciated their recommendation at work, but also how much it means to you personally considering the effort you’ve put in
  • Not just how thankful you were when the neighbour phoned a plumber to fix the leak from your water tank, but also how much being a woman living on your own isolates you and makes you even more grateful for help
  • Not just how much you appreciate a teacher’s help in raising your son’s maths marks, but also how his/her help boosted your son’s confidence and made him feel more inspired
  • Not just why their being a good friend helps you get through each day, but also how their understanding of what makes you tick helped you deal with stuff in a way that worked
  • Not just how their help looking after the house and animals was so welcome, but also how their knowledge of the house and good relationship with the animals made them forget you had even gone away!
  • Etc.

Bottom line? With thank you notes and letters, don’t just do superficially personalised writing. Go into it in more depth, so you expose your inner feelings and make the person you’re thanking believe you really ARE grateful – and for the right reasons.

Thank you for reading this, and I hope it helps you!

These will make you say thank you, too

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc
photo credit: Etsy Ketsy via photopin cc




  1. I always suggest that clients thank anyone in their network if they have been offered any advice, guidance or support and that after interviews they write letters of thanks [if appropriate] – it’s surprising what a difference a letter can make.

    • Absolutely, Lynn. It usually doesn’t take very long, but dropping someone a simple thankyou note can make a huge difference – and will make people remember you in a very positive light.

  2. This is one of those ‘old things that never went out of fashion’ items that we have largely ignored for too long. There is a great need for businesses and individuals to get back to some good old-fashioned ways of showing appreciation and respect and yes politeness. Courtesy is a new frontier that is well suited to modern digital media. Remember the old medium too.

    • Ironically because simple thank-you notes are so rare these days, they seem to have twice the impact they did in the past when they were written more commonly! And you’re right, Lindy – modern media make it even easier for us to say a quick “thank you,” so there should be no excuse now for not doing so.

  3. I’m known for always mailing thank you notes. Since the stroke took my ability to write by hand, I type (thank goodness for computers!) I email to people who attended the networking event I hold each month and send them the speaker’s contact info, too.
    Don’t let not being able to write (physically) be your excuse. You always have time to say “thanks” 🙂

    • Very true, Trudy. It’s the act of saying thank you that counts and the means of delivery is of secondary importance – especially in the case of someone like you. Thanks for dropping by!


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