An important duty in childhood is learning to say thank you. In adulthood, you need to learn to do this in writing.
The art of the thank you note is, I’ll admit, somewhat out of fashion. It’s often much easier to send a quick text or an email instead of a notecard.
But that’s perfectly fine. I’m not here to bash modern technology. The skills are absolutely transferrable.
Instead of typing in the words “Thank you for…” and staring hopelessly at the blinking line, trying to think of something to come after this first expression of gratitude, you need a different opening.
A wonderful piece of advice comes from Lemony Snicket in a weird NPR interview he did back in 2006. It reads as follows:
Lemony Snicket’s Advice on How To Write a Nice Thank-You Note
- Do not start with the thank you.
- Start with any other sentence. If at first you say, “Thank you for the nice sweater,” you can’t imagine what to write next. Say, “It was so wonderful to come home from school to find this nice sweater. Thank you for thinking of me on Arbor Day.”
- Then you’re done.
This is the exact opposite of the advice that Hallmark’s website gives for how to write such a note. It instructs you to “begin with the two most important words: thank you”. But their advice for what comes after is infuriatingly mundane. Add more details, tell the person about when you’ll next see them, and say thanks again. Dreadful!
But really, it’s not all bad. After the initial thanks, you need to add something more. Here are some suggestions as to what to segue into:
- how the gift/item/act will help you
- what the gift/item makes you think of, or reminds you of
- what you are planning to do with the gift (especially if it’s money or a gift card)
- why the gift/experience came at a good time
Then, you need a closing statement. This should relate back to the other person in some way, so that the whole thing isn’t about you.
- A simple statement (I love you! You’re the best! You’re my favourite daughter!)
- A suggestion as to when you and the other person might see each other or talk soon.
- An expression of a hope (I hope you’re all doing well; I hope you had a nice Christmas too; etc.)
And that’s it! A short, sweet, effective thank you note.
Half the reason most people like giving gifts or doing nice things is that they enjoy the warm glow of gratitude that these acts get them. I don’t think this is selfish at all; it’s the basis of why it feels good to do nice things!
Taking the time to write a thank you note helps contribute to the cycle of giving-and-receiving that we all participate in. And if nothing else, it’s just polite!
Have you seen examples of really great thank you notes? Let me know in the comments!