You must have heard the news story last Friday about the “insane email from the world’s worst mother-in-law” that was doing the rounds on the internet.
“You should have hand-written a card to me. You have never written to thank me when you have stayed”
Poor Heidi – if only she’d been following our series of posts on all the in’s and out’s, do’s and don’ts of thank you letters, cards & notes!!
Anyway, for the benefit of all of you who may have to deal with snooty mothers-in-law or others like them in the future, we will now continue on with our thank-you note series. Today…
HOW TO WRITE THE PERFECT THANK YOU NOTE
The first important thing to note is that your “thank you” should be TIMELY
Thank you notes, or cards, should be written and sent as quickly as possible. The recommendation is that you write them immediately because, as we all know, it is all too easy to put tasks like this off and before you know it so much time has passed that you tell yourself there’s no point sending it now. So, tip #1 is to do it straight away.
However, not all of us are that well organised, and if you have been slack it’s good to know that it is still better manners to send a note late, than not at all. Perhaps you could apologise in the note for your tardiness, but don’t try making excuses. As primly noted by Miss Manners in her online etiquette column “the declaration of being busy just irritates those who took the time to be kind”.
The second point is that written thank you notes and cards should be SPECIFIC
The best thank you notes always make specific reference to the gift you’ve been given, or the experience or help you are thankful for. Think about how you felt at the time, and how you feel when you think about it now. Kelly Browne, author of “101 Ways to Say Thank You: Notes of Gratitude for all Occasions” also advises to use adjectives in your writing as they help convey emotion. For example, instead of just writing:
“Thanks for the glasses.”
Try adding a bit more detail like:
“Thank you for the sparkling crystal glasses!”
It adds a lot more oomph and personality to the note.
And speaking of personality, this is the third golden rule of thank you cards, to be PERSONAL and SINCERE
Address the person(s) you are thanking directly, don’t use pre-printed thank you letters, don’t be half-hearted and don’t lie.
In all cases a thank you note should stress the generosity of the giver, remembering that it is the thought that counts. But even when that thought just doesn’t seem right, you should still be gracious in your appreciation and be really careful not to hurt someone’s feelings. Be wary of using phrases like “The ornament is so unique” or “Your taste in clothing is so original” – people can usually pick these for what they are, and will justifiably question the sincerity of your appreciation.
The final thing you might want to consider is the STATIONERY you will use for the thank you letter, card or note.
It is generally accepted that there is no need for the stationery to be too formal – but on the other hand it shouldn’t be too messy either (as Miss Manners also notes, you don’t want your thank you letter to look like a ransom note!)
It is very easy to pick up sets of thank you cards or blank notecards, and notecards are a great size because you don’t have to fill a whole page, but there is enough room to craft a lovely 3 or 4 lines – which is probably a good length to aim for.
In practical terms, the Emily Post Institute (emilypost.com) advises that a thank you note for a gift should contain:
- an opening line of thanks and specific mention of the gift
- 3-5 sentences (use the tips above for ideas)
- another thanks
- sign off
Next week we will post a few sample thank you letters or notes to use in different situations so that we can see examples of this advice in practice…