How To Write The Perfect Thank You Note

Oprah once said that she writes her thank you notes on one-side of a card so that the recipient may frame it should they desire. Now, I am no Oprah so I can pretty much guarantee that no one will be framing my thank you note, but there is something to be said for this dying art form.

Much of my life has moved on-line. I buy my clothes, gifts and movies all on-line. I communicate with my friends by text message or email and I pay my bills with clicks of the mouse. However I can’t bring myself to replace traditional invitations and thank you notes with an e-version. I have, on occasion, hammered out a quick thanks to a friend via email and fired off an e-vite to a children’s party, but when it comes down to it, I always prefer the good ol’ fashion paper and pen. (Check out our Pinterest page for my son’s ninja party invite)

History of the Thank You Note

The ancient cultures, specifically the Egyptians and Chinese, would often send messages of goodwill to each other using papyrus. It wasn’t until the mid 1800s and the invention of the stamp that written correspondence became mainstream in North America.

Emily Post circa 1922

Perhaps the most celebrated when it comes to American etiquette, Emily Post offers several useful tidbits of advice that are still relevant today. For example, one should always remember that the thank you letter that you write is a reflection of yourself. Be sure to choose your words wisely, write neatly and spell words correctly. It may take more time to hand-write a thoughtful card than to send an email but it’s most always more appreciated.

Emily Post also always recommends that one write the date in full to avoid any confusion with abbreviations.

However, we’ve come a long way since the days of Ms. (err, Mrs.? Miss?) Post who suggests “suitability should be considered in choosing note paper as well as choosing a piece of a furniture for the house.”

And you thought choosing paper was a piece of cake!

The Close

“It is too bad that the English language does not permit the charming and graceful closing of all letters in the French manner, those little flowers of compliment that leave such a pleasant fragrance after reading. But ever since the Eighteenth Century the English-speaking have been busy pruning away all ornament of expression; even the last remaining graces, “kindest regards,” with kindest remembrances,” are fast disappearing, leaving us nothing but an abrupt “Your truly,” or “Sincerely yours.”  – Emily Post, 1922

I couldn’t agree more! I loathe the sign-off “Best.” It’s sharp and truncated. It implies such busyness that one could barely eke out the time to write the correspondence let alone finish the thought. Best what? Best wishes? Best of luck? Best friends for life?

According to Emily Post (1922) these are the only acceptable closings:

  • Sincerely, Sincerely yours, Very sincerely, Very sincerely yours
  • Faithfully, Faithfully yours (from a man)
  • Affectionately yours, Devotedly, Lovingly, Your loving (for intimate relationships only)
  • Gratefully

Completely unacceptable closings include:

  • Cordially
  • Warmly Yours (unspeakable!)
  • Yours in Haste.

I don’t necessarily agree but I would like to add “Best” to that list.

Martha Stewart, considered by some to be a modern day Emily Post, suggests that “Love” is more than appropriate when signing off a letter.

Tips for Writing The Perfect Thank You in 2014

  • Timing is everything. Send thank yous as soon after as possible. For weddings and showers within three months is the acceptable guideline.
  • Be organized. Keep a selection of various thank you cards and stamps on hand to use.
  • Keep your note simple. Four to five sentences expressing your gratitude are sufficient.
  • If you’re thanking someone for a gift or a gift of cash, let him or her know how it’s being used.
  • Be aware of differences in last names and how your recipient prefers to be addressed. Do they prefer Ms. or Mrs.? Be sure to include formal designations like Dr. or Honorable.
  • Children are more than capable of writing thank you notes. Encourage them to choose a card that reflects their personality, complete a rough draft before moving on to the final copy and walk to the mailbox together so they can post the letter themselves.

Examples

Always one to cover her bases, Emily Post offers the masses examples of the perfect thank you for any occasion. Been ill and convalesced at a friend’s house? Did you have an especially amusing weekend at a friend’s house and were hosted by a senior member of the family? For more examples of thank yous from the 1920s, many of which really are applicable to today, click here.

To read thank you notes from famous people like Bill Clinton and Marilyn Monroe visit this site.

Some Tools to Help You Craft the Perfect Thank You Note

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Hello Love Address Book by Faith Designs 

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English Countryside Address Book by Kristie Kern

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French Stripes Thank You Card by Monica Tuazon

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United As One Thank You Card by Lauren Chism

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Custom Camping Thank You Card by Love Love Me Do

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Deep Blue Leaves Thank You Card by Love Love Me Do

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Yellow Nautical Chevron Thank You Card by Love Love Me Do

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Detective Fox Children Stationery by Anapuma

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Fire Engine Chlidren Stationery by Monica Tuazon

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Curveball Children Stationery by 24th and Dune

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Bears In The Woods Thank You Card by Love Love Me Do

Love Love Me Do features beautiful note cards and invitations by Sarah Carter, a Canadian custom stationery designer.  Each card is $4.80 or 3 for $10, 6 for $18, 8 for $24 and 100 for $150.

All other stationery is featured on Minted, a must-bookmark site for all stationery lovers!

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12 thoughts on “How To Write The Perfect Thank You Note

  1. Perfectly written. Upon her passing, my grandmother left me a hatbox full of every single letter and thank-you note I had ever written to her. It’s one of my greatest treasures now.

    • What a special memory. I am generally a purger of things but hand-written letters I always save. I have the ones my grandparents had written over the years and looking at their handwriting after they died, it felt like a piece of them was still with me. Sounds corny, but it’s true.

  2. I will never use “Best” again….I’d always found it so gently endearing….but now, you’re reminding me of where I read it first and “copied” it in style….in an email from a disinterested prof!! How could I have ever thought of that as endearing?? All these years….

    With grateful hands and heart,
    Roseanne

  3. I always use “Best” on work emails but now you have me second guessing it… “Cheers” is commonly used but it is not my style. Love all the Minted cards, they have the best selection!

    • I know the stuff from Minted is so lovely but I have to say there are some pretty remarkable local Etsy artists whose work I am loving. I am not going to name names (coughNathaliecough) was in her element at the Etsy Pop-up shop last week.

  4. So funny! I also always use “best,” and after reading Beth-Anne’s post in draft, I started thinking “Best in Show!” “Best Friends Forever!” “Best Bets!” I, too, will cease and desist with “best.”

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