A Man's Life, On Etiquette

The Art of Thank You Note Writing

Gratitude is a virtue every man should cultivate. Yet gratitude means nothing if you haven’t mastered the art of expressing it. A man should use every opportunity to express to those around him how much he appreciates their love, support, and generosity. One of the key ways of expressing gratitude is the thank you note. Unfortunately, many men today completely overlook this aspect of etiquette and consequently, break the hearts of sweet little grandmas everywhere. Every gentleman should be knowledgeable of the whens and hows of writing thank you notes. Being a frequent and skillful writer of them will set you apart from your uncouth peers.

When to Write a Thank You Note

  • When you receive a gift (especially if the gift is from your Italian grandma — if you don’t write a thank you note, she’ll put the moloch on you).
  • When someone performs an act of service for you.
  • When someone goes above and beyond what is asked of them, whether at work or in a friendship.
  • After a job interview.
  • When you stay overnight at someone’s home.
  • If someone shows you around their town or city when you’re vacationing there, regardless of whether you stayed at their home or not.
  • When someone has you over for dinner.
  • When someone throws a party or event for you.
  • Anytime someone does something extraordinary that warms your heart. Don’t be stingy with the thank you note. There’s never a wrong time to write one.

Some Ground Rules

1. Always write the note as soon as possible. Send it within two weeks of attending the event or receiving the gift.

2. Send it through the mail. Email thank yous are certainly convenient, but except in response to very small things, they are not appropriate. Some may say, “Well, a thank you is a thank you. Why does it matter what form it takes?” Sending a thank you note through the mail shows effort. It shows that you took the time to put pen to paper, addressed an envelope, and bought a stamp. It’s tangible; they can touch it, hold it, and display it on the mantle. It makes your thank you far more sincere.

3. Use real stationery. Having to run to the store to buy a card every time you need to write a thank you note will make you drag your feet about writing them. So invest in some nice looking stationery. It doesn’t have to be fancy; buy something with a neutral, conservative theme so that the cards can be used for a variety of occasions.

How to Write a Thank You Note

1. Begin by expressing your gratitude for the gift/service. Your opener is simple: “Thank you very much for ______________.” If the gift was money, use a euphemism for it. Instead of “thank you for the dough,” say “thank you for your kindness/generosity/gift.”

2. Mention specific details about how you plan to use a gift or what you enjoyed about an experience. If you are thanking someone for holding an event like a party or dinner, be specific about what you enjoyed about it. If you are thanking someone for a gift, tell the note’s recipient how you plan to use it. This is true even for a monetary gift; tell the giver what you plan to spend it on or what you’re saving for.

3. For some recipients, add some news about your life. This isn’t always appropriate; obviously if you’re writing a thank you note for say, a job interview, you don’t want to tell them how you recently caught a two-foot bass. But if you receive a gift in the mail from people who see you infrequently and who would like to know more about what’s going on in your life (read: your grandparents), give a brief sketch about what you’ve been up to recently. You know Aunt Myrtle will love it.

4. Close by referencing the past and alluding to the future. If the person gave you the gift at a recent event, write, “It was great to see you at Christmas.” Then say, “I hope we all can get together again next year.” If the person sent the gift in the mail, and you see them infrequently, simply write, “I hope to see you soon.”

5. Repeat your thanks. “Thank you again for the gift,” makes the perfect last line.

6. Valediction. Valedictions are the words or phrases that come before your name. The hardest part of a thank you note is often choosing a valediction that appropriately conveys the level of your relationship with the recipient. “Love” can sometimes seem too gushy and “Sincerely” can seem too formal. If your affections fall somewhere between those two expressions, here are some neutral valedictions that can fit a wide variety of situations and relationships:

  • Yours Truly
  • Truly Yours
  • Kindest Regards
  • Warmest Regards
  • Best Regards
  • Respectfully

Any other tips on writing thank you notes? Drop a line in the comment box and let us know.


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