Welcome to of our advice column where we try to answer all of your confounding “What The…?” questions. We’ll be getting advice from experts, but we may not always have the best answer. Feel free to share your own advice in the comments below.
I send so many emails, I’ve lost all ability to create a hand-written thank you note — and I forget the protocol. Can you give me the modern manners on the thank you note so I can properly thank Aunt Louise for the gravy boat she gave me last Thanksgiving?
Thankless in Iowa City
Ah, the thank you note. It’s either a charming throwback to a lost era of civility, or a guilt-inducing chore that has outlived its usefulness. But whether you love them or hate them, sooner or later you will have to write them.
From birthday gifts to job interviews, there is a range of occasions for which thank you notes are appropriate. But while the reasons for writing them may vary, the guidelines for writing them are consistent.
First, a thank you note should be sincere. Yes, you could write the standard “Dear ___, Thank you for the ___. I love it! I will use it often and think of you each time I do. Love, ___.”
But if you’re going to take time to compose a note, and the recipient is going to take the time to read it, you might as well take the time to write one that’s heartfelt.
1. Start by thinking about what inspired you to write – the amazing lasagna your friend dropped off when your daughter was sick; the engrossing and inspiring book your mom sent you for your birthday – then think of a reason you’re grateful. Combine the two and you’re off and running.
2. A thank you note should be brief. The point here is not to ramble on to prove how grateful you are. The idea is to acknowledge someone else’s thoughtfulness and respond in kind. In most cases, three sentences are plenty.
3. A thank you note should ideally be sent within three days of receiving the gift. But life is life — sometimes time gets away from us, and suddenly you realize you never thanked your Aunt Louise. Take this opportunity to write her a note anyway, thanking her for her thoughtful gift and letting her know how happy you were to use it over the holiday. Better late than never definitely applies when it comes to thank you notes.
Finally, not every thank you note needs to be so traditional. A great piece of advice from an old boss might suddenly pop into your head one day; why not drop her a line and let her know that she still inspires you to do your best work? Or after a great party, send the host a bottle of wine with a signed card that simply says, “Thank you!”
It’s not so much how you say thank you, but the fact that you say it that matters. It’s an opportunity to express gratitude, which in turn makes you feel blessed and lucky, and makes the recipient feel appreciated. So go ahead: pick up a pen and write a note. You’ll thank yourself.