How to Write a Thank-You Note

business etiquette
How to write a thank you note

The season for showing appreciation is upon us. Mother's Day recently passed, Father's Day is fast approaching, end-of-year teacher appreciation is a few weeks away and the wedding season is just around the corner.

The question is, will the words on the page really impact the receivers? Will they truly feel appreciated by what they read or will the card be tossed in the recycling bin shortly after a brief stint on a desk?

This article will outline five tips to make your thank-you note really count. The five tips spell out T-H-A-N-K.


A thank you note does not need to be long. In fact, keeping the note short and simple is the best. Writing the note may only take five minutes, but the impact could last a lifetime. A few years ago, my Grade 5 teacher, Mrs. Ticehurst, showed me a short letter that I had written to her when I was young. I had long forgotten what was written, but clearly the message left an impact. It is a good idea to keep a stack of thank-you note stationary in your office and home. Writing a short thank you note is not only kind but it is also simply good manners.


The thank-you note must come from the heart. It should be sincere and show your genuine feelings. Avoid overly formal sentences and write in a conversational manner. One way to express yourself honestly is to think about how the person, gift, or action makes you feel. Instead of writing, "Thank you for the beautiful flowers. They are the best", you can try, "Thank you. Your flowers brighten my mood and you come to mind every time I see them".


This tip is by far the most important. The thank you letter must be audience-oriented or about the reader (another A). Turn the praise to the receiver instead of yourself to have the most impact. Of course, you can mention how the actions/gifts have affected you, but keep the attention and praise on the receiver. If a colleague has covered for you while you were away from work, a phrase like, "Thank you, I couldn't have done it without you" will highlight your success instead of the colleague's support and help. The colleague may not be as inclined to help in the future. If you are writing an email, you can also boost audience-benefits if you cc' the receiver's supervisor. You will not only be thanking your colleague but also giving credit where credit is due. This kind of behavior fosters team-building and a positive work environment.


New: A good thank-you message should be natural and direct. Cliche phrases like, "World's Greatest Dad", "You're the Best" or "Congratulations on your baby" do not mean as much because the phrases are overly used. I have a box of thank-you letters from university students that I go through every once in a while if I am feeling low. I assure you, the letters that I keep are the ones that are hand-written or at least typed in their own words. Receiving a beautifully designed Hallmark card is nice and I am sure it is better than nothing, but it doesn't make the sacred box. If you do want to send a store-bought card, make sure that you write a few lines of your own. Your words will give the message a novel and natural impression. The next tip will help your words be more natural.


A thank you message will appear sincere, audience-oriented, and fresh if the writer includes specific details about the action or gift. If you write, "You're the best" to your hairdresser, you will need to come up with some specific reasons why s/he is the best. What was done to earn that title? Perhaps they squeezed you in between appointments or their incredible talent with scissors and dye renewed your confidence. Attention to the details will show the receiver that you really do care and notice. Research from the American Psychological Association has proven that employees who feel valued are more likely to be engaged in their work and motivated. An employee who feels valued will be more productive. A thank-you message should not be about a company's bottom line, but it can provide a serendipitous effect.

If written correctly, your thank you note could become a keepsake. Your employee or colleague will feel recognized, appreciated, and valued. Thank you messages boost morale and foster greater productivity.

My favorite dean in the College of Business was an older man who provided incredible annual evaluations. He was honest, he was specific about my accomplishments and he made me feel valued even if the evaluations were short. I have never worked harder for a boss than I have for him- I worked hard for his words.