Though you may not believe gratitude is a lost art, thank you notes — especially handwritten ones — have grown more scarce. The next time you experience significant gratitude and feel that a thank you note would be the perfect response, we’re here to help.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Identify the Recipient(s)
- Step 2: Focus Your Gratitude
- Step 3: Decide on Your Medium
- Step 4: Jot Down Bullet Points or Make a Draft
- Step 5: Write Your Official Note
- Step 6: Deliver as Necessary
- Thank You Note Message Ideas
It’s likely you’ll experience one of these situations sooner than later. This may occur on a holiday, your birthday, at a professional event, or an otherwise ordinary day. You’ll likely feel as though you need to return the person’s gesture in a special way. But, perhaps the gesture can simply be returned with a thank you note.
A short, heartfelt thank you note would suit a variety of situations nicely — whether it was a gift, someone’s company, an interview, a professional interaction, or something else — there are different points you can touch on. If you’re unsure how or what to say for each of these situations, we’re here to guide you.
For each thank you note you intend to write, there is a structured process you can follow and repeat as necessary. We’ll also provide you with specific message ideas for a wide variety of scenarios that you can customize as you see fit.
Step 1: Identify the Recipient(s)
Identifying who’s receiving your thank you note should be the easiest part. However, perhaps you have a lot to be thankful for lately — and a lot of people to thank. This is great. However, getting in the right headspace to write all of these notes in one or a few sittings may benefit you. Thank you notes don’t have to be for traditional exchanges or relationships, either.
It’s likely you’d feel compelled to thank a physician or a care provider, for example, and may wonder how to write a thank you message to a doctor. You’re also more than welcome to have a less-structured approach to your note writing and send them “just because.” This can also be a great approach. People love to be thought of and appreciated, if even for “nothing.”
Tip: Keep a running list on your phone, on your counter, or wherever you’re likely to not miss it. Jot down the names of people and keywords of what you’d like to thank them for. This can save you time and help you to not forget anyone over the holidays or on a birthday, for example.
Step 2: Focus Your Gratitude
Focusing your gratitude for each recipient may be easier in some situations than others. For example, if your relative sent you money for your birthday, this would be the key thing to thank them for.
However, you can take it a step further and call attention to the gesture at large. It’s not so much that the person sent you a gift or did something for you — they took time and care away from themselves and their other priorities to “see” you and make you feel special. They connected with you in an additional way and made an effort to make you feel appreciated, whether you deserve it or not.
That being said, maybe the gesture was pretty small by comparison, but you’d like to go the extra mile yourself to ensure that person knows you “see” them. This is great, too, and you can write your message accordingly.
Tip: It’s easy in this age to just think of ourselves. Self-care and self-love are incredibly important, however, you’ll likely experience powerful results if you reserve a little of this positive energy to put out into the world. Thank you notes are a tangible, yet manageable way to do so.
Step 3: Decide on Your Medium
Just as there’s more than one way to write a thank you note, there’s more than one medium to write your notes on. Are you going to send a text? An email? A handwritten note on custom stationary? On something specific or humorous that the recipient would enjoy? The manner in which you send your note or notes will likely be determined by how many recipients there are.
Or, perhaps you like to buy blank thank you notes from the store one-by-one as the situation permits. Deciding on your medium will help you create the ideal environment for writing and drafting when the time comes, of course. Granted, you’re more than welcome to send a thank you via a Twitter DM from a parking lot, for example, and still have it be very well-received.
Tip: Think of your audience. Also, consider the scarcity of handwritten thank you notes and how powerful a message they can send. However, telling someone “thank you” immediately upon receiving a gesture and later sending a follow-up via text or email can also be quite special.
Step 4: Jot Down Bullet Points or Make a Draft
Now that you’ve decided on your recipient and what you’re going to write your thank you message on, you can decide on what you want the contents of your message to read.
Do you need to jot down the key points and make a draft, or can you just dive right in? If you’re using stationary and handwriting a note, for example, you may consider using a scratch sheet of paper so you can ensure that you don’t miss anything or make a mess of an otherwise nice card.
Tip: Read your message from bottom to top, or make sure you read each word independently. It’s easy to get caught up in your own writing or voice and miss a crucial word or grammatical element.
Step 5: Write Your Official Note
Take a breath and begin writing your final draft. Or, perhaps, if you’re sending a text or DM, write out a draft in another application, such as the notes app. This can give you a separate space to more easily determine if you’re missing anything.
There’s nothing worse than sending a message and wanting to “undo it” when it’s not possible. Making an error in a note to a family member or a long-time friend wouldn’t be that bad (quite frankly, it’d likely be seen as humorous). However, an error in a message to a teacher or a professional contact may prove a bit embarrassing.
Tip: If you’re creating a handwritten note, choose a pen that you feel comfortable using and that works on your chosen paper. Writing a thoughtful note only to have it smear illegibly would be pretty disheartening.
Step 6: Deliver as Necessary
Once your message is ready to send, you can copy and paste it into the preferred window, or just hit send. Of course, if you’re writing a thank you note to someone who’s home address is unavailable to you, and you’d like to handwrite a message, ensure that you can get it to their place of work in a timely manner.
Though impromptu thank you notes are great, thanking a person within a few days (and not much longer) of their gesture is preferred.
Tip: Double-check everything in your message, particularly the address of the recipient on the envelope if you’re sending a handwritten note via mail. You should also check the email address of any email recipients, too. Though receiving a response to a thank you note may not happen, and really isn’t the point, it’s important to do your part in ensuring that the message actually gets there.
Thank You Note Message Ideas
There are a lot of situations that can warrant a thank you note. Whether your situation is more traditional or unique, there are ways to ensure your message is special and heartfelt, even if you feel that you don’t necessarily have a way with words.
Below are a variety of specific examples that you can use as inspiration and really make your own.
For a gift
As children, we may be conditioned to expect a gift (or several) around the holidays or on our birthday. However, it’s important to recognize not only the gifts in themselves, but the meaning behind them.
In actuality, we’re not really entitled to anything and we should express our gratitude whenever possible. The very word “gift” should feel special, because it is. Here are some heartfelt ways to thank others for a gift.
- “Thank you so much for thinking of me when you have so much else on your plate. It really means a lot that you went to the effort of picking [this] out for me! You know me so well, even after all these years.”
- “I got your gift in the mail and I was floored, really. I wasn’t having a great day and that immediately turned it around! I can’t wait to use [it] this weekend!”
- “Thank you so much for the birthday gift! You know how to make me feel really special, and I hope this little note expresses at least a little bit of my gratitude. I love you!”
- “I’m so thankful to have you in my life and for all the ways you treat me. It’s such a blessing to know you, and I can’t wait to see you soon!”
- “Thank you for the sympathy gift. Though, you know you didn’t have to go to the effort. It helped put a big smile on my face, which, I’ll admit, hasn’t been happening too much lately. Sending you lots of love.”
Money may not seem like the most personal gesture, however, it’s just what some people need sometimes. Thanking people for money is incredibly important, as it’s unlikely whoever gave it to you couldn’t benefit from it themselves.
- “Thank you so much for sending me some funds! I know you said spend it on something special for myself (wink), but I’m gonna have to let you down and put most of it in savings. It really will help me out. Again, thank you.”
- “I’m writing to thank you deeply for the money you sent me for my birthday. You didn’t have to do that, but I love you for it.”
- “Thank you for sending me money — I know it’ll come in handy over the next few weeks! I really miss you and hope you’re doing well.”
- “Thank you for sending the money I know you know you didn’t have to send, but did so anyway. I’ll get you back. Kidding. I love you nonetheless. You know how to make me feel important.”
- “I’m so grateful to have you in my life. Thank you so much for the money you sent! I’ll be thinking of you.”
For thoughts or company during a difficult time
When someone shows up for you during a difficult time, it’s important to express your gratitude to this person. Having people you can count on during good times and bad times is something you should never take for granted.
- “Thank you for always showing up for me, especially when I’m at my worst. I don’t know what I’d do without you. I love you so much. It meant the world to me to see you as a pallbearer for [him/her].”
- “It means the world to me that you sat by me while I was healing and talked me through it. Not many people know what to say to those who are sick, but you said all the right things, and I know you meant them.”
- “Thank you so much for keeping me company last week. It means the world that you still make sacrifices to make me feel special and safe.”
- “I just wanted to thank you for your words of sympathy. Your message was so beautiful, and I could tell how much you meant it.”
- “Thank you for thinking of me. Your note meant a lot and it honestly turned my week around. I hope we can get together soon.”
For an interview
Just about any professional experience can shape you. Interviews are no exception. No matter how well (or how poorly) an interview went, it’s important to recognize that someone took the time to sit down with you, with potentially no direct benefit to them in return.
- “Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me and the steps I should be taking in my career. I look forward to connecting again soon, and wish you the best of luck with this process.”
- “I greatly appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to discuss [this]. It was a great opportunity for me to learn more about our field from a professional as yourself.”
- “Thank you so much for considering me for [this] position. I will take all of your advice to heart and apply from now on. I look forward to hearing from you!”
- “Thank you for seeing potential in me. I will continue to work on [the] skills that we touched on during my interview. I had a wonderful time speaking with you and look forward to connecting again soon.”
- “I really appreciate you setting time aside to discuss [this] with me. I hope you know our conversation has given me a lot to think about and I am excited to apply what I have learned.”
For a teacher, boss, client, or professional connection
It’s important to thank individuals that we view as mentors or superiors. Perhaps one of these individuals taught you a difficult lesson, or told you something that you actually needed to hear (but didn’t necessarily want to). Thanking him or her can show tremendous maturity and growth. Their roles may also come along with a good bit of pressure, and they may not get thanked often, if at all.
- “Thank you so much for all you do. Your work ethic and professionalism are truly inspiring!”
- “I just wanted to let you know I’m very grateful to work with you. I’m thrilled that I get to learn from you and contribute to [this] project, and I’m so excited to see the results.”
- “I’ve experienced a huge amount of growth both personally and professionally since I started working with you, and I hope that my work is a reflection of that. Of course, I know that if there’s room for additional growth, you’ll let me know. Cheers.”
- “Thank you for taking the time to work on [this] with me. It means the world that you take time out of your schedule to ensure I don’t get left behind.”
- “Thank you for believing in me. I’m so grateful that I get to be your student. You’re amazing!”
Recognize Your Opportunity
A heartfelt thank you note can be just as impactful as the gesture itself. Your expression of gratitude can easily create a ripple effect and motivate a further cycle of giving and gratitude. Don’t ever diminish the power that even a simple thank you note can have.
Much like the gesture that inspired the note, you too can turn someone’s day (or quite frankly, life) around. For more support about navigating difficult-to-write messages, such as condolences, as well as end-of-life planning, check out the rest of Cake.