Thank-you notes are appropriate for gifts, special occasions, favors and even job interviews. They should be sent within a few days (unless they are for wedding gifts, in which case you generally have up to a month of leeway) after you spend time together or receive something. What to say depends on the situation, and there's no special formula to follow. Being sincere is what matters most.
Everyone enjoys getting personal mail. And we're not talking e-mail here--it just doesn't measure up to a handwritten message. A thank-you card is like a gift in itself. It's something many folks hold on to so they can always remember the occasion.
If you look at writing thank-you notes as a fun thing to do, rather than a chore, putting one together becomes a snap. Just think about how happy the person who gets it will be.
Point No. 1: Gather your materials
Having your materials ready will encourage a prompt response. And writing a note when the event or gift receiving experience is fresh in your mind is much easier than trying to drudge up enthusiasm weeks after it's happened.
Stay prepared by keeping a variety of note cards, envelopes, stamps, and craft materials on hand. How elaborate or creative you want to get is up to you. Kids will often show more enthusiasm in sending thank-you notes if making and writing the notes is seen as a creative venture.
Have some cards that express your personality as well as the interests of people who are close to you. This way, receivers will be more likely to keep the card for a while, so they can be reminded of you or even keep it for others to see.
Once you've gathered everything you'll need, designate a special box or drawer in which to keep it all. That way, you'll always be able to find it, and you'll quickly be able to decide if you need to re-stock anything. It's too easy to put off sending a thank-you note if everything you need isn't handy, so try not to let that happen. If it does happen, you can always create a "custom" card using craft materials or even your computer. If you run out of stamps and going to the post office isn't convenient, keep in mind that many ATMs, grocery stores and convenience shops may have them too.
Too many people send thank-you notes that sound like they came from a machine. With a little practice, though, making the words sound friendly and natural will become second nature.
The first thing to remember is to be sincere. You want to thank the person in the same tone you'd use if you were saying it face-to-face. Try saying your thank-you out loud before you write it down. Use a separate sheet of paper to practice first if you need to. Just imagine the person you're writing to is standing right there. Usually the first thing that comes to mind ends up being the perfect thing to say.
For example, something formal like: "Dearest Aunt Mable, Thank you so much for the beautiful vase. What a kind and wonderful gesture" probably isn't the way you'd express yourself if she were there. Instead, something like: "Hello Mable, What a beautiful vase! You have such a talent for finding unique things. I'm looking forward to your next visit so you can see how great it looks in my house" sounds much more unique and personal.
Point No. 3: Know what to include
Now that you have the tone down, each thank-you should include the following things:
- Appreciation for the gift or experience
- Something you particularly like(d) about it
- Plans for the gift, especially if it's money
If the note is for a job interview, it should include:
- Appreciation for the interviewer's time
- Continued interest and enthusiasm for the position
- Answers to unresolved questions or issues
- Something that shows you listened to and remembered the conversation, such as a key point you feel was meaningful
With all the right elements and the appropriate tone of voice, you're home free. Just remember to keep it short and simple. It's not a novel, it's a thank-you note. A few lines is enough for a personal note, and one page is plenty for business-related thanks.
Point No. 4: Mail it!
The hard part is over--now you just have to send the note on its way. The sooner you can do this, the better. This is especially true for job interview situations; sending the note within 24 hours is imperative if you want to make a real impact.
It's okay to send personal notes up to a few days after receiving a gift, favor, or attending a special occasion. But don't take any longer than a week.
As mentioned previously, if you're sending a bunch of thank-you notes following a wedding or other large gathering, it's okay to take up to a month following the event. Some rumor mills claim the wedded pair have up to a year to send thank-you notes, but this isn't the case. Imagine how you'd feel if you sent someone a large check or expensive gift and then didn't hear from them for nine months!
When it's all written and done, and as you're walking back from the mailbox, enjoy a thorough sense of goodwill. You've just done something really nice for someone who did something nice for you.