(Another post in honour of the Month of Letters)
My Great-Aunt Lillie was a champion of the thank-you note. She expected us to have one in the mail the moment her letter or parcel was relinquished to her local post office. And once she had received our cards, she wrote us thank-you notes for the thank-you notes we had sent.
There are still a number of Aunt Lillies in this world, but for many of us, the thought of writing a thank-you note causes anxiety and cold sweats. It needn’t. The thank-you note is an easy skill to acquire, and I am here to give you the secret formula.
The basic thank-you note has six parts:
- The date
- The greeting
- An initial expression of gratitude
- A comment on the object or act for which one must express thanks
- A final expression of gratitude
- An appropriate closing
That said, I should mention that my mother once received a one-word thank-you from a somewhat pretentious friend of the family that read merely, “Magnifiqué!” But generally, a thank-you message should go something like this:
Dear Aunt Lillie,
I was so pleased to receive the letter you sent in response to my thank-you note. I am always amazed at how much family history you are able to pack into only five or six pages. The story about my grandfather was very amusing, and I am so happy that you shared it with me. I send this with
A slightly more formal example might read like this:
Dear Mr. Kenobi,
Running into you in the desert the other day was a real delight. We should do it again soon. And I certainly was not expecting you to entrust my father’s old light saber to me. I can’t imagine a more meaningful gift. I’ve put it on the coffee table; it’s a real conversation starter.
R2 and C3PO send their regards and ask whether you will come for tea next Tuesday? Allow me to add my voice to theirs, and to say, once again, how pleased I am to have the saber. I am
One to a good friend can be more casual:
Sometime in the Recent Past
I just had to dash this off to tell you how much I love the shorts. Where did you find something so trendy with that artful distressed look? With the right suspenders, I’ll be able to wear them with everything.
I’m looking forward to seeing you at dinner this weekend. Tony says to ask if the Hulk will play on our team for the volleyball game.
Thanks again for the shorts. They’re just smashing.
Remember that even if your note is short and follows a form, it can still be sincere. The point is to let the person who gave you the lurid socks or wrote the glowing letter of recommendation for you know that you received the gift or are aware of the effort and appreciate the thought and time that was expended on your behalf. (It doesn’t matter whether you really appreciate the socks; while you are writing the note, you do.)
A final admonition regarding thank-you notes: unless you have a true disability that precludes holding a pen (and some of us do), thank-you notes should be written by hand on paper and sent through the mail. All the e-mails in the world will not take the place of a holograph missive composed in the most legible manuscript the writer can muster. Handwriting still conveys a personal communication that nothing else can match.
*To be fair, I should say that Aunt Lillie was one of my favourite relatives and I treasure the several letters from her containing some very interesting perspectives on family history.