OK, so that sounds terribly mercenary. The truth is that there is nothing bad and everything good about thank-you notes, so you should send them all the time. Someone takes you out to dinner? Thank-you note. Takes the time to interview you for a job? Thank-you note. Present? You know that’s a thank-you note, and in the words of an etiquette expert I interviewed once, the note should be written before you open, eat, play with, look at, listen to or in any way enjoy the gift.
Anyway, I saw the apex of thank-you notes several years ago in the Gamma Phi Beta sorority house on SMU’s campus. The chapter had a bulletin board full of thank-you notes from other chapters, because of course Texas sorority girls love nothing more than thanking each other on official sorority stationery.
These notes … they were just so perfect. I’d been writing thank-you notes for years — good ones, that others always commented on — and I had nothing on these bitches. NOTHING. Comparing their thank-you notes to mine was like watching Michael Jordan play one-on-one against a 7-year-old with a broken elbow. They had, essentially, shut the thank-you note game down.
I copied their format, and have used it ever since. I will give you an example of me thanking my best friend for inviting me to her wedding, then parse below.
You were such an unfairly gorgeous bride. Seriously, you single-handedly stole the show from that delicious salmon, charming decorations, wonderful company and excellent/ridiculous dance party there at the end. I had such a great time; it’s the best wedding I’ve been to in years. Thank you so, so much for inviting me.
- Start with the word ‘you’ if possible, because everyone loves reading about themselves more than anyone else, and this signals your intent to gush early.
- A couple examples of what you were appreciative of. Be specific!
- How you felt or benefitted (so they get the warm fuzzy of knowing they made you feel happy).
- Don’t thank them until the very last line, and do it simply. “Thank you so much for this wonderful gift.” Etc.
A few additional tips: If you worry about not sounding sincere, take a few minutes to think before you write the note. Think about this person going out of their way to host you; cleaning all the bathrooms and washing towels and making sure there are yummy snacks in the fridge. Think about how the gift makes your life happier, or easier, or is just nice to have around.
If you have all that stuff in mind, it should come out sounding sincere.
Finally, I like to compose my notes in Word and then copy them over onto the stationery. This drastically cuts down on typos/having to throw an entire sheet of stationery away.