Write foolproof thank-you notes every time

Katherine Walsh of York Township has been writing lots of thank you notes since she was married on Sept. 22. (Photo by Kate Penn)

for Smart

In today’s world of texts and tweets, receiving a handwritten thank-you card is a refreshing change of pace.

A general rule of thumb is to send a handwritten note within one day after you receive a gift, or after someone goes above and beyond to help you. According to Sheryl Trower, owner of The Etiquette School of Central Pennsylvania, the sooner you write that thank-you note, the better.

“When the event or gift is fresh in your mind, it’s easier to write,” she says.

Of course, there are different rules for different occasions.

For a gift that is opened in front of the giver, an email thank-you is appropriate (but it never hurts to follow-up with a handwritten card). However, email is not appropriate for significant life events such as weddings or graduations.

An email thank-you is also not recommended in response to an expensive gift or if the gift-giver is elderly.

On the professional front, etiquette experts advise sending a note within 24 hours after a job interview.

“Ideally, you should drop it in the mail as soon as you’re out of the meeting,” says Trower.

Her advice? Have the envelope addressed before the interview, write it immediately after, and put it in the mail as soon as you walk out.

Keep it short — thank them for their time, encourage them to be in touch with questions, and end with best regards.

“The interviewer may have met with 10 candidates that day, but it sets you apart to send a handwritten note,” says Trower.

For brides and new moms, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of thank-you notes to write. Trower suggests taking it day by day —- new moms should aim for one or two a day, and newly-married couples should send three or four a day.

Following a wedding, couples have up to three months to send a thank- you, she said.

If writing a thank-you note seems daunting, just remember to keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

“Thank-you notes should sound natural,” says Trower. “They’re like short visits with the person you’re writing.”

Tips for giving thanks

Use this cheat-sheet for thank you note basics:

  1. Use a fold-over note or correspondence card, and only write on one page.
  2. Write the date in the bottom left-hand corner.
  3. When addressing the envelope, always use Mr. or Ms. If the recipient is a female younger than 13, use Miss.
  4. Write your return address on the back flap of the envelope. You may use a return-address sticker, but a handwritten address is more formal.
  5. Pay close attention to grammar and spelling.
  6. If you know the recipient well, call them by their first name.
  7. Use your best penmanship — you’ll want the recipient to be able to read your writing!

More advice

Thank-you notes should be at least four sentences.

The first, second, and fourth sentences should reference the gift; the third sentence can be a quick personal note to the reader.

The safest ways to end the card is “Best regards,” or “Sincerely.”

If you’re very close to the recipient, end the card with “Love.”

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1 Response

  1. January 15, 2014

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