The Art (and Formula) for Thank You Notes

Written by Paige Dawson

Recently I received a thank you note from a high school graduate which I couldn’t help but share on social media. It seems my network quickly grasped the problem at hand…see the picture for yourself.


While I’m thrilled this individual knew enough to send a thank you note (sadly, many skip this act of gratitude all together), I was taken aback by the content.

I’m fearful that we’re raising a generation (or two) that are missing the common courtesies that most of us—um, middle agers and older—learned and still value. In the days of text messages, social networks, digital currencies, etc., we’ve become more removed from the art of crafting a meaningful note of appreciation…for a gift, an introduction, a job interview, you name it.

My Southern-bred mom instilled the art of thank you notes on us at a young age. And, I’ve carried that tradition on our daughter. When she was small, I let her color on the card, then we progressed to her signing her name at the bottom of the card and helping stamp and seal. She’s only 6 but already understands the importance of giving thanks.

Content Approach

Yes, there is an art to using the right words for how to structure the contents. In our Google-age, there really isn’t an excuse for not knowing better. If you simply Google “thank you note templates,” the search engine returns hundreds of templates and how-to guides.

Overall, it’s about 3-4 sentences. Typically, I follow a format such as:

  • Opening: Dear (first name if a peer or younger) or Dear (Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr. last name if not an existing relationship)
  • First sentence options: The first sentence is the initial gratitude message and ideally a mention of the type of gift or help you received. For example, “Thank you for… XXX”, “It was so lovely of you to remember… XXX”, “What a pleasure to receive… XXX.”
  • Second sentence thoughts: This next aspect includes some element to how you will use or benefit from the gift you received. “I’m using the XXX to help with my dorm room supplies (or course books, gas money to visit home, etc.,).”
  • Third sentence tie in: This last sentence can vary, and overall, it’s a repeat of your gratitude for XXX. “Thank you again for remembering me as I embark on this very important journey” Or “Thank you again for the opportunity to work with you.”
  • Closing: My favorite closing for thank you notes is “Warm regards” or “Warmly” versus a colder “Sincerely” format. Then sign your first name legibly (and last name if not close with the person).

Mail vs Email Format

While most of our world is electronic these days, there’s something special about receiving a hand-addressed envelope. Seeing that someone took the time to pen a note and mail it to you stands out.

I know many folks today have less than stellar handwriting. Cursive that is legible is ideal though neatly printed text is fine. Worst case, type and hand sign if need be.

My rule of thumb is—if you have a mailing address for someone, you should mail a handwritten thank you note. Granted for some business contacts, it may be hard to find a physical address, but I still try with some sleuthing such as visiting the company website or searching the address listings online. If I strike out, I’ll revert to an email thank you as a last resort.

If you do mail the note card and are new to this idea—or it’s been ages since you addressed an envelope, do a Google search on “how to address envelopes” to ensure you know where everything goes. A few years back I tasked two interns with addressing envelopes for me; I’ll not share just how many were erroneous. Thank goodness we caught it before I looked like a totally inept sender.

Extra Special Thanks

The most typical thank you effort is to recognize a giver who provided you something of value. We think of this most often in terms of tangible gifts such as for birthdays, showers, holidays, etc. on a personal level. Or, we share our gratitude for job interviews, meetings, dinners or outings, etc. on a business level.

Every now and then we want to share our thanks in a more special way. Usually this is tied to maybe a referral for new business, a milestone event, or even sometimes just a “thinking of you” memento. I even keep a stash of $5 Starbucks cards around to include in notes from time-to-time. And, I’ve sent and received special food deliveries and, on occasion, flowers.

Share the Love Socially

If you want to take it a step further for a business thank you, consider showing that business or individual professional some love on social media by rating or reviewing them, penning a LinkedIn recommendation, sharing their blogs or tagging them. (You didn’t think I’d skip that as a marketing agency that runs social media accounts for clients!)

Who can you thank today? Bet you know someone.

And, as always, if you need more specific help or even crafting templates for your team, we’re always just a call, email or DM away.

P.S. If you are a new graduate and eyeing an internship in your future, do read our most popular blog ever on mastering internships.

About Paige Dawson

With expertise in marketing, business strategy and public relations, as well as ‘in the trenches’ experience as a business owner, Paige Dawson brings a unique blend of talent to clients. As president and founder of MPD Ventures Company, Paige works with executives and entrepreneurs throughout the country to develop key messages, marketing strategies and measurable campaigns, driven by client business goals. She has extensive experience providing counsel for professional service firms, technology companies, associations and nonprofits.