How To Write The Perfect Thank You Letter

How To Write The Perfect Thank You Letter

It might be 2019 but whether it follows a big occasion or a simple supper a handwritten thank you letter still goes down well. While you might have been sending them out since you were a child, there’s an art to the good ones. We asked the experts when, what and how to get it right.

Make Sure You Post It

Don’t even think that an email will suffice as a thank you letter. Thank you letters should be thoughtful, and the recipient should know you put time and effort into writing it -they obviously did something to deserve your thanks, after all. Make sure your thank you cards are handwritten and posted. “There’s just something so special about receiving a handwritten thank you card in the post,” agrees Vaishali Shah, owner of luxury award-winning stationary designer,  Ananya Cards. “Time has become such an important factor in our increasingly busy lives that so much of our communication with others is online for the sake of convenience and speed. So receiving a message in physical form takes on more meaning, and makes the recipient feel truly valued.”

Put The Important Words First

The experts at Hallmark say your letter needs to start with the most important words first: thank you. Etiquette experts Debretts agree, adding you should avoid humour at this point and stick to simple messages and motifs. To end the note, look to the future ahead: “Mention the next time you might see them, or just let them know you’re thinking of them.”

Make It Personal

Don’t send a standardised note to everyone on your thank you list – make it personal to each individual. “Thank them for attending and if they gave you a gift, mention the specific gift in the note,” says Vaishali. Or recall a special moment from the night, for example: “I loved that dance we had”, or “so glad we got to catch up at dinner”.

The Hallmark experts suggest going even further and telling that person how you’re going to use their gift: “It shows them you really appreciate the thought that went into it – even if it’s just cash.” This is your chance to add a bit of humour - for example, if you’ve been given money for a honeymoon, tell the person what you’re hoping to put it towards – for example: “Thank you for the £100, we’ll try not to spend it all on the casinos in Vegas!” Or, if you received a gift, tell them that you’ll be “hiding it from my husband and children for the foreseeable future.”

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

If you we being hosted by someone, get ready to flatter them. Try and get specific about what exactly you liked about their hospitality. Did you enjoy their cooking? Did you like their home - was it particularly cosy? What was the tablescape like? Did you love the flowers? Zone in on something and compliment it - they’ll appreciate the detail!

Reiterate Your Thanks

So, once you’ve opened with your thank you, followed with a bit of detail on the gift or event, you now need to close with a reiteration of your thanks, say Hallmark: “Add details to thank them in a different way. For example: ‘We felt so lucky you made the trip to be with us on our wedding day. We can’t wait to see you again soon!’” 

Quality Counts

Vaishali says it is essential to use good quality paper. “The thank you cards can match the invitation design and, for ease, can be ordered at the same time you order the rest of your event stationary.” This shows you’ve put the effort in to give the recipient something nice.  Debretts add that personal notes should be written on white, ivory or cream paper, with a minimum weight of 100gsm “to avoid show-through”. And if you’re really concerned about the quality of your paper, look for a watermark – that’s usually the sign of quality, according to Debretts. They advise using an undersheet to keep the text straight, and sticking to blue or black ink.

The Perfect Sign-Off

Choosing a sign-off can be hard in all different kinds of situations, but if you’re struggling to choose one, Hallmark say ‘Sincerely’ is a safe standby, “but for closer relationships, you might want to choose a warmer option, such as ‘With love’, ‘Many thanks’, or ‘Yours truly’”. 

Time Is Of The Essence

It’s not something any of us enjoy sitting down and doing, but your thank you cards need to be sent out as soon as possible after the event. “For events such as parties and showers, a good rule of thumb is to send your cards out within a month after the event,” say Hallmark. “If it’s later than that, you should start your note with a brief apology.” Vaishali adds that, if you receive any gifts before the event, then two weeks is an appropriate time span to write a thank you, and for gifts received at the event, you have one month. 

For Children

“It is appropriate for parents to respond on behalf of their offspring before the child is able to write. The child should write their own, however, as soon as they can,” Debretts explain. “Children should be encouraged to specifically refer to the present in the letter, and make a detailed comment about it (‘Thank you for the teddy you gave me for my birthday. I have named him Edward’). An extra sentence of topical news about the child’s life adds a personal touch (‘For my birthday treat, I am going to the cinema with my friends’).” 

Traditionally, Debretts add, children should always write a thank you letter for presents, but it is becoming more permissible for children to say thank you in person if the giver is there when the present is actually opened, but this all comes down to the expectations of particular families or individuals. 

Always, always, always remember to triple check the names of the children you are writing thank you letters to - and don’t spell them wrong, it’s disrespectful. If you’re unsure, ask a mutual friend, check social media or, if there’s no way to check, refer to them as a family - for example, “To the Smith family,” or “To all of you”. Essentially, it’s better to write something than to write nothing. 

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