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How To Write a Thank You Card That Actually Says Thanks

Thank You Card Wording

“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”
– G.B. Stern

Did you know that half of American’s don’t always say thanks (Source)?  

Regardless if you’re the type to always say thanks or not, you’re likely going to need to write a thank you card at some point.  Especially around the holidays, when you’ll be receiving gifts – and will want to ensure you show your appreciation.

Like any other task, I like to complete thank you cards both effectively and efficiently.  

To do that, I’ll first discuss how to make sure my card is effective: thinking through the purpose of thank you cards and how to word your thank you note.  

I’ll then put it together in one easy template for your thank you card – so you can ensure your thank you cards can be written efficiently, but still hit all the right notes.

Don’t rush through thank you cards – they matter. I just like to make sure I have a plan.

The Purpose Of Thank You Cards

A thank you card has a single purpose: to convey your appreciation to the person who gave you a gift, or did you a favor.  This is important, because before you send a thank you card you need to ask yourself – have I conveyed my appreciation?  Here are some questions to keep in mind as you think about what you want to say in the card:

  • Is my appreciation sincere?
  • Am I holding anything back?
  • Is there something I appreciate about this gift that I haven’t mentioned?

How To Word Your Thank You Card

In a previous article, I discussed how to say no with the empathy sandwich.  Briefly, one of the points I note is that fact driven notes (in particular with email) can come across as very blunt and cold.  

If you’re saying thank you in person, this isn’t a problem – we tend to show our emotions through body language and tonality. In writing, we need to use our words to get these same emotions across.  Here are some strategies for writing, and how to word your thank you card.

I break my thank you cards into three parts.

1: The Greeting

A lot of people rush to scribble “Dear Jane,” and decide they’re finished with the greeting – on to the card! However, the greeting is extremely important and deserves to be crafted.  

Consider the different words you could use:

  • “Dear Jane,” – This is formal, and I rarely use this unless addressing family or very close friends. In that instance, the use of the term Dear actually comes across as what it means – rather than giving the impression of a thank you card written at arm’s length.
  • “My Dear Jane,” or “My Dearest Jane,” – This I typically see used in addressing significant others, or people addressing their family such as children, grand-children and and nieces/nephews.
  • “Hi Jane,” or “Hey Jane,” conveys a more casual letter and is useful for acquaintances turning into closer friends.   Depending on your relationship with the person, this informality can help deepen your relationship instead of using Dear – particularly if the gift or favor they did for you helped bring you closer together.
  • “Hi Jane!” or “Hey Jane!” – Still casual, but now – with excitement!
  • “Aloha Jane!” – Useful for me since I am in Hawaii. Use at your own risk outside Hawaii.  It’s a greeting that can be loosely translated as anything from “hello” to “with love”
  • “Jane,” – I strongly recommend against doing this. With nothing preceding a name, it can come across as blunt, cold – and rushed. You don’t want to give the impression that your letter was dashed off as an afterthought.  An exception to this is if you are writing a thank you card for a work colleague, and want to ensure the card does not come across as overly friendly.
  • “Hi,” – Even worse than just their name is leaving off their name.  In How To Win Friends And Influence People, one of my favorite personal development books, Dale Carnegie writes “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Want to know the most sour sound? Perhaps the absence of their name where it should be.
  • So which do I recommend?  “Hey Jane!” I like my thank you cards to immediately pop with the excitement and emotion I have from the gift or the favor.  Especially if it’s around Christmas time, and people are receiving lots of Thank You cards – I want to make sure that my genuine thanks comes across and doesn’t sound generic.

2: The Body

The meat of your thank you card.  Lets talk about the words, phrasing and content you want to use here:

  • Express Emotion.  In most of my writing I stick to facts and get straight to the point. In thank you cards, this is the time to express gratitude and emotion. Unlike my usual writing, I will expand and take my time to ensure emotion and gratitude fills the card.
  • Be Specific.  While you don’t want to stick to just the facts, it’s good to point out specifics.
  • Remember The Past and Paint The Future.  While you don’t always have to do this, I like to discuss how the person’s gift and actions have improved my life – and how it is going to help me in the future. People like to know that what they have done has made a difference – so if it has, tell them!  As I have pointed out previously, altruism is one of the keys to happiness – and the reason for this is, we feel good when we’ve made a difference in someone’s life or the world. So make sure your friends and family know they’ve made a difference in your life =)

3: The Closing

The closing is the last thing people read, so you should word it in a way that is consistent with the purpose of the card, and with the wording of the body preceding it.  Common closings include:

  • “Sincerely, Sid” – I don’t particularly like using this unless I want to keep my thank you card very formal and at arm’s length.  Remember, we are trying to convey appreciation and deepen our relationship – this closing accomplishes neither.
  • “Love, Sid” – I typically use this for family only. Some people may use it for family and close friends.
  • “Thank You, Sid” – All these are appropriate and some variation of “Thank You” is my most common closing. Varitions include: “Many thanks, Sid” , “Thank You So Much, Sid”, “Thanks, Sid
  • “Take Care, Sid” – I will sometimes use this if I know that the favor, present or perhaps just the person’s life a the time is genuinely difficult and I want to close with empathy.  If so, my last line in my body will lead into this.
  • When in doubt, I recommend keeping it simple – you can’t go wrong with “Thank You, Sid”

Keeping these considerations in mind, lets review my thank you card template.

Thank You Card Template

Just like any other correspondence, I like my thank you cards, emails or even conversation (for verbal thank yous) to have a thesis statement.

Excuse me? Yes, a thesis statement – a simple, condensed summary of what is in the rest of the thank you note.  My thesis statement is usually very straightforward:

I wanted to drop you a quick note to thank you for ___.

I then follow that up with my emotions and gratitude.  Note in particular that I express gratitude for their actions and effort and not for the final result.

I was really touched that you took the time to pick out a gift that you knew I would like.

Using these two sentences to open my thank you card, and then bringing in the wording I discussed previously, here’s the full template. Note that items in [brackets] are optional and to be used when appropriate.

The benefit of using this template is you know that every word and phrase has been carefully chosen to ensure a personalized, gratitude filled card which will convey your appreciation, and deepen your relationship.

Sid’s Thank You Card Template

Hey _____ !

I wanted to drop you a quick note to thank you for ____.  I was really touched that you _____.

[Remember The Past:  When you _____, it really helped me _____. I really appreciate what you gave me/did for me.]

[Paint The Future: With your gift/help, I can now _____.   It truly has made a difference in my life.]

Thank you so much,

Sid

Handwritten, Typed, Or Email?

Finally, how should the card be written and delivered?

Physical vs. Email: I personally don’t like receiving physical mail-  but other people don’t feel the same way:  especially with thank you cards.  Most people still prefer actual thank you notes.  Because of this, if someone has done something exceptional for me or given me an exceptionally large gift I will send a physical card via snail mail.  

Typed or Handwritten? I think (mistakenly or not), email can give the impression that I’m rushing to say thanks, and can come across as insincere. So for that reason, when in doubt I recommend handwritten.

Nonetheless, for close friends and family who know me well, I typically send mine via email.

So, get out there, enjoy the presents you receive from friends and family – and make sure to take a few moments to tell them thank you!

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Further Reading:

How Many Of These Mistakes Hold YOU Back?

7 Reasons Good People Fail

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By Sid Savara
Published February 23rd 2014
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