8 tips on how to write a good thank-you note

In an age of impersonal emails, texts and "likes" on Facebook, writing thank-you notes -- the thoughtful way of showing gratitude -- is making a welcome comeback. Not sure where to start? An etiquette expert shares eight tips for putting pen to paper.

By Jackie Middleton

8 tips on how to write a good thank-you note
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When was the last time you felt the unexpected joy of receiving a handwritten thank-you note? If you're like most Canadians, it's probably been a while.

"Unfortunately, it's rarely done," says Louise Fox, the owner of The Etiquette Ladies, an etiquette training organization. "Thank-you notes show the person that you think enough of them to take the time to write."

Here are eight tips on how to express your gratitude.

1. When to send one

Send a thank-you note when you've received a special favour or kindness. Tell your child's teacher that you appreciated her extra help, thank your sister for her thoughtful birthday gift or send a note on the heels of an overnight stay at a friend's house.

"Send a note to someone who has done something thoughtful for you," explains Fox, as thank-you notes make the recipient feel valued.

2. Keep it brief
Are you sweating over the time it might take you to write a thank-you note? Don't!

"The nice thing about a thank-you note is that it's a just note. It can be short -- that's the beauty of it," explains Fox. "You don't have to write a letter." Just a few sentences -- two or three lines expressing your appreciation -- is all that's necessary.

3. Timing is important

Don't wait! The sooner that you can send your thank-you note, the better.

"Write the note as soon as possible after the occasion, gift or interview," suggests Fox, as it's easier to write something that's real and sincere when the memory of what you're thankful for is in the forefront of your mind. However, if everyday life interferes with your best intentions and you forget to send a thank-you, don't abandon the idea of sending one. "Even if it's a year later, you should still do it," says Fox. "Better late than never."

4. Make your message unique

Kiss goodbye to thank-you-note writer's block: Fox has an easy to follow formula for sharing your gratitude.

"Don't start your note with ‘thank you' -- instead, say something nice about the gift or event and the thoughtfulness of the giver," says Fox. Here are a couple of examples.

Dear Sophie,

Please tell your mom she makes the best pizza ever. I had a terrific time last night and love how you've fixed your room. Thank you so much for inviting me for a sleepover.

Best,
Zoey

Dear Grandma,

I will certainly hit a home run with the new baseball bat you gave me at Christmas. It's just what I needed and I can hardly wait to use it. Thank you for such a great gift.

Love,
Jennifer

5. Send thanks even if you hate the gift

Let's be honest. Not every gift you receive or every party you attend is a winner.

"Even if you don't like the gift, you should thank them for it," says Fox. "You always want to preserve the feelings of the giver, even if down the road you put the item in a garage sale."

You can avoid talking about the scratchy red sweater or boring dinner party at length by focusing on the giver's thoughtfulness and how much you appreciated the gesture.

6. It doesn't have to be fancy

Forget etiquette rules from the past. You don't have to use expensive cards to show your gratitude. According to Fox, the type of card is not important -- it's simply the thank-you that counts.

"You can write it on a piece of computer paper, it can be anything, as long as you're expressing a heartfelt thank-you," she says.

7. Say thanks on the job, too
"If you have a job interview, send a thank-you note immediately afterward," says Fox. You'll stand out as a potential employee, one who is thoughtful, organized and business-minded. Use phrases such as "I appreciate you taking the time" or "I look forward to joining your team."

Fox also recommends preparing the note in advance and just adding the person's name after the interview. That way you can drop off the completed note with the receptionist on your way out of the office. Just remember that this note should be all business: ensure that your spelling and grammar are immaculate and be mindful of the notepaper you use. No napkins!

8. You can never send too many!

Have you ever met someone who was annoyed by a friend or colleague saying thank-you? It just doesn't happen! Thank-you cards can be sent anytime you want to express your gratitude. "We need more thank-yous," says Fox.

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