If you’ve spent any amount of time with me, it probably will not surprise you that I’m a fan of etiquette.
I was not always this way. When I was little, and my grandma would send us fuzzy pajamas (the early years) or a check for new school clothes (when grandma realized teenagers are notoriously difficult to shop for), my mother would have to hassle me near to death to send the poor woman a thank-you note.
Because, trust me, I get it. Thank-you notes can be a hassle. You have to sum up gratitude in more words than, “Hey, thanks for this neat thing you got me here.” Because that is not enough words to fill up even the smallest stationery.
Fortunately for you, I have matured from my ungrateful youth and become somewhat of a connoisseur of thank-you notes. I have it down to a science, if you will. I have several friends that will consistently turn to me when writing their own thank-you notes. Yeah. I’m that good.
I should say that I actually truly believe in the thank-you note. I love receiving them, and I think it’s truly…disappointing that our society has more or less abandoned the practice in favor of a “thanks LOL” Facebook post. My 13-year-old niece sent me the cutest, sweetest thank-you note after I sent her a gift last week, and it totally made my day.
Which isn’t to say email thank-yous are rude. In the right setting, they can be more appropriate than the written version. And fortunately, what I’m about to share with you can work in both an online and a tangible setting.
BEHOLD! The patented Justine Thank-You Note Formula!
First, you have your intro. This will vary depending on how well you know the person. For job interview thank-yous, “Dear Mr. So-and-so” is just fine. For your friends, I like to use “My dearest, darlingest So-and-so.” Just to add a little flavor.
Next, you want to state outright what you’re thankful for.
I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know how much I appreciated our conversation/you taking the time to interview me/that swell sweater you sent me/[insert what they did for you here] the other day.
This is your thesis statement. Your lede. This is what makes this a thank-you note. Next, you want a wax a bit about why exactly you are grateful.
I know you must be extremely busy (maybe add why you know they’re busy, relate to a personal experience, show you were paying attention, etc.), so it means a lot that you took the time to meet with me.
It was so thoughtful of you to remember our anniversary, and receiving your gift made our day.
Or whatever reasons you actually have for being grateful.
This next part is extremely important. You might say this is the part that separates your generic one-step-up-from-just-signing-a-Hallmark-card thank-you notes. You need to state something specific and personal to do with what this person did to show that this is a personal note to that person. For example, if you’re thanking someone for meeting with you for an informational interview, you might say:
I thought your opinions and advice on [insert relevant topic you discussed] were especially helpful.
Or, if someone got you a gift card to Target for a graduation gift, you could say:
Your generous gift will be so helpful as I start buying everything I’ll need to survive in a dorm next year.
At this point, I like to throw in a joke or aside to give the note a little more life. Obviously, the definition of “joke” changes depending on whether this is a letting to a potential employer or your great-aunt Helen, so use discretion. For example, in the aforementioned informational interview example, you might say:
As someone who has gone through the at-times trying task of finding a job, I’m sure you can appreciate how helpful it is to get advice from someone who has been so successful.
(Oh, did I not mention that this is also the place to slip in some subtle flattery? Just don’t be obnoxious with it — always, always, always be as sincere as possible.)
For that graduation gift, you might say:
It will be a big change living on my own (I’ll miss mom’s cooking for sure!), but this will definitely help ease the transition.
You might add an additional sentence of you met with someone who offered to do you a favor, and you want to remind them without sounding like you’re just writing them because you want them to do the favor. You might say:
I’m especially grateful for your offer to pass my resume on to your HR department. Please let me know if I can provide any other information to you.
How are you doing? Following me so far? We’re almost done. You’re down to the last few words. All you have to do is find a way to end this note without using the phrase, “Thanks again!”
Ugh. There is nothing worse than having to tack that on. You’re basically saying, “Welp, I see I have about three centimeters of this card left to fill out, but I have nothing more to say, so…see above!”
You don’t want to do that. And you don’t have to. Instead, use this last sentence to nod at the future.
Looking forward to seeing you at Janie’s wedding in May!
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to speaking with you soon.
Then, before you can say, “Best, Justine,” you’re home-free.
As you probably noticed, this whole thing takes about five sentences. Which is good because there are really only so many ways to express gratitude without getting repetitive but bad because each of those sentences carries a lot of weight.
For those of you who are not a fan of reading (in which case, get OUT of here), here are the cliff notes:
2. Thank-you statement
3. Why you’re grateful/what you’ll do with the gift
4. Joke/Sincere flattery
5. Remind them about a favor (optional)
6. Sign-off without saying “thanks again!”
See? Not so bad now that you know what each sentence is supposed to do, right?