In our series “Expressions of Emotion,” we show you how to tell others how much you love and care for them. It’s easy to put off writing a thank-you card, or skip doing it entirely. But that’s not the right thing to do. Here’s what to write in a thank-you card.

Receiving gifts or acts of consideration and kindness — whether big or small, physical or intangible — feels wonderful. It is a show of care, thoughtfulness, and love (even if it may come in the form of another pair of socks on Christmas morning).

When you get a gift or are on the receiving end of a kind act from a loved one, friend, or distant coworker, it is natural to want to return the favor and let them know just how much you appreciate the gesture.

Thank-you cards are a splendid way to express your gratitude, and they have been for hundreds of years.

However, it is easy to get overwhelmed when you sit down to write a thank-you note. That is especially true around the holidays, when you might have to send a lot of cards in a short amount of time.

It also isn’t always clear when a thank-you note is even appropriate to send.

If you are trying to write the perfect thank-you, are unsure if you should send one in the first place, or are fascinated by the origins of such traditions, our comprehensive guide about thank-you notes will help.

A photo of what to write in a thank-you card with a man giving a woman a gift.

The history of thank-you notes

Thank-you notes can be traced back thousands of years to the ancient Chinese and Egyptian civilizations. Back then, friends and family wanting to wish each other good luck would write out messages on pieces of papyrus. In the 1400s, Europeans started writing and delivering what most closely resemble the greeting cards we know today. These were a precursor to the first true modern-day thank-you cards, which started to appear in the 19th century thanks to a number of factors, including the introduction of the postage stamp in 1840, the popularization of greeting cards in the latter half of the century, and the appearance of proper thank-you note practices in etiquette books of the day.

With the advent of the internet and cell phones, it has become increasingly easy to express thanks in electronic form. But there’s nothing quite like a heartfelt handwritten message to show your gratitude to someone.

What to say in a thank-you card

If you’ve ever sat down to write a thank-you letter and come up empty, you’re not alone. The process may seem simple, but it can be a challenge.

Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert at The Protocol School of Texas, has advice for those who might be procrastinating because of writer’s block.

“Just write it and send it,” she says. “Sometimes, we let the pressure of [thank-you] cards allow us to let time lapse, and then we never send them. The most important thing to do is — just do it!”

Gottsman notes that it’s better to say whatever we’re feeling, even if it’s not as elegant as you would like, than nothing at all.

“It’s easy to put off a thank-you note when you don’t know what to say,” she says. “But write from your heart — even in your chicken scratch handwriting! — to show that you appreciate someone’s kindness, generosity, and thought.”

Deciding what to write in your thank you is solely dependent on the context. What gift was given? What act of kindness was bestowed? What was the occasion? Who was the giver?


harry & david gift basket

Answering these simple questions will give you the foundation on which to craft your personalized thank-you note. It will guide you and help you be specific about what to write. Be sure to mention what it is you are thankful for, why it is meaningful to you, and how grateful you are for the gesture. You can even include an anecdote of how you have already used or benefited from the gift.

Gottsman suggests mentioning the gift or act specifically, and to avoid generic thank-you’s that don’t directly address the kindness for which you’re thanking them.

She also recommends including well wishes to the giver. The goal is to make them feel appreciated, and taking the time to offer them words of kindness will accomplish that. Thank-you’s have an undeniable power, she says, and appreciating the good things in life is important.

“Thank-you notes show that you appreciate the effort or the kindness someone extended to you,” Gottsman says. “They’re an effort on your part to acknowledge what another person did for you, and they’re all about continuing to build relationships with the people who are special to you.”

When to send thank-you cards

Of course, you don’t need to send a thank-you note every time someone does something nice for you. Here are three occasions when it is necessary to send a thank-you card.

When you receive a gift

We receive gifts every year on our birthday and holidays (ChristmasMother’s/Father’s Day, etc.). We also get presents if we’re celebrating major life events, such as weddingsgraduationsanniversaries, the birth of a child, etc. When you receive gifts on one of these occasions, you should express your gratitude with a thank-you note.

Some examples to get you started:

  • You know me so well. Thank you for the amazing gift!
  • I’m touched beyond words by your generous gift. Thank you so much.
  • Your thoughtfulness is a gift I will always treasure.
  • Thank you for thinking of me on my big day!
  • Thank you for the [gift you received]. It makes me smile to think about how thoughtful you are.

After someone hosted an event in your honor

Whether it’s a baby shower, a bridal brunch, or a big birthday celebration, let your hardworking hosts know you appreciate them with a thank you note. Get started with these ideas:

  • Thank you for hosting such a fabulous [type of event] for me. Your attention to detail, from the delicious food to the fun party games, still makes me smile.
  • I am beyond grateful for you. Thank you so much for making my big day extra special.
  • The thought and care you put into planning my [type of event] meant the world to me. Thank you for such a wonderful day. I’ll remember it forever.
  • Thank you for being part of such a big moment in my life. It was perfect because of you.
  • Thank you for celebrating my [type of event] with me. I feel so loved!

In a professional context

In certain professional contexts, thank-you’s are an appropriate demonstration of your appreciation. Some professional occasions that may demand a thank-you note are important contract signings, completed job interviews, and simple gratitude for the relationship you share with your coworkers.

“Thank-you notes show that you appreciate the effort or the kindness someone extended to you. They’re an effort on your part to acknowledge what another person did for you, and they’re all about continuing to build relationships with the people who are special to you.”

Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, The Protocol School of Texas

Make an impression

If a candidate wants to stand out, they should be more specific in the note. Fuccillo recommends using examples from their interview that show they paid attention. Reiterate what a great fit you’d be and provide examples/solutions to anything that was discussed during the interview and how you can add value.

Stationery, stamps, and mailing a letter in a postbox may seem like symbols from an antiquated time but a letter delivered by mail is like receiving a flower delivery — it feels special. “Personally, my absolute favorite is the handwritten thank you. I’ve received a few in my time here, and I’ve kept a lot of them!” Fuccillo says.

Not sure how to write a thank you note that leaves an impression? See the examples below.

  • Thank you for taking the time to discuss the [job title] position with me today. My [expertise] skills make me an excellent candidate for this role. Please don’t hesitate to contact me to arrange a follow-up interview.
  • Thanks again for taking the time to meet with me [insert day]. I enjoyed our conversation about the [job title] role. I look forward to discussing this opportunity with you more. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
  • Thank you for taking the time to interview me this morning. The [job title] role sounds rewarding, especially given the leadership opportunities. I look forward to discussing this opportunity further with you.
  • Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. Our conversation about the [job title] role was inspiring, and it was great to learn more about the position. Thanks to my years in the industry, I think I’d make an ideal candidate. I look forward to speaking with you again soon.
  • Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about the [job title] position this morning. It was inspiring to have such an in-depth conversation about the responsibilities and future of the role. The details you shared convinced me I’d make an ideal match for the position. I look forward to discussing this opportunity further with you.
Thank you note ecard with sunflowers
Thank you note e-card with bees
Thank you note with blinking you

A thank you note after someone wrote you a letter of recommendation

If your professor or boss wrote a letter of recommendation for you or helped you prepare for an interview, a thank you note is a thoughtful way to show your appreciation for their support. Get started with the following examples.

  • I appreciate the reference you gave me for [position]. The hiring manager called to offer me the job!
  • Thank you for taking the time to write me such a thoughtful letter of recommendation. I believe it was a significant part of being offered the position.
  • Thank you for writing on my behalf for my graduate school application. I truly appreciate your support.
  • Thanks so much for writing me a thoughtful letter of recommendation. I’ll keep you updated on my progress in applying to graduate school.
  • Thank you for taking the time to write me a letter of recommendation. I hope I can reciprocate the favor.

After someone did you a favor

Thank you notes aren’t just for special occasions. If someone helped you out in a small way, such as to water your plants and bring in your mail while you were on vacation, a thank you note should be sent to recognize their generosity. See the examples below to get started.

  • Thank you so much for [favor]! Your thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated.
  • You were so kind to [favor]. Thank you for your generosity.
  • Thanks for coming to the rescue when I needed you. You’re a great friend!
  • Thank you for being kind enough to [favor]. It means a lot more than you know.
  • You’re my hero! Thank you so much for going out of your way to [favor]. I appreciate it.

Send a gift to show your appreciation

Want to send a little something to go with your thank you note? Say thanks for a great party, a thoughtful gift, or a show of support with our thank you flowers and gifts. No matter what the reason, these gifts show how much you appreciate their generosity.

Just because

Sometimes, you are filled with love and gratitude for those around you. Whether or not you can pinpoint a reason, showing your admiration and appreciation for people in your life can be a generous and thoughtful act. You may even give those important individuals affirmation and an emotional boost they really need.

Author

Beginning her writing career as a print journalist, Hanna Marcus worked as a beat reporter and general assignment reporter in newsrooms throughout Florida including The Tampa Bay Times, The Orlando Sentinel, The Naples Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun. Now a full-time freelance writer, she writes for clients such as Hot Topic, New Balance, BoxLunch, and others.

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