Get Better at Gratitude: How to Write More Meaningful Thank You Notes

I’m probably one of the few people you’ll meet who is enthusiastic about thank you notes: I’m even affectionately dubbed the “queen of thank you notes” by my friends. They come naturally to me — I enjoy writing them as a way of expressing my gratitude to others and spreading happiness. I love seeing an unexpected phone call, card, or handwritten note make someone’s day.

Over the years, many people have asked for my help writing notes, saying that they struggle with what to say. It’s a common dilemma, but with some thought and practice, you’ll be able to write the perfect thank you notes in no time. Here’s how.

State what you’re writing the note about

Within the first few sentences, explicitly thank the person for whatever it is they have given you, whether it be their time, company, or a present. This simple acknowledgement (for example, “Thank you for having us over the other night”) will frame the rest of your note, and show that you appreciated and understood their gift.

Speak from the heart

Thank you notes are meant to be personal and written from the heart, so don’t be afraid to use “I” language. Many of my sentences in thank you notes follow structures such as “I was very grateful for…” or “I was happy when…” Speaking from your own experience personalizes your note, showing the gift-giver that you are grateful for their friendship (or role in your life) and not just the gift itself.

Identify specifics about the gift

Share how the gift made you feel or how it helped you. This is especially useful when you receive something practical. When my aunt gave me a new coat before my move to the East Coast, I wrote: “Thank you for the coat! I especially love the inner fleece lining — it feels so soft on my arms, and I’ll be sure to use the coat during chilly New York winters.”

There are also many ways to identify specifics about a non-material gift. This might sound something like: “It meant so much to me that you took time out of your busy weekend to volunteer with me” or “I was touched that you were there to support me while I was having a rough time this weekend.”

Remember the sentiment behind the gift

I once found myself writing a thank you note for a shirt that wasn’t really my style, given to me as a birthday gift. Even though I didn’t end up wearing it, I recognized that the person remembered my favorite color — red — and took care to search for something red to give me. I emphasized this in my note, thanking them for so thoughtfully remembering my favorite color. The fact that someone has sacrificed their time, money, or energy for you is the most meaningful gift of all.

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