By, Syndi Seid
With Halloween coming up, then Thanksgiving, and finally all the end-of-the-year holiday celebrations upon us soon, we thought this might be a great opportunity to revisit the guidelines to sending a perfect thank you note.
No matter what, a personal, handwritten thank you note is the finest form of expressing gratitude for almost anything and everything we receive from someone in life, especially a gift.
A gift can be many things: a physical item, a good job someone has done for you at work or at home and an invitation to a party or meal. In fact, how about using the next two months to catch up on all those thank-you notes you’ve been meaning to send. In business it’s the perfect time — before the end-of-the-year rush — to send clients, customers, vendors and suppliers your note of appreciation for their business and service. By starting to get them written now, you can avoid being rushed and out of time later. Write them all now and send them later.
Here is a simple guide for thank you notes for both business and personal use:
Ideally, send thank you notes within 24 to 48 hours of receiving the gift. The sooner you send it, the greater the impact it will have. However, it is never too late to send a note. Use this month of thanks to catch up on your thank yous, no matter how much time has gone by.
To save time and stress, keep a supply of note cards and stationery, plus postage stamps to have ready at all times. Write all your notes by hand. Take your time, regardless of how impaired you think your handwriting looks. Also, forget going green on this task. It does take the most effort and time, yet is the most tangible evidence of our genuine appreciation of the person to whom it is addressed. Pay attention to how the card faces when opened. I can’t tell you how many times I receive cards written on the wrong side or in the wrong direction.
*For vertical, left creased cards: begin writing on the inner, right side of the folded card.
*For horizontal, top creased cards: begin writing on the inner, lower side of the folded card.
*Some cards are difficult to tell which way it is intended to face. Be sure to look at the back side of the card for guidance in this area.
Begin the note based on your relationship with the receiver.
*For personal correspondence where you are accustomed to calling the person by their first name: Dear John and Mary, (first name followed by a comma is correct).
*For business notes, stick to formal salutations until you are invited to address the person by the first name: Dear Ms. Smith: (an honorific and last name, followed by a colon is proper).
*For informal business notes, addressed to someone with whom you want to address by their first name: Dear John: (first name and a colon is also appropriate).
Be specific in your thanks. When thanking someone for inviting you to a meal or event, mention how happy you were to share in the experience, mention a person you enjoyed meeting, or a food item you particularly liked. When thanking someone for performing a favor for you, explain how important their gift of time was for you. For physical gifts, name the item, along with something nice and complimentary about it.
*Don’t say: “Dear Aunt Sarah, Thank you for the lovely gift. I really like it. Love, Syndi”.
*Do say: “Dear Aunt Sarah, Thank you very much for the beautiful black sweater for my birthday. It’s just the perfect item to wear at an evening occasion where I want to stay warm, yet still look dressy. Your loving niece, Syndi Seid”.
Sign your first and last name clearly at the end of your note. An exception may be to an immediate family member who knows who you are by your handwriting. Address the envelope using the person’s full name and appropriate honorific. Include your full name and return address. Use a regular postage stamp rather than metered postage to send your note.
BONUS: This month, with enjoying football games and other events, I suggest you take some time to send at least eight (it’s a good luck number) quick and simple handwritten notes by regular mail. Take a moment to show your appreciation and thankfulness to someone you know for whatever reason you want, perhaps if only to say Hello!
Syndi Seid is a regular contributing writer, professional speaker/trainer, and founder of a San Francisco-based business that offers monthly etiquette articles.