Sometimes it’s easy to write off a heartfelt thank-you note. Other times, writer’s block can set in—especially when you are staring down a large stack of them. Before you start, remember that thanking people needs to be about just that: expressing thanks. So refocus, reorganize, and rethink the process. Get in touch with the sincerity of thanking people for thinking about you and sending you something—even if it’s a hot pink polyester sweater. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about writing thank-you notes.
Who needs a note?
All gifts should be acknowledged with a note, unless the present was opened in front of the giver—then you have the chance to thank them in person. An important exception: Many of an older generation expect a hand-written note. Providing them with one is an appropriate gesture of respect and consideration. Also, send a hand-written note for gifts received at a shower, even if you said thank you in person at the time.
Who should write the note?
The person who received the gift should write the note. Group notes are acceptable for Aunt Patty who sent the household a group present—just ask each recipient to sign. For couples, it’s perfectly fine to split up the notes for gifts you received together. For the kids, note writing will vary depending on age.
When should thank-you notes be written?
Write your notes as soon as possible, and don’t hesitate if you feel you’re late: A late note is always better than no note at all. Thank-you notes for wedding gifts should be sent within three months of returning from your honeymoon, though an immediate turnaround is recommended, both to acknowledge the gift arrived and to stay on top of them.
Can a thank-you note be creative?
Absolutely. Incorporating photos, children’s drawings—anything at all that compliments the sentiment is appropriate. Just remember to include a short, written thank-you as well.
What about email?
Email is okay to thank for a coffee or meal that was casual or whose invitation was extended by email in the first place. It’s also okay for very small favors. But for dinner parties, big favors, an actual gift, or being a houseguest, handwritten thank-you notes are your best bet for an expression of warm, heartfelt thanks.
How do I make writing thank-you notes fun?
We all love getting presents and are sincerely thankful, but some of us procrastinate terribly when it’s time to write notes. One woman, bemoaning the fact that she had to write not only her notes, but also notes for her three children and her husband, hit upon a brilliant idea.
She had a party. On a Sunday afternoon in January, she invited her husband and their kids to the kitchen table. Everything was ready: note paper, pens, pencils, crayons, envelopes, address book, stamps, and lists. The smallest (ages 4-6) drew pictures of their gifts, and Mom and Dad added dictated captions and thank you’s. The 7-8 year-olds wrote one or two sentences, practicing new writing skills. The 9-and-olders were able to work more or less independently. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad helped with spelling words and addressing, and, in the quiet moments, wrote a few notes themselves.
When everyone was finished, there was hot cider and banana bread. She was amazed at how successful the afternoon was. The kids were involved, the notes were done and the family had time to be together and talk about their holiday, friends and relatives. And a new family tradition was born.
If you’re on your own, break up the list. Schedule a few different days to write your notes, and each time give yourself a little something to make it interesting: music, a glass of wine, your favorite radio show, a cup of tea—perhaps even some chocolate. Take the time to yourself for writing out thank-you notes: don’t try and wedge it in between laundry, a TV show, or extra work from the office. You’ll be able to think more clearly and your focus will translate to the page. Above all, try to enjoy yourself. Giving thanks shouldn’t be a chore—and doesn’t have to be if you make the effort to keep it interesting.