How to Write a Thank You Note

How to Write a Kick-Ass Thank You Note

Here’s a confession: I’ve been a mess for the past two weeks. Since graduating college on May 25, I’ve (somehow) contracted mononucleosis, flown back and forth to the East Coast twice for S’s graduation, seen and designed my first apartment (mood boards for days, amirite?), and somehow pulled myself together enough to start packing for my 7 week foray into the Wonders of Europe™. You know, the trip that I am currently on. Right now. (Hi from London!)

In the midst of all this, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive myriad well-wishings and congratulatory gifts from the people closest to me. You guys, I can’t tell you how uplifting it has been to hear words of encouragement and happiness from people who have known me since I was born. Now that the dust has settled and I’m finally starting to feel like a real person again, I’ve started to take a few minutes to sit down and thank each of the people who has been so integral to my success. However, I discovered something unsettling about midway through last week: I had no idea how to write an awesome thank you note. It seems really simple, right? Dear Susie Q, Thanks so much for your kind words! Etc. etc. etc.  Yours Warmly, ACD – but while I cracked open my thesaurus and searched for a thousand different ways to say “support”, I realized that writing a meaningful thank you note that expressed my gratitude for a lifetime of, well, support, was really difficult for some reason. I wanted my writing to be expressive, but not overly sappy, and believe me guys, that is a rough line to walk.

I’m not really an Emily Post kind of girl, especially considering the fact that her etiquette manual was first published a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (the 1920’s). Even though Manners has been updated a cool eighteen times since then, and even though I probably have a copy of the most recent edition tucked away in the back of my closet (update: I definitely do), I still found the prescriptive advice contained therein to be a bit too stuffy for my modern, sometimes-says-the-f-word sensibilities.

With that in mind, I did some internet digging and made a list of the top five ways to write a kick-ass thank you note. I hope that you find them useful the next time you receive an awesome gift and want to express your appreciation!


  1. Should I handwrite, or send an email? This one is totally up to you and your situation. If the gift or gesture wasn’t that elaborate and you really can’t see yourself taking the time out to sit down and actually handwrite a card, an email is probably your best bet. Handwritten cards are definitely a tad more formal, but they’re also a bit more personal – you’re showing the recipient that their act meant enough to you that you wrote them – by hand – to say thanks. But again, it totally depends on the situation and the person. If you’re unsure, think about this: people delete emails, but they save cards. Let that guide your thinking.
  2. Keep it simple: thank you notes are supposed to be a concise expression of gratitude. I definitely have a tendency to overcomplicate my writing, but you’d be surprised by the effect that a simple, heartfelt statement can have. You don’t have to go on and on and on about how much you loved whatever gift you received – an uncomplicated statement of gratitude is usually more than enough.
  3. Choose your words wisely: there’s a big difference between “Thanks a ton for the hundred bucks!” and “Thank you so much for your generosity!” Positive nouns like encouragement, hospitality, and yes, generosity, have no better home than in a thank you note. Make good use of them, and you can craft your notes to pack a neat punch. “Thanks so much for letting me crash at your house” becomes “Thanks so much for your awesome hospitality.” Again, it doesn’t have to be stuffy, but it does seem more polished, no?
  4. Make it personal: ambiguous sentences like “this means a lot to me” are fine, but you can make your thank you notes even snappier by relating the gift or gesture back to the recipient. Add in a sentence about how you plan to use your wedding gifts next to your sentence about how nice it was to receive them. Mention a cool thing you did while you stayed at someone’s house, or a shared happy memory. It’s the little things like this that make the gift or thought worthwhile. Besides, think about how jazzed you’d be if the person you sent a blender to came back with a smoothie recipe that she’d already tried? Pretty cool.
  5. Have fun, but don’t go too crazy: take it from me – the line between heartfelt and insincere is very fine. It’s easy to overdo it on the gratefulness aspect and end up sounding forced and uncomfortable. You don’t need to expound on how touched you are or how much this small act of kindness touched your soul – just a simple, thoughtful expression of gratitude will cut it. My protip? If you feel like you have to really massage your thesaurus in order to finish a sentence, you’ve probably gone too far.

There you have it. I hope these rules ease any thank you note-related woes you may be experiencing. What rules do you follow when writing these guys? Let me know, and I’ll add them to my list!

  • Sarah | Safaris and Sunsets

    What a whirlwind it must have been for you these past few weeks! You know what’s funny ( well, kind of )… I was out with mono the week after my graduation from college too! I was so sick + had to miss the first few days of my new job. It was terrible!

    I hope you’re feeling better, my dear, and that London is treating you so well! Awesome tips, by the way! xx

    • Amanda

      it’s been nuts! ugh, mono was the WORST! such a drag after graduation – I’m absolutely positive you can commiserate! good news is that I’m feeling nearly 100% now, which bodes well for the miles and miles that we’ve been trekking in London :)