How To Write a Thank-You Note

It’s that time of year: thank-you note season.

If you were lucky enough to receive some gifts or be invited to a holiday celebration or two, the task now lies before you to write out your gratitude. (Unless you’ve finished all your thank-you notes already – in which case, bite me.)

In teaching my kids to write thank-you notes, I’ve given them a loose formula to follow. There are a few basic elements I have them include in each note — I’ll share them here in case it helps you get your notes done:

  1. Some kind of friendly opener that’s NOT about the gift – a seasonal greeting, a question about how the other person is doing, or something along the lines of, “What fun to see you last week at the roller derby!” (I don’t like to start off with “Thank you for…” because it just screams, “I’m writing this because I have to.” I’d rather a note give a sense of, “I just love talking to you, and this time I wanted to do it with a pen and paper.”)
  2. An expression of thanks for the gift, noting specifically what you like about it or how it made you feel to receive it.
  3. Some conversational stuff, perhaps a note of excitement about something coming up in the other person’s life, like, “I can’t wait to hear how your Disney Reptile Cruise goes.”
  4. A friendly closing.

Now, it’s easy to write a thank-you note when someone you like gives you something you love. (“Dear Mike, I love your new beard. Thank you for the pony. It’s exactly what I always dreamed of! Keep me posted on your summer plans. Love, Me”) Other times, it’s a little more challenging. Here are some samples you can use for those tricky situations:

* * *

When you’re unsure what the gift is –

First Note

When you realize you just got the gift of germs –

Second Note

When you’ve been a disappointment your whole life –

Third Note

When you need to thank the hostess of a party where you acted like a jackass – 

Fourth Note

When you know it really was the thought that counts – 

Fifth Note

When you’ve busted someone for re-gifting –

Last Note

Happy note-writing! And remember, if you get stuck, just string together “Wow!” and “Well, aren’t you amazing?” and “What can I say?” in any order.


  1. I will take all of your advice into account when I get around to helping my wife write thank-you notes … for the new baby gifts we received last November. She was so kind as to address and stamp several of them for me, only leaving the note writing up to me. And there they sit on the kitchen table, six weeks later. Please, dear sage, what’s your advice on absolutely delinquent tardiness in thank-you note writing?

    Yours truly,
    Bad Husband X

  2. Love this post, thanks for making me laugh. I don’t write thank you notes for Christmas presents so I guess that means I’m an ungrateful and bad person- but at least I have a sense of humor.

  3. “What in the name of the devil’s assfeathers is it?” Ok, that got me, I spit coffee everywhere. This whole post was awesome (and a much needed educational tutorial in thank you note writing as well, if I may say).

  4. And here I’ve been doing it wrong all these years! Where were you when I was learning how to express gratitude for those collectible Life Savers my grandpa always got me all those years?

  5. I think I’ll visit one of your old posts everyday to start it out with a grin. I’m a nudge about thank you notes. If I don’t get one, I no longer give one.(gift that is). I’ll harass my adult children to hell until they have written their thank you cards. They dawdle when it’s from a relative they don’t care for. A verbal thank is not enough when someone has gone to the trouble of buying, wrapping, and standing in that miserable line at the post office to send that thing you don’t know what to do with. This was a great post.

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