Tips for Writing Thank You Letters

Betsy Gallup

Your mother was right; whether you write a handwritten notecard, type a letter or send an e-mail, thank you letters are always well received. Never underestimate their importance.

Why It Matters

Thank you letters are courteous, plain and simple.

Written with sincerity and detail, your well-crafted thank you letter may cause a prospective employer to put your resume on the "yes" stack; prompt a new client to agree to your business; put a smile on a hostess's face; acknowledge a thoughtful gift or action or strengthen a relationship.

Be Detailed, Sincere and Gracious

Many people say, "Oh, I'm not a writer, so I never know what to say." However, we all know what it feels like to receive a genuine thank you.

So think about why you're thanking the person or company:

  • What did they do or say or provide that benefited you?
  • What difference did that make?
  • Aside from courtesy, why is it important to thank them?

As these details surface, the sincerity reveals itself, and you're writing from a place of comfort and knowledge. This makes it easy to write a gracious response.

Quick Tips for Thank You Letters

Every situation requires a personal touch, so don't pull out ye old standard thank you form letter. These tips lay the foundation of a good thank you letter:

  • Be concise.
  • Get to the point.
  • Speak in active voice, rather than passive. This is especially important in business communication, one of the biggest offenders of passive voice.
  • Think about the reader's response to your words. What should they feel?
  • Send the letter or card quickly: within one business day for business matters or a week for more personal situations.

Depending on the recipient, you may decide it's better to send an e-mail of gratitude. In many situations, that's fine, but the same rules above apply.

Avoid "Smarmy" Language

You know what? The artichoke dip was not, necessarily, the best thing you've ever tasted in your life. The electronics vendor did not literally save your business. The hiring manager is not the most fascinating person you've ever met. Using superfluous language crosses that delicate line between sincere gratitude and exaggeration for effect, so don't do it. You can still use details and compliments; just make them real.

''Dear Ben,

Because of AdvanceTech's quick fulfillment of my replacement stock, Micronics had a dynamic grand opening with much of our inventory on display. I really appreciate your responsiveness, and look forward to doing greater business with you in the months ahead.

''Dear Ms. Wagner,

Thank you for switching my appointment date on such short notice - it was really helpful. You and the other members of the staff made me feel like I was already a part of the team at CDSS, and that environment is very appealing to me. I hope we can continue our conversation about spider plants another time. I've enclosed a newspaper article about transplanting that you might find interesting.

''Betsy,

I really enjoyed the party Saturday night, and thank you so much for letting the cousins come along at the last minute. I ate the leftover artichoke dip for breakfast today - no kidding! Would you mind sharing the recipe?

Saying Thank You When You Don't Want To

It all goes back to courtesy. Frankly, being polite is never a mistake. Even if you don't like the gift or gesture, don't believe the job is right for you or really don't want to go out for a free dinner with that sales representative from the Lemur Chow Supply Company ever again, still say thank you.

''Dear Karl,

Thank you for dinner on Thursday. I can't believe neither one of us had been to that restaurant after all these years in Dover. I'll consider your samples - thank you for dropping them by.

''Dear Mr. Mitchellson,

I greatly appreciate the extra time you spent with me yesterday. It's easy to see that Banner Industries takes pride in its production facilities, and with good reason. The entire plant seems to run smoothly and keeps safety as a top priority. Thank you for bringing me in for a second interview for the Quality Control position, but after much thought, I would like to remove myself from consideration. I wish you good luck in your search and continued progress.

''Dear Betsy,

You're very thoughtful to send Mike home with a jar of your artichoke dip and a recipe card. It is a great addition to any type of party, and I appreciate your kindness.

Conclusion

In business or personal interaction, writing thank you letters, cards and e-mail keeps courtesy in the air. Think of how you felt when the gesture, favor, appointment or acknowledge was extended, and you'll have no problem conveying that emotion back to the giver.

Tips for Writing Thank You Letters