Five Tips for the Perfect Thank You Letter
On the face of it, thanking somebody is such a simple, straightforward thing to do. It really shouldn’t be hard, but when it actually comes to saying it, or worse still, writing a few sentences of thanks, for a lot of people it can suddenly seem a bit of a daunting prospect – not least because we all want to make sure that we get it just right.
Writing the perfect thank you letter, however, really doesn’t need to be such an ordeal. Simply follow these five simple tips and you’ll be well on the way to making your appreciation known – no matter to whom, or for what.
1. Get the tone rightThe first thing to make sure you get right is the tone of the letter, so ask yourself what is your relationship with the person you are thanking? Is this a thank-you to Granny for looking after your goldfish (in which case, you can be informally chatty and amusing) or a note of gratitude to a high ranking professional who has performed some service for you (in which case you most definitely should not!).
These days we are nowhere near as formal in the way we communicate as we once were, but particularly if you’re writing to someone you do not know well, it’s still a good idea to check, perhaps with the individual’s colleagues or staff, how that person prefers to be addressed. A friend of mine tells a story about how she, as a very young police constable, was getting rather flustered in court over whether to call the judge ‘My Lord’, ‘Your Honour’ or ‘Sir’. His words to her, “I really don’t mind how I’m addressed, so long as the tone is respectful.”
Sound advice – and most people probably feel the same, so it’s certainly something to bear in mind.
2. Take your time!Unless you share Oscar Wilde’s renowned skill for finding the right turn of phrase in the blink of an eye, your perfect thank you letter isn’t likely to be something that’s going to be composed in an instant – so take your time to work it out. Reading your rough draft through will let you make sure that you’ve said exactly what you wanted to say, and that you haven’t made any mistakes or serious gaffes along the way.
The bottom line is, don’t rush it. From the words themselves, to the way they’re presented, the best thank you letters leave their recipients in no doubt that a lot of thought and effort went into them.
3. But don’t delayThat said, timing is everything. A ‘thank you’ for a Christmas present in early January is one thing – but at Easter…….!
Don’t leave it too long after the event before you write your letter. Thanks should never seem an after-thought – especially when it’s not – and besides, people move house or change their jobs; after having gone to all the trouble of writing the perfect thank you, you don’t want it never to be read, now do you?
4. Make it personal and specificNo one wants to feel they’re getting a generic, ‘one-size-fits-all, delete where not applicable’ type of a thank you letter, so make yours personal and specific. Share some of yourself with the recipient – for instance, you might explain why what they gave you, or did for you, was especially important to you, and how you will benefit from it.
- Don’t say: “Thank you for the gift. It was very nice.” – it sounds like you can’t remember what you were given, and frankly you don’t care.
- Do say: “Thank you so much for the micro-gizmo combination set, it’s exactly what I wanted and it is going to be so useful when I start my course in September.”
5. Present it wellFinally, if you really want to be sure that your thank you letter makes the best impression, remember to present it well.
A lot of what that actually means in practice depends on the method of communication you’re using. Obviously if you’re sending something handwritten, then that means writing legibly and carefully, and using suitable paper or picking an appropriate style of card for your note; for emailed thanks, this clearly doesn’t apply, but the electronic equivalent – an easily readable font, appropriate format, and a thorough spell-check – certainly do.
The golden rule to remember is that no matter how they are sent, thank you letters often end up being shown around by their proud recipients, or put in pride of place on notice-boards where they may be seen by large numbers of people, so it’s worth taking a little extra trouble to get everything right.
In the end, writing the perfect thank you letter, whatever the occasion, comes down to being sincere and doing your best – and it’s certainly nothing to be worried about!