03 January 2013

How to Write a Meaningful Thank-you Note

Do you thrive on words of affirmation, like my mom and husband do?  Or do you have friends and family who would work for compliments no matter how small the paycheck?  Chances are, there are people in your life whose love language is words of affirmation, and your relationship with them would become more profound by a simple expression of your appreciation.

What about that acts-of-service person who has been doing simple but amazing things for you for a decade?  They might wonder if you notice their love in motion, or if their love-deeds are just another mundane thing in your day.

You might have a friend who sends the sweetest gifts at the right time, every time, the friend who never forgets, but sends you tangible love to remind you you're in her thoughts.

Or the friend who gives time to help you with canning, or packing for a move, or cutting wood for a cost-free warm winter home?

Maybe you’ve thanked them with words, out loud, but maybe it’s time for a written record of your gratitude.  

If you’re like me, you grew up in a home where your mother encouraged you to write thank-you notes for everything.  Maybe you also have a mother who writes the kind of thank-you notes that people keep for their whole lives, but who thinks her notes are kept not so much because they are amazing (I’m guessing they are), but also because not enough people write thank-you notes.

Whether the art of the thank-you note is new to you, or whether you just need some new ideas to freshen up your thank-you notes, here are my thoughts on how to make them meaningful.


What to say in a meaningful thank-you note

  • Always be specific.  Don't make the recipient wonder if you sent the note to the right person.
  • When you’re writing a thank-you for a gift, mention the gift specifically, and write a sentence or two about how you've used and enjoyed the gift.  ExampleI’ve enjoyed the flowers you sent so much.  I’ve been longing for spring, and these were just the spot of color I needed on a cold winter day.
  • When you’re writing a thank-you note for money, tell the giver what you plan to do or what you’ve done with the money they gave.  ExampleThank you for the check you sent.  I’m excited to put it toward the fabric I need to finish my quilt.  I can’t wait to send you a picture when it’s finished.
  • Follow those principles for writing thank-you notes for acts of service.
  • Mention something you love and appreciate about the person.  Example:  The way you're always ready to spend time on the people you love is such an inspiration to me, and you've inspired me to be more available to the people I love as well.
  • Tell the person a few things that are happening in your life, especially if it’s a relative or friend you don’t connect with often.  Example:  Remember that rose garden we visited together last summer?  I just took my mom there, and she loved it just as much as you did.

Thoughtful presentation

  • Keep pretty paper (appropriate for masculine and feminine recipients) on hand, so you don’t delay your note by needing to go to the right store and find the right thing.
  • Hand-written notes, sent through the mail, are becoming a rarity.  Your thank-you notes in your own handwriting will therefore send not only your thanks, but that the gift or act prompting the note was meaningful enough to you to invest the time in energy in writing a classy note.
  • And do make sure you spell the recipient's name correctly!
Sometimes we have no idea what effort may have prompted a gift or action we're thankful for.

My mom tells the story of a time when a piano solo played for special music in church was especially a blessing to her.  She didn’t know the woman playing, but she happened to come sit down right in front of us when she was finished playing. 

This was her chance!  She found a bulletin insert with a blank side, wrote a note (in church, no less!), and passed it to the woman sitting in front of her.  It read something like this:

“Thank you for your beautiful music.  I heard your heart, and was blessed.”

Having read the note, the woman in front of us burst into tears and left the sanctuary.

We heard more of the story later.  The woman’s husband had derided her musical ability for many years.  He was away that weekend, and a friend had convinced her to play at church.  When she read the note, years of pain and hurt were partly washed away by a simple compliment.

Putting your thanks in writing may have a more profound effect on someone you love, or even a perfect stranger (like in the story above), than you realize.


  1. Wow, what a moving, beautiful (bittersweet) story! I wish I wrote thank you notes (I'm not disciplined enough, didn't grow up with it and was never able to do it), but I do write tons and tons of encouraging comments on people's blogs and, sometimes, facebook posts. I hope those count! :-)

  2. Of course those count! It's always lovely to have you stop by with your encouraging words. You brought me a smile this morning. :)

  3. Well... I'd say I received some words of affirmation by reading your post! You are a WONDERFUL thank-you note writer -- You are very faithful about it and what you say is always a thoughtful blessing. I know because I recently went through a pile of kept mail and quite a few of the cards were from YOU. :)

    To your friend "L"... Encouraging comments on people's blogs and FB posts are FABULOUS. Good job!!


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