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Gratitude Guide: How To Write Meaningful Thank You Cards

Posted by Sam May on

With the popularity of emails, text messages, tweets and social media posts communication is becoming more streamlined and less personal.  However, gratitude never goes out of style. Handwritten thank-you notes remain appropriate and expected in many situations.  Use these easy tips for crafting meaningful thank-you notes that will impress even the most stringent sticklers for tradition.


Prepare to write


The process of writing a thoughtful note of thanks begins well before the pen touches the paper.  Begin by keeping a detailed list of notes that need to be written.  In the hectic days leading up to a wedding or new baby, it can be difficult to remember all of the gifts received. Creating a detailed list, including the name of the giver, item given and date received, may help streamline the process and ensure that no one gets left out.  You may wish to create a spreadsheet for this purpose.


The stationary you choose will create a powerful first impression.  Small note cards are the traditional choice and are always appropriate.  However, this is a good opportunity to create extra impact by using some creativity.  For wedding gifts, try writing your note on a postcard from your honeymoon location.  The back of a photograph of happy newlyweds, a new baby or recent graduate is also a perfect medium for your note.  Opting for something other than the tried and true note card will create a lasting impression and make your note stand out.


Once you have your list and have selected your stationary you are ready to compose your thank you note.  It’s essential to think through what you would like to say before you start writing.  Because thank-you notes should be handwritten, rather than typed or emailed, you will not have the advantage of spellcheck or autocorrect.  Putting thought into what you would like to say will help prevent errors and the need to rewrite.


Address your audience


Every note should begin with the recipient’s name.  Simply launching into the body of your note will feel generic.  Mentioning the recipient specifically helps to make them feel special.  This is also a good opportunity to reinforce special relationships.  For example, you may want to address your note to “Aunt Sally” rather than just “Sally.”   It’s also okay to inject a bit of personality by saying something like “To my wonderful Maid Of Honor, Amy”.  The key here is to make your recipient feel recognized.


Mention the specific gift


The goal of any well-written thank-you note is to show that the gift was appreciated.  This can easily be accomplished by naming the item received, as specifically as possible, within the first sentence of the note.  General phrases such as “Thank you for the gift” could apply to anything and make it feel as if your notes were written in bulk.  Instead, try phrases such as “Thank you for the set of towels” or “Thank you for the package of diapers and pink dress.”  For gifts of money, denominations should never be mentioned, and it is acceptable to use a slightly more generic phrase such as “Thank you for the card and generous gift.”  If a gift card was received, mention the store it was from.


Mention how the gift will be used


Beyond just naming the item received, it is a good idea to state how you will use it or how it fits into your life.  This lets the reader know that the gift they selected was a good fit for you.  For example, if you received a set of pots of pans you might say, “I look forward to cooking many dinners with them” or “They will be perfect for making my favorite chicken soup!”  If stating how a gift will be used seems awkward, you can opt to state why you like the gift with a statement such as “The new towels are so soft and match our bathroom perfectly.”  For monetary gifts, mention how the money will be spent with a sentence such as “We will be buying new lamps for our home.”  However, if you plan to use the money for day-to-day expenses such as paying bills or buying groceries you may use a general statement such as “Your gift will be very helpful as we start our new life together.”


Focus on relationships


A sincere thank-you note will emphasize that while the gift received is appreciated, it is the person who gave it that is most important.  Bringing the focus back to the relationship is a good way to end your message.  Make your reader feel special by saying something like “Coworkers like you make my job a joy” or “I’m so blessed to have a friend like you.”  Since many gifts are received during times of life changes such as weddings, new babies or graduation, you many also wish to refer to the future and your continuing relationship.  Try a sentence such as “I can’t wait to see you at the family reunion this summer”. This lets the reader know that they continue to be important to you and will not be forgotten in your new pursuits.


Sign Off


Always close the note with your signature.  While the reader will likely already know whom the message is from, it is a detail that will show your sincerity.




Now that you have the basic components for a well-written thank-you note, it’s time to put it all together.  Use these samples as a guide for writing your own message.


Dear Aunt Mindy,


Thank you for the new mixer.  It is just what I wanted and will be perfect for mixing up my favorite chocolate cake batter!  I look forward to seeing you at the family dinner on Sunday.  Maybe I will even bring dessert!





To My Best Friend, Amy,


Thank you for the card and generous house-warming gift.  I’ll be using it to buy new plates to match the new kitchen.  You will have to come to dinner soon so we can use them together!  You have always been such a good friend to me and I look forward to making many more memories together.


Your Friend,



Well-written thank-you notes don’t need to be lengthy or time-consuming.  They just need to be sincere and heartfelt.  By using this simple formula, you can quickly write meaningful notes that will remind your reader that they are appreciated.

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