how to: write a thank you note

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April 23, 2012 by Heather

It is the dark cloud over every bride’s sunny disposition and the last thing on a new mother’s never ending to-do list:  the thank you note.  And not just one thank you note, more like ninety-six of them.  Some to cherished friends and family and some to people you’ve never even heard of, all with one thing in common:  they wanted to share in your joy by giving you a gift, be it at a shower or on an individual basis.  And how very kind of them to do such a thing!

But crap, now you have a big honkin’ list of names to find addresses for (good luck) and hand write a thoughtful, heart felt note to.  Ugh.

The best thing to do:  just get it over with, and fast.  Wait too long and you just might never do it, then all of those nice people will hate you and talk bad about you behind your back.  You think I’m joking.

As far as addresses go, you’d be surprised how far can get you.  It’s borderline creepy, really.

I’ve found that it is much easier to write a thank you note to someone you don’t know, like the random old lady who gives you the floral gift bag of mismatched bathroom towels at your wedding shower.  In that case, the following will do:

“Dear Ms. Lady,
Thank you very much for the gift you gave us at the wedding shower this past Sunday.  The towels are so soft and lovely.  I am excited to use them in our new home!  We really appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Your Name Here”

Thank her for the “gift” in the first sentence.  Don’t mention the item by name until the second sentence, because if you put it in the first sentence then you’ve cut your note short, and the goal is to stretch this thing as far as you possibly can.  So wait until the second sentence to mention the actual item and then throw in a pleasant adverb or two to describe it, even if it is a total lie.  Next, in the third sentence, write something about how you might use the gift, for example, a box of diapers:  “I am so happy that we won’t have to buy baby-so-and-so any diapers for a while!”  Find something to say to let the giver know you will put the gift to good use.  Then, in your concluding sentence, compliment the gift giver on his or her thoughtfulness or generosity.  If you’re not sure what to sign off with (love?  blessings?  thanks again?), just do a dash followed by your name.

What will not do:

“Dear Ms. Lady,
Thanks for the towels.
Your Name Here”

Really?  That’s the best you can do?  Come on.  Make something up.

What will also not do:

“Dear Ms. Lady,
Thank you for the towels you gave us this past Sunday at our wedding shower.  Unfortunately, they are hideous in both color and texture.  Where did you even get them?  I really need to know so I can take them back.  Maybe next time you should try looking on the registry, that’s what it’s there for after all.
Your Name Here”

While quite possibly the most honest option, now is not the time to practice truthfulness.

The thank you notes that take the longest and most brain juice to compose are the ones to your close friends and family.  You can’t simply whip out a few sentences about the exquisite hand-knit blanket they gave you.  The note must be personable and include things such as, “I hope you and Uncle Bill are doing well – we have been praying that the recovery from his hip replacement has been smooth and pain-free!”  You get the idea.  We miss you, can’t wait to see you, how are the kids.  All that jazz.

For example:

“Dear Great Aunt Jemima,
It was so good to see you at the baby shower last weekend!  You looked wonderful, and it was nice to hear all about your trip to the Amazon Rainforest.  Thank you for the Wal-Mart gift card you gave us.  We’re planning to use it to purchase a stroller, which is something we’ll definitely be using a lot!  Your generosity is deeply appreciated.  Take care, and I hope to see you again real soon.  Tell Great Uncle Frankie we say hello! 
Your Name Here”

See?  A little more involved.  Get the thank you notes to family out of the way first, because they will take the longest.

Unless the family member is your sister, in which case you can write the following:

“I foooooound you, Miss New Booty.  Get it together and bring it back to me.  Thanks for the set of onesies.
Your Name Here”

Regardless of how you word it or how long it takes you to actually get the note in the mail, the most important thing is that you do it.  Thank you notes go a really long way and mean an awful lot to most people.  It is more than worth it to take the time to sit down and churn out a stack of them in an hour or two.  Pop in a movie you’ve seen a few times already, grab a pen you like, and go for it.  It’s the grown up thing to do.  Not to mention the polite thing. 🙂




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