Based in Washington, Ross is a general manager of a food safety company. His musings explore life, work and every moment in between.

The Art of the Thank You Note

I received a thank you note Friday afternoon I was not expecting. It was a quick, well written note that captured the author’s immediate sentiment. The art of writing a thank you note is disappearing. Less and less do I experience them whether in work or personal situations. In today’s content crowded environment, thank you notes stand out more than ever. I received some advice on writing a good one and it has had a tremendous impact on my writing style.

Start with your emotional response, your reaction to the gift. A thank you note is not an itemized receipt. There is no need to list all the things someone has done for or given you. Instead, that opening sentence should set the tone. Avoid this as the beginning, “Thank you for…” Describe the ways in which the gift – a service rendered or an actual item – may have contributed to a glimpse of profound happiness – if that is indeed the case. Gratitude is a sentiment expressed without barrier. In order to properly express gratitude one must be open, perhaps vulnerable. Expressing just a hint of vulnerability in writing is a powerful tool.

Close with the future. Gifts, services, and gratitude imply closeness and a relationship that will endure. The thank you note should imply future good tidings, celebrations, and cheer for something beyond today, beyond the time of the gift, holiday, or service.

Never write the same note twice. To be honorable in our thanks, we must not fall into a standard rhythm, rather the uniqueness of our note must be intimate and specifically tailored.

Hand write whenever possible. Handwritten notes decorate my bookshelves in my office. Their rarity is something I cherish. I keep them around for years past their expiration. The oldest one I possess is from Matt Galvin at Pagliacci Pizza who recognized my contribution to his business. It’s 13 years old now. I won’t throw it away.

Saying thank you is an art. Being genuine is up to the author.

Demons hate fresh air.

Timing matters