By Sue Fox, StudioNotes Etiquette Expert
Saying “Thank You” with handwritten note cards is a gracious and traditional way to repay holiday kindness – especially in today’s fast-paced world of changing technology. With less formal options of e-mail, texting, and social networks, writing a thank-you note is still absolutely necessary.
A handwritten thank-you note is a shining example of repaying kindness with kindness. It also expresses your gratitude and makes others feel appreciated. More importantly, it shows respect.
The excuse of having no time to write a thank-you note isn’t acceptable. Think about all the time and effort, not to mention the expense that may have been involved in providing a favor, a gift, a dinner, lending a sympathetic ear, putting a party together, or other acts of generosity. The silence is disappointing to the giver, but has bigger implications—hurt feelings.
Writing thank-you notes isn’t terribly difficult or time consuming—it takes just a few minutes at the most!
When you sit down to craft a thank-you note or letter, be yourself and write with sincerity. Your letters and notes should reflect your personality, as if you were talking with the recipient in person. Be sure to use the following basic elements in the structure of your note.
- Always use a salutation or greeting. Depending on your relationship, you may use either a first or last name and appropriate title.
- Keep in mind that three to five sentences are all that’s necessary in the main body of your thank-you note.
- Always refer to the gift, deed, or act of kindness by name (not just “Thank you for the present”) and describe the deed
- If you’ve been given a gift, say what you like about the gift and mention how you plan to use it.
- If someone went out of the way to help you, mention the actual deed and how that person’s support was beneficial.
- Include a closing sentence. You want your closing statement to flow with the letter or note. The closing sentence can be a final mention of your appreciation or something as simple as “I hope to see you soon.” Always end on a positive note.
- Close your letter appropriately. Depending on your relationship, a close can be personal (“Yours truly,”) or formal (“Respectfully,”)
Here are a few additional tips on writing personal or business thank- you notes.
- Thank-you notes should be sent within a week at best. If it happens to take a bit longer, don’t apologize or make excuses for why you’re late.
- Neatness counts! Take a deep breath just before you begin. If you mess up somewhere along the line, start over with a fresh piece of paper, note card, or envelope. Strikeovers, ink blots, messy erasures, etc. are not acceptable.
- Thanking people for something usually follows the form in which the invitation was extended. If you receive a telephone invitation, a telephone thank-you is appropriate, although a thank-you note is a nice touch. If you receive a written invitation, you should always write a thank-you note.
- Thank-you notes are not reserved for parties and dinners. The general rule is this: If someone goes the extra mile for you, a thank-you note is appropriate; if the thank-you is just for day-to-day business, a verbal “Thank you” is good enough.
- If you’ve been a houseguest and are continuing to travel, send a thank-you postcard from your next destination rather than waiting until you arrive home to send a thank-you note.
And, like just about everything else in life, the habit is learned young! Remember mom and dad—children learn by example. When parents give children a pass on showing gratitude with pen and paper, they foster a sense of entitlement—to invert the popular saying, you can get something for nothing in this world.
Rules of Romantic Letter Writing
By Sue Fox, StudioNotes Etiquette Expert
There are so many electronic communications options these days that the old-fashioned letter often seems quaint. Don’t believe it!
Handwritten letters were not lost in the dark ages — maybe just overlooked with the onslaught of electronics! This Valentine’s Day, show the ones you love how much you appreciate them by following these sure-to-win tips for romantic letter-writing:
If you aren’t living under a rock, you’ve most likely noticed there is a new-founded popularity of personalized notes and letters. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe that nothing is as thrilling (and romantic) as receiving a nice, long “handwritten” letter full of news, intimacies, and real emotion — the kind of letter that you can read and re-read and tuck away in a special place forever.
When it comes to cards, there is just something more romantic and personal in receiving a well-designed handwritten note card instead of an e-card. You can’t hold an e-mail in your hand, admiring the ink and penmanship. And a text or a Tweet may be a momentary cheery greeting, but when it appears on a gadget there’s nothing intimate about it!
The only “hardware” of letter writing is: pen, ink, paper, brain, and heart! To write a “real” letter (that is, one that does not involve a computer), you need paper, an envelope, a pen (and ink if you use a fountain pen), a postage stamp, and, probably, a wastebasket.
- Personal letters should be composed on something a bit more dressy than those dead-white 8 1⁄2-x-11-inch sheets that you feed into your printer. Investing in personalized or decorated stationery or note cards is an excellent idea.
- Invest in a nice fountain pen. Real ink looks wonderful on high-quality paper. You can find disposable fountain pens preloaded with ink for just a few dollars. Those inexpensive pens work a lot better than you might think, and if you get to the point where you really like writing with pen and ink, you can spend anywhere from $30 to more than $1,000 for a fancy pen.
- Ink, too, says something about you. Writing ink comes in many colors. However, dark blue and black are the most formal and correct. The standard dark blue ink conveys a neutral message. Your reader won’t even notice the color. Black ink looks very assertive. Green, purple, and brown inks are unusual enough to identify the writer as a creative individual. Red ink may appeal to you, but it is difficult to read under certain lighting conditions and on certain tinted paper stocks.
- Make a statement before the envelope is opened. Your stamp says something about you. While you’re out shopping around, stop at the post office and get some stamps that are more interesting than the “official” first-class stamps that they sell in rolls. You may wish to select a commemorative design that features a special interest or cause or purchase the “Love” stamps that are introduced each year. And, even if you are living in the same home, mail your letter to your loved one.
- To make your letter even more romantic and memorable, use a wax letter seal, personalized sticker seal or fun personalized return address label. When mailing, ask the postal service to hand post the letter.
- Your desk is an important part of success in letter writing. You need a large enough surface to provide a resting place for your forearm and elbow. Otherwise, your writing may have a messy, wobbly look. And, if you think your handwriting looks like chicken scratch don’t be discouraged! Practice makes perfect. The more you use your handwriting skills, the more they will improve.
There is no question that etiquette changes with the times, but the tradition of handwritten letters is here to stay. So, this Valentine’s Day think “romance” and take the time to write a love letter for your special Valentine — maybe tuck it into his or her Valentine’s Day gift?
It’s time to stock up on real, adult stationery and put the pen to paper. You may surprise yourself with the results!
Sue Fox is a guest blogger for The Stationery Studio. Sue has provided etiquette products, educational material, group training, and private consultations to business professionals, celebrities, corporations, K-12 schools, and colleges for 12 years with her California-based company, Etiquette Survival. Prior to that, she was employed in the hi-tech industry with ten years experience in sales and marketing and event planning at Apple, Inc.
She is the author of Etiquette For Dummies, (2nd. edition 2007), Business Etiquette For Dummies, (2nd. edition 2008), and Wedding Etiquette For Dummies(1st. editon 2009).Sue is also the Executive Producer of the The Etiquette Survival Kit, a popular series of educational DVDs featuring dining and social etiquette for adults and teens and proper table settings from casual to formal dining.