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Certified Etiquette Instructor Callista Gould shares her tips on writing the essential business thank you note, a tool that can help you build and maintain lasting relationships throughout your career.

Ah! There it is, sitting on the top of your mail pile. That little envelope that’s been addressed by hand. It looks so special. It's the one you open up first.

A thank you can be emailed, texted or tweeted. But nothing compares to a handwritten sentiment on a folded notecard that comes in the mail. Long after emails are deleted, the note lingers longer.

In business, we write thank you notes to thank people for interviews, meetings, sales, referrals, advice, project assistance, appreciation, encouragement, gifts, meals, and other acts of kindness.

Here are some tips for writing the essential business thank you note.


Don't over think it.

Some procrastinate in writing thank you notes because they don't know what to say. The sooner you write a thank you, the fresher the sentiment will be in your mind and the more heartfelt your note will be. Don't over think it; follow this simple format:

Dear [name]:

Line 1: Thank you for … [helping me finish the strategic plan presentation].

Line 2: It meant a great deal to me because … [without your help, it would have taken me a month to complete the presentation].

Line 3: Thank you again … [I feel fortunate to work with you].

Sincerely,

[name]

The exceptional manager hand-writes personal notes to his or her staff. Whether a scrawl on a memo or report, or on a folded notecard or executive monarch stationery, the manager expresses praise, encouragement and gratitude.

  • “Nice job on the event – we could not have done it without you.”
  • “We all have those days when things go wrong – keep your chin up, you are doing a great job.”
  • “I am proud of the progress you have made with the team!”

Personalize it.

Don't write generic notes that look like they could have been cut and pasted with different names and companies, such as:

  • “Thank you for your services to our company.”
  • “Thank you for meeting with me. It was beneficial.”

If you are writing a follow-up thank you letter for a client meeting, personalize it. Include details of what you talked about in the meeting. Make the person feel like you are talking to him/her and not just anyone:

  • “Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me. I was inspired by your story about how you started out in the manufacturing business …”

What if I’m not thankful?

If someone gives you a gift that you don't like, simply write, “Thank you for your thoughtfulness.”


Should some thank yous be typed?

Here are some guidelines for when to type and when to hand-write notes:

Type

  • Thank you notes for interviews or contracts.
  • Business correspondence.

Hand-write (use dark blue or black ink):

  • Thank you notes for gifts and other acts of kindness.
  • Replies to formal invitations.
  • Condolence letters.

I’m all out.

If you don’t have folded notecards, get some. Any corner drug store sells them. Art museum shops have really good ones. If you’re a manager or aspire to be one, you should have a box of professional note cards at your desk.


What not to do.

Don't ask for favors in a thank you note. (This is not to be confused with a typed thank you note after a sales meeting where after re-emphasizing your products' qualities, you do ask for the sale.)


How late is too late?

If you are six months late in writing a thank you note, is that too late? Should you just forget it?

Write that note and write it as soon as possible. Is it embarrassingly late? Write it anyway. Sometimes it will be a pleasant surprise to the person who has long given up on you.

Is there a thank you note you should have written? Make today your day. While it’s on your mind, get out a notecard or stationery and fire it off. The person you send it to will be grateful you did.

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About the Author

Callista Gould is a certified etiquette instructor, award-winning speaker and founder of the Culture and Manners Institute. She offers a free Etiquette Tip of the Week by email. She can be reached at cgould@cultureandmanners.com or on Twitter @MannersThatMove. Learn more at www.cultureandmanners.com.

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