The debate rages in contemporary America: Are thank-you notes still relevant? Necessary? Required?
Israel and Josie Ortega on home town, career and work life and family balance
I suspect the discussion isn’t new, but in these rapid-communication days of texting and snapchat, we’re overwhelmed with options for keeping in touch. Among the numerous available platforms, a handwritten letter can seem obsolete and onerous. (This week at our house, we couldn't even find a stamp.) But I'm still going to argue in favor of the practice.
You’ll benefit from mastering the traditional thank-you note; and from there, you’ll be able to adapt the formula to modern needs—like starting with classical music then moving to jazz.
At its most basic, a thank-you note allows the person who received a gift to notify the giver that the gift did indeed arrive. Traditionally, where I grew up, thank-you notes serve as a marker of good manners. Perhaps that sounds stuffy, but when you hear “good manners” just replace that with thoughtfully considering others.
After my husband appeared for a brief interview on a well-known national news show, I was surprised and delighted when he received a thank-you note from the host.
I can’t make the case that this famous newsman got where he is because of thank-you notes, but the handwritten note struck me as a marker of his professionalism, thoughtfulness, and courtesy.
What other occasions might call for a written note of gratitude?
- When someone gives you a gift for your wedding,
- your graduation,
- a baby shower,
- your birthday (or your child’s).
- When someone is not present to see you open the gift.
- When someone hosts you in their home or treats you to dinner.
- After a job interview. (Do this immediately and you will stand out as a superior candidate.)
- Really, any time someone goes out of their way or does an extra nice something for you.
If you've never been a thank-you note person, I encourage you to incorporate them into your life. I promise, it’s fairly simple! Go grab some stationery and a wonderful-feeling pen.
How to write a thank-you note in four steps
Here’s the basic formula, with a recent note of mine as an example:
1. Acknowledge the gift/service/thing you’re thanking someone for.
Thank you so much for taking time to hang out with us in Charlottesville during our reunion weekend, and especially for sharing your recommendations at Mas! [Where we ate dinner together. Highly recommend, by the way.]
2. Say something about how you’ll use the gift, or how you enjoyed it.
I loved meeting [your husband] Grant and catching up with you. And I loved discussing Hamilton with you!
Next- Write a thank-you note steps 3 and 4, Once you’ve got the hang of it . . .and Mix it up
About the author
Josie works at home and from home---wrangling two daughters and a baby son, and writing on parenthood, faith, and culture. She appreciates the hard work it takes to raise a multicultural family, and has a passable knowledge of spanglish. Originally from Memphis, Josie remained on the east coast after studying English and religious studies at the University of Virginia. She met her husband Israel on Capitol Hill in DC, and their dream is to open a Southern-Mexican fusion restaurant one day (but only if her suegra is available to cook).