In my survey on business writing and relationships of 686 adults, 81 percent of respondents said that a thank-you note they received had a definite positive influence on their decision to do business with a company or an individual again.
In an informal survey of blog commenters last week, all 11 said they appreciate and need acknowledgment of a gift--either in person, by phone, or in writing. Two used the words selfish and rude to describe the lack of acknowledgment of their gifts.
Beyond the professional rewards and social approval of writing thank-yous, sending thank-yous makes everyone smile: you, the writer, for having expressed your gratitude, and the recipient for being remembered and appreciated. Thank-yous help people feel valued.
Below are tips to help you write mighty thank-yous that bring smiles to all. If you have others, please share them in the comments.
1. Recognize opportunities to say thank you. You have a chance to say thank you anytime someone has:
- Given you a gift or treated you to a meal.
- Delivered particularly good service.
- Gone beyond the job requirements for you.
- Been especially thoughtful, prompt, or efficient.
- Give you an opportunity (an assignment, a referral, etc.).
- Been a special pleasure to work with.
- Been helpful to you in a stressful moment.
- Bought your product or service.
- Consistently met or exceeded expectations.
- Made your day in one way or another.
2. Say thank you specifically. For example, if you are saying thank you for job-search help, mention the particular advice, critique, information, or other support you received, along with how it was beneficial to you. Here is an example sent by email:
Subject: Thank You, Sydney!
It was so generous of you to give me resume feedback. I have made every change you suggested. The new version looks and sounds very professional--thanks to you and your good ideas.
Thank you for investing your time in me and my job search. I appreciate it!
If you are saying thank you for a graduation gift you received through the mail (and therefore couldn't say thank you in person), mention the gift and why you are grateful for it. This example can go by email or post:
Dear Aunt Sue,
Thank you so much for the money! I really appreciate it. It will definitely come in handy when I leave for State College in August.
I am sorry you could not come to my graduation. I have attached a photo so you can see all of us.
For wedding and shower gifts, it's standard to say thank-you in writing even if you have thanked the individual in person. Example:
Wow! Thank you for the generous gift card to __________. You know us so well. We plan to go shopping there this weekend. Luís has already picked out a couple of things online.
It was really fun to be with you on our special day. We'll see you again in September!
Carla and Luís
3. Even in brief thanks at the end of emails, be specific. A vague "Thank you" is polite but not powerful. Consider elaborating enough to make your thanks meaningful:
- Thanks so much for the information. Your research skills are amazing!
- Many thanks for responding so fast.
- Thanks! I appreciate your flexibility.
- Thank you for keeping me in the loop.
- Thanks for understanding and working around my schedule.
4. Say thank you warmly. Use the other person's name and the personal pronouns I and we. For instance, write "Olga, we appreciate the artistry you brought to our project"--not "Your artistry is appreciated."
5. Say thank you without saying please. The purpose of your thank-you is to express gratitude, not to ask for anything. Be sure to focus purely on your appreciation.
Here is a related example: I received a phone call from Treehouse, an organization my husband and I have supported for many years. As I listened to the thanks of the caller, I waited for her to say something like "And now we would like you to increase your giving," which would have reduced her thanks to an appeal. I was delighted that she did no such thing. She said, "I just wanted to let you know how much we appreciate your ongoing support." That made me feel great!
Thank-yous for job interviews are an exception to the rule about focusing completely on your appreciation. In such a thank-you, it is smart to remind your reader of your strengths and good fit for the job, without coming on too strong. Here is a good example of a thank-you sent by email:
Subject: Thank You for the Interview
Thank you for the chance to interview for the position of administrative assistant. It was a pleasure to learn about your business, and I would welcome the opportunity to work for you.
As a detailed-oriented "bean counter," I would relish keeping track of your accounts, managing the shopping cart, updating the websites, and coordinating your calendar. The 8-3 schedule would be ideal for me, and walking to work would be a dream come true.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to meet. Please let me know if you need any other information to make your decision.
6. Say thank you for gifts, even if you do not really like them. A gift is a gift, even when you wish it were something else, and a thank-you is required to support the relationship. For instance, imagine that a vendor sent you a basket of Florida grapefruit, and you don't like grapefruit. Write a simple message like this one:
Subject: Thank You for the Grapefruit!
Jeff, thank you for the lovely fruit basket. It was very thoughtful of you to think of me. I am sharing the grapefruit with the team, and everyone is enjoying the luscious, healthy treat.
Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
7. Use whatever communication medium will help you get your message out: email or an electronic message, a handwritten note or card, or a typed note. Here are brief guidelines:
- Use email or an electronic message (through Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) for a person who is regularly on a computer. Electronic thanks may be any length, from one or two sentences to several paragraphs.
- Write a handwritten note or card to convey special thanks and a personal touch. Such notes are typically short, from two sentences to two paragraphs.
- Send a typed letter to acknowledge a significant donation, contribution, or assistance.
Thank-yous generally take just a couple of minutes to write and send. So send them! The good feelings they generate will live on. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: If you do not thank someone for their gifts or other contributions to your success, they are likely to remember the oversight. Write mighty thank-yous to nurture and build your work relationships.
Do you need a gift for a new grad or someone who's working toward a promotion? Consider Business Writing With Heart. It's filled with examples and advice on writing reminders, saying no, giving feedback, apologizing, replying to angry messages, and more.
Please add your tips on writing thank-yous.