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How to Write a Thank You

Writing a thank you is one of the easiest tasks in business writing. It’s a short, happy message that makes both writer and reader feel great. Some recipients even post thank you notes on their bulletin boards and in scrap books, so the good feelings live on.

To communicate your thanks, follow these suggestions:

  1. Do it now! Although a thank you is always welcome, fresh thank you’s are better than stale ones.
  2. Don’t water down your message with other topics, especially not an additional request. Just say thank you.
  3. Be specific about what you are grateful for and why. Describe the positive effect of the reader’s gift, kindness, or effort.
  4. Avoid passive (indirect) verbs. Rather than “Your creativity is appreciated,” say, “I appreciate your creativity.”
  5. Personalize your message. Never send a thank you to “Dear Customer” or “Dear Patron.”
  6. Send a note, letter, or card if you can. Otherwise, send email. Don’t let the medium get in the way of sending a message.

Good example:

Dear Mike,

Thank you so much for trouble-shooting the computer problems we were having in the training lab yesterday. I really appreciate the way you put aside your other tasks to respond to our needs.

Our one-day class would have been far less successful if you had not solved the software problems. Because of your knowledge and quick response time, every student had a working computer and was able to participate fully in class. Your efforts made the difference between a so-so class and a very useful one.

On behalf of the entire class, thank you. 

Warm wishes,

The message above is just under 100 words. Most thank you’s can be communicated in 100 words or less.

Opportunities to say thank you are everywhere. On the job, thank people who have:

  • Delivered especially good service
  • Been particularly thoughtful, creative, prompt, or efficient
  • Gone beyond the job requirements
  • Been helpful to you in a stressful moment
  • Consistently exceeded expectations
  • Made your day

Make someone smile. Write a thank you right now.

Special note to parents: To make sure your children write thank you notes for their gifts, allow them to play with, read, wear, or enjoy a gift just once before writing a thank you. Then require them to write a note before they enjoy the gift again. This technique works for children under 18–after that, good luck!
And thank you to Patrick Green, who passed along this suggestion.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

2 comments on “How to Write a Thank You”

  • There is no reason to wait. Sending a thank-you note instantly shows enthusiasm and appreciation.

    In Keith Ferrazzi’s book “Never Eat Alone” he talks about people who write to him the same day, telling him how much they appreciated meeting him at a conferencne or after a speech. Ferrazzi says he remembers most the people who write first, before many others write. That’s one vote for being speedy–the message gets noticed.

    I apologize for my lack of speed. I did not see your question when it came in last year!


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