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How to Write Mighty Thank-Yous

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:

Dear Joan,

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

Dear Felix,

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.


Galen Howard


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.


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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.

10 comments on “How to Write Mighty Thank-Yous”

  • These are wonderful, Lynn. The advice from childhood that always stuck with me was to be specific with your thank you (your #3) — describe what exactly you appreciated about the gift. I also appreciate the nod to honesty. If it wasn’t right for you, there are tons of ways to still express thanks without lying.

    One other thing that stuck with me, for whatever reason, is to resist the temptation to thank them twice. That is, you don’t say “thank you again” at the end. That’s a tough one, and I’m not even sure of its purpose, but I can’t break the habit of abiding by it.

  • Thank you for commenting, Elena, Gregg, Rob, and Lydia. I loved hearing from you.

    Greg, I agree that saying thank you SHOULD be common sense, yet many people, especially young adults, are falling short.

    Rob, I’m glad you appreciated the advice on saying thank you even if we don’t like the gift. It’s so important. On one of your other points, I think it’s fine to thank people twice. What makes me grin is the surprising number of times people end a message with “Thanks again” when they haven’t said thank you to begin with.

    Lydia, I wholeheartedly agree about the personal note. I received one this week in a beautiful card, which now stands on my mantel as a happy reminder of the sender. At the same time, I want to encourage people to send written thanks in whatever way works for them. An email or even a text is much better than no thanks at all. (I wish my nephew would read that sentence!)


  • I am business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Anyone who has ever attended my training sessions, heard me speak or read my books and articles knows that I am huge fan of the handwritten note. This form of communication has gone the way of the do-do bird. I believe that the best way to stand out in business is to write notes. Studies have shown that people rarely receive any kind of personally written note by postal mail. These rarities are treasured and often kept in a special place. I hope your post is seen by many and put into practice. The results will speak for themselves.

  • Pamela, I agree. Prompt thanks are ideal, but belated thanks are still thank-yous. I would never let the passage of time get in the way of expressing appreciation.

    I like your wording: “It does not have an expiration date.” I have not yet received a thank-you for a wedding gift I mailed 18 months ago (and I know it arrived). But if I received a gracious note from the couple today, I would be delighted.

    In Keith Ferrazzi’s book “Never Eat Alone” he mentioned that he always notices the first thank-yous he receives, for example, after a keynote speech. In his case, being prompt increases one’s chances of being noticed. I bet the same is true when applicants write thank-yous for interviews.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  • I remember being told once that it is never too late to say thank you. What do you think? I believe that sending a thank you promptly after you receive your “gift” is ideal. But if there is some oversight, or some other reason your thank you goes out ‘late’, I think it is better late than never. A thank you is an appreciative kindness shown for a kindness given. It does not have an expiration date.

  • You make a great point, Deborah. My husband, who does not drink, repeatedly received a bottle of wine as a gift from some neighbors. He would always give it to me. Finally, one day when we were at their house, he mentioned that he did not drink when offered something. They stopped giving him gifts of wine.

    Should we have told them sooner? Probably. The first time they gave him wine, he might have said, “Thank you. Lynn will enjoy this. I actually don’t drink.”


  • I understand why we should say “thank you” even if the gift is not what you expected. But what if it’s something you really don’t like? Like the grapefruit you mentioned. You say “thank you” and the next time you’re going to receive grapefruit again and again and again, because the sender thinks you like them! Surely in a business relationship I wouldn’t mind, but on a more personal level (friends, family…) I think we should find a way to kindly let the people know about our tastes.

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