The Do's and Don'ts of an Unforgettable Thank You Note

The first week of the New Year has many of us committing to personal development and the strengthening of meaningful relationships. As you master new skills, think more positively, grow your company and learn to use all of the technology you own, why not begin with a thoughtful thank you note?
01/06/2016 10:02 pm ET Updated Jan 06, 2017

The first week of the New Year has many of us committing to personal development and the strengthening of meaningful relationships. As you master new skills, think more positively, grow your company and learn to use all of the technology you own, why not begin with a thoughtful thank you note?

From clients to distant relatives, there is always someone who would appreciate your kind acknowledgment. Refer to the following do's and don'ts for guidance.

Do's:

Do use stationery that fits your style.
Scribbling a few words on a piece of paper won't transform your sentiments into a proper thank you note. It is going to take some creativity to craft the perfect thought. If you don't have your own personal stationery, now is the time to invest. Browse the Crane & Co. website or visit your local stationer to select a note card that closely mirrors your style. One of my favorite people to receive a note from has an assortment of distinctive note cards for different occasions. I always love to see what he has chosen just for me! As I anxiously open the envelope, it's sure to be a treat for my eyes.

Do create a rough draft.
When writing a collection of thank you notes, I seldom get through them all without one or two redo's. While it would be time-consuming to pre-write twenty or thirty cards, taking a few minutes to compose what you want to say makes the task less arduous. I have a template that lets me know who gave me what, along with the particular reason. I create a new list for every special event so I won't accidentally leave anyone out. Taking extra steps will not only save you time in the long run but embarrassment as well.

Do write in your own voice.
While you may admire the elocution of a great writer, speaker or poet, attempting to mirror their voice to make your sentiments sound more important is not a great idea. Make every effort to write in a warm and friendly tone, paying attention to spelling and grammar. Think about what you would say in person and translate your thoughts onto paper. Your delivery will be more cohesive and sincere.

Do handwrite your message.
Although a pre-printed card saves time, it may make the recipient feel as if they are another check mark off your to-do list. Remember to use your best penmanship. For those whose writing is similar to chicken scratch, consider that it will add life to your message and give it a burst of character. Everyone has a unique script, and that is what makes the correspondence special.

Do identify the gift or act of kindness.
A proper thank you note mentions specifics. Using vague references to the "great present" signals that you can't recall what you received. Include a sentence or two elaborating how you plan to use the item, and the special care they took when selecting it.

Don'ts:

Don't over-embellish.
Sometimes it's a struggle to find the words when the gift may not have been your favorite. For example, writing: "Thank you for the gourmet coffee. Irish Cream always reminds me of my mother. I will enjoy the nostalgia when I brew the morning blend" is more authentic than: "The Irish Cream coffee is my new absolute fav. I love it and can't wait to order more!" Unless, of course, it is true.

Don't get off topic.
You may want to kill two birds with one stone by adding a personal or professional update, but make every effort to keep your message on course. Pen a separate letter, or give them a call if you are interested in catching up or sharing unfortunate news. Keep your thank you note friendly and avoid any hints of marketing.

Don't mention a monetary amount.
Rather than emphasizing the dollar amount, highlight the person's generosity. For example: "Thank you for the gift certificate to the day spa. I have been looking forward to visiting the new location and am especially excited since I know it's your sister in law's new venture. I will be sure and let her know I received the generous gift from you. Many thanks for your kindness. Sincerely, Diane" is a brief, thoughtful and concise message.

Don't equate the value of a text message with a handwritten note.
While a text message is acceptable to thank a vendor for a quick business lunch, a holiday gift or special occasion deserves more attention than a few keystrokes and an emoji. For gifts and important events, nothing replaces the significance of a handwritten note. We all enjoy opening a note that has our name on the card and then reading how the gift or gesture made the person feel. It leaves behind a favorable impression and encourages the receiver to pass along the goodwill to someone else.

Don't wait too long.
A thank you note should not only be well thought out but also appropriately timed. Send a thank you note within a week of receiving the gift. Ultimately, within 24 to 48 hours but don't let a few days (or even weeks) stop you from writing!

You may also find Diane's The Importance of a Handwritten Thank You Note helpful. Visit her blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, follow her on Pinterest and Instagram and "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook.