01/04/2015 05:55 pm ET Updated Mar 06, 2015

January Is National Thank You Month: How to Write the Perfect Thank-You Note

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When we're young, our parents and teachers often instill the importance of saying, "thank you." But as we get older, we seem to forget the impact these two little words can have on our personal and professional relationships.

January is National Thank You Month, the perfect opportunity to pause and express your gratitude. While an email or text message is nice and a phone call is fine, nothing conveys heartfelt thanks or leaves a lasting impression better than a handwritten note.

In many of my business etiquette seminars I often tell my participants about the time I landed my dream job as a result of writing one memorable thank-you note.

In 1993, I interviewed for a position as a publicist with the prestigious Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. During my interview with the director of public relations, I observed how her office was decorated. I couldn't help but notice a set of small, black and white porcelain cows situated near her telephone. I asked her if she collected cows and she said, "Yes."

Following my interview, I went to the craft store and found a plain, white 5x7 puzzle. With colored markers, I wrote on the puzzle, "Let me solve your puzzled mind by providing the missing piece." On one piece of the puzzle I signed my name.

Next, I found some stationery adorned with a couple of cartoon cows riding in a convertible. I inserted the puzzle and thank-you note inside an envelope and sealed it. To top it off, I purchased four colored helium balloons and tied them to the envelope and sent the note by courier to her office.

She was so impressed with my effort and originality she called the next day to thank me. A week later I was hired.

Thank-you notes may be written for any occasion -- after meeting with an important client, after a job interview with a prospective employer, when you receive a gift or when you're invited to dinner.

A handwritten note is a tangible and personal expression of your appreciation. It signifies that you took the time to focus solely on the giver, that you cared enough to express your gratitude.

Here are seven tips on how to write the perfect thank-you note.

1. Keep it short and simple.

A thank-you note doesn't have to be long, it just has to say thank you. The average thank-you note contains 4-5 lines.

2. Write by hand.

Don't worry if you think your handwriting is illegible. Your handwriting will hold allure for the reader because it is an extension of yourself.

3. Start with a salutation.

Begin by writing, "Dear Paul, or Hello Paul." This makes it more personal than just launching into the note.

4. Express your gratitude.

Be specific by mentioning the gift or the good deed. Instead of saying, "Thank you for the pottery." Try, "Thank you for the handmade ceramic bowl from New Mexico."

5. Mention how you plan to use the gift or how much the kind gesture means to you.

For example, "The bowl goes perfect with my décor and I plan to proudly display it on my coffee table." If someone does something special for you, you can say something like, "Thank you for the beautiful flowers and for taking the time out of your busy schedule to visit me in the hospital."

6. Reiterate your gratitude.

Close your letter by saying, "Thank you again for your generous and thoughtful gift."

7. Send it promptly.

It's best to send your thank-you note within 24-48 hours after an event or after receiving a gift. If more time passes or you simply forget to write a note, send the note as soon as you remember. After all, it's better to send it late than never.

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