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Dos and Don'ts for Writing Thank You Notes, Cards and Letters

"I wrote a thank you note that instant because whenever I get a present I have to write a note right away that very day if I'm going to have any manners at all."
Lucy Rose in Here's the Thing about Me by Katy Kelly

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There's nothing complicated about writing thank you notes, cards and letters, but you'll make a great job of it if you keep these simple Dos and Don'ts in mind.
1. DO hand write your thank you notes, cards and letters if possible. It shows that you've made an effort, and it's one of the nicest ways to express appreciation. Having said that, if your handwriting is truly awful then it may actually be preferable to send a typewritten note. After all, there's no point in making the effort to send a thank you card if what you write is illegible.

Remember – the most important thing is to send the card or note. If it's the prospect of writing by hand that's holding you back, then type. A type written note is always going to be infinitely better than no note at all!

2. DON'T delay writing your thank you notes. And once they're written, make sure to mail them as soon as possible. Writing thank you letters, notes and cards is something that is amazingly easy to put off doing, and before you know it you'll start feeling the need to apologize as well as say thank you. If you do procrastinate, remember that however long you've left it, it is always worth sending a thank you note – better late than never!

3. DO select stationery that suits the recipient and the situation. A pretty pastel card might be just what Grandma loves, but it's less suitable for your boss! A seascape or landscape is probably more suitable for a condolence thank you letter than a vibrantly colored abstract.

4. DO personalize your thank you note and be specific in your thanks. Make sure to address the recipient by name, and sign the note in a legible manner. Even if a thank you note is typed it really should be signed by hand. And it's a nice touch to hand write the greeting (Dear Sarah...) too. DO also make the effort to refer to the specific present or favor received. 'Thank you for the bag, it's really nice', is lazy and doesn't show much in the way of appreciation. 'Thank you for the pretty silver evening bag. I know I shall enjoy using it', takes hardly a moment longer to write, but comes across as much more sincere.

5. DO avoid mentioning anything negative. 'Most of my birthday presents were disappointing, but the scarf you sent me was nice,' doesn't strike the right tone of gratitude. And if you're in the difficult position of having to write a thank you note for a gift that you don't like (or that is a duplicate of something you already have) DO try to focus your appreciation on the positives while keeping things slightly abstract: 'It was so thoughtful of you to select [title of book] for me. I'm sure you know how much I enjoy relaxing with a good novel'.

6. DON'T be too anxious about trying to sound sincere or find the perfect wording or phrase. There need be nothing complicated or difficult about writing a thank you note – see our examples and templates, all free for you to use, copy and personalize.

7. DO by all means plan and choose your thank you cards in advance of an event or occasion, but whatever you do – DON'T pre-write them. A non-personalized thank you note that makes no mention of the specific gift or favor received will tend to make a worse impression than failing to send a card at all! On a similar note, for goodness sake DON'T be tempted to ask your guests (for example at a baby shower or a bridal shower) to address their own envelope for your thank you note. It's not classy, and risks causing offence to those who have generously given you gifts.

8. DO double (or even triple!) check your spelling and grammar. In this era of computer spell checks it's easier than ever to make – and fail to notice – errors when writing by hand. A single spelling mistake can spoil the effect of your card or letter. Obviously you should take especial care with the recipient's name!

9. DO have a stock of thank you cards, note and letter paper on hand. If you first have to go out and buy supplies before you can write your thank you note, then the odds are it will never get done. To make things really easy, consider putting together a gratitude folder to keep cards, paper and envelopes, stamps etc. organized and ready to use.

10. DO take the time to send thank you notes to people who don't necessarily expect them (the staff at your favorite restaurant, the mechanic who fixed your car, ... your parents!). You'll make their day!