How to write a thank you letter that communicates appreciation

by Michaela

How to write a thank you letter that really makes a difference in another person's life - it's simple, easy and quick. And a great side effect: You get happier, too!

How to write a thank you letter - How to write a thank you note
© M. Steininger

You can make a difference!

Writing a thank you letter for a gift or favor you have received, does this seem a little tedious to you or like an unwelcome chore? Like something you just want to get over and done with?

Consider this: It's actually a big chance!

Yes, it might sound a little corny but: Giving someone a sincere "thank you" can make a huge difference in this person's life – and in your own, too!

It's such a simple little gesture but one that has great potential. Receiving a heartfelt "thank you" can make your recipient very happy: Everyone loves appreciation, it is a gift that lasts forever, never grows stale, can't be bought with money or in stores. It's truly valuable. 

Appreciation and gratitude can transform difficult relationships – and make good ones even better!

Here's how to do it – in 7 simple and quick steps:

The good news: Writing a thank you letter that communicates appreciation is not that difficult either!

It's actually quite simple - just follow this 7-step formula ...

1) Greeting

Use a classic greeting like "Dear Jenni …" or "Dear Mr Collins …" or a more colloquial, informal greeting when writing to someone you know very well: "Mom, you're the best!" or "Nancy, can you imagine how delighted I was when I received your parcel last week?!" or "Wow, Paul, what a fantastic surprise!" 

2) Be specific

Be specific when you mention the gift (or favor): Don't just write "(thank you for) the pullover" but "(thank you for) the pink shawl collar pullover you knit for me".

3) Why ...?

Why did you like the gift? - For example: "I love that pullover, it keeps me so warm and it looks just great with my favorite trousers."

(Didn't really like the gift at all? - Please see below!)

4) Appreciate the giver

Let the giver know how much you appreciate him or her by giving a sincere compliment: "You really know me well. And you have such a great taste in fashion!"

5) Optional: Show some love

It's not necessary to include this but maybe you feel like it – let the giver know why you are glad to have him or her in your life: "I'm proud to have such a cool grandma!" or "I feel truly blessed to have a friend like you."

6) Important: The gift in use

Let the giver know how, when or where you will use the gift – and in what way it will be a benefit to you: "I will be so happy to have your pullover keeping me warm and cozy while cycling to work."

7) Repeat

Easy … repeat your thank you before you end your letter: "Thank you again, dear Grandma!"

How to write a thank you letter - How to write a thank you note
© M. Steininger

Points to remember

  • Always be sincere and write from your heart. Don't use pretense or exaggeration – and if you don't know the other person very well don't use humor either. It can easily be misunderstood, especially in written communication.
  • Does every occasion call for a (written) thank you note? - If in doubt: Just do it! Kathy from puts it so well: "When have you ever wished someone hadn't thanked you?"
  • What time frame is allowed or appropriate when it comes to sending a thank you letter? - Try to do it within 2 weeks after receiving the gift, 3 weeks at the latest.
  • Don't make your thank you letter shorter than 3 lines.
  • If possible, send a hand-written note – especially when writing to someone you know well.
  • If you send a thank you letter for money gifts don't name the specific amount, better use expressions like: "the generous gift you gave me".

Help! - What to do if you didn't really like the gift?

  • Don't pretend enthusiasm. Go for more "neutral" words like "unique", "special", "creative" or "imaginative". For example: "Wow, Sidney, those bright pink plateau pumps are truly unique – you always come up with such creative ideas!"
  • If you can't appreciate the gift itself, appreciate the giver's time or effort: "Thank you so much for the green legwarmers, Aunt Edith. You must have spent a lot of time making them for me!"


1) If possible enclose a photo showing you with your gift – or even better: Enclose a photo of how you put the gift in use.

2) Writer's block? - Start your letter with an appropriate quote and add your own words.

For example:

I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks. 
William Shakespeare

How beautiful a day can be
When kindness touches it!
George Elliston

I feel a very unusual sensation - if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude. 
Benjamin Disraeli

Did you know? - Expressing gratitude makes you happier, too!

Writing a thank you note – or gratitude letter – benefits not only the recipient but you, too! It can actually make you feel a lot happier.

Recent findings of Positive psychology confirm: Gratitude is a very beneficial emotion. It can not only make you happier but also make you feel more relaxed, more self-confident and it can even improve your health!

Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, includes the practice of writing a gratitude letter as one of the happiness strategies in her book "The How of Happiness".

It's very simple: You express your gratitude to a person who has helped you in some way and whom you have never properly thanked. You don't even have to send the letter, just expressing your gratitude is enough:

"Indeed, in a recent study from my laboratory, we found that simply writing a gratitude letter and not sending or otherwise delivering it was enough to produce substantial boosts in happiness." 

Read more about this fascinating study here

Updated: 02/11/2012, Michaela
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Jamall on 02/27/2012

Such a great article. Simple yet informative. I am with a startup called thankster and we help people send thank you notes in the mail to family and friends. With our system, it's as easy as sending an email. And best of all we do all the heavy lifting like licking stamps, addressing envelopes, postage, etc. Please take a look and let us know what you think. Merci!

Claudi on 02/19/2012

very useful and very cute postage ideas, thanks for that!

Michaela on 02/13/2012

You're right, Angel: Writing a thank you letter is indeed a lost art today - for many people at least. It's worth reviving it, I think! The practice of gratitude seems to become more "fashionable" these days anyway ... :)
Thank you for your feedback!

Angel on 02/11/2012

Great tips. So many people do not even write thank you letters today. I think it is a very nice gesture. I always appreciate a thank you.

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