The Lost Art of the Thank You Note

A few months ago, I lent my fancy-schmancy baby monitor out to a friend of a friend who had a newborn baby with some minor breathing problems. She was worried about bringing this new baby home and couldn’t afford the expensive monitor with the breathing sensor and video monitoring. Our mutual friend knew I had a monitor and wasn’t using it anymore and asked if I would be OK to lend it to her for a few weeks. I immediately said yes,  I was thrilled to lend it to her so that she could have a little more peace of mind knowing that her baby was OK and even watching the baby on the video monitor.

I recently got the monitor back (from the mutual friend) and was surprised to see that there wasn’t even a small  Thank You note inside from the new mom. I immediately felt awful for thinking that this was missed, she must be overwhelmed with a new baby, etc. but then the more I think about it, the more and more I realize that if there was ever a situation which deserved at the very least a small Thank You note scribbled on a Post-It, this was it.

Was the art of writing Thank You cards lost?

I was raised to always write thank you cards. As a child, I remember writing them seemingly constantly; A thank you card to Grandma for birthday money or to the host of a summer sleepover for the delicious chocolate-chip pancakes. As an adult, I send handwritten thank you cards to the IT department when they fix my seemingly endless technical problems and to my next door neighbours for watching our house when we’re out of town for a couple of days. Sure, it’s easier to fire off an e-mail or send a text- and in some instances I do- but in an era of modern electronic communication, I truly believe that there is nothing classier than someone who takes the time to write a handwritten thank you. A Modern Day Princess takes the time out of her busy day to write a quick note of thanks for someone who has made that day a little easier, happier or more pleasant.

Let’s take a little time out to revisit the art of the thank you note.

When To Write a Thank You Note

The first question that many people have is when to write them and when not to. There are many many etiquette guides out there which will detail pretty much every situation you may ever be faced with but I like to boil it down to this. Whenever you’ve been gifted with someone’s time, belongings, presence or money that is outside of an ordinary occurrence- write a note. Here are some examples:

  • Gifted with Time: Someone has picked up your kids from school when you were caught in a late meeting or someone went outside their job description to fix your laptop on a weekend
  • Gifted with Belongings: Someone has lent you a baby monitor (ahem!) or when someone has given you a present in any capacity
  • Gifted with Presence: Someone attended an event in your honour from out of town or someone spent an hour over coffee providing you with some career guidance
  • Gifted with Money: Someone offers you some start-up cash for your business venture or refers you a new client

There are plenty of situations where I am thankful but I write e-mails or quick texts given how busy we all are. But these are all either very regular happenings or immediate family. Some examples are when my in-laws watch my son for a few days when I’m out of town or thanking another mom for hosting a casual playdate at her home.

You should aim to send these out as quickly as possible after the event- ideally no later than 2 days afterwards. There is a big exception on this which is with wedding and baby presents where it is generally acceptable up to 6 weeks afterwards.

How To Write a Thank You Note

I once received a thank you note from a potential employee was a blank, generic card with “Thank You for Your Time” on the front and simply their signature on the inside of the card. I was mind-boggled: they’d gone through the effort and had the presence of mind to write a card but then completely failed in the execution.

If you’re new to writing thank you notes, here is a general template you can follow and customize as you see fit.

Dear Aunt Abigail,

It was so nice of you to think of me on my Birthday! I had a terrific day and was thrilled to receive your card in the mail. Thank you so much for the generous gift card to J.Crew that you included inside, you have always had a knack for sending the perfect present! I plan on using it to buy myself a new sundress for my trip to Europe this summer and will think of you when I wear it on the Champs Elysée!

Thank you again for the wonderful and thoughtful gift.



Hard? Not when you have a template. My mom taught us that the key to thank you letters is addressing the Past, Present and Future. I found a great website that shares the steps:

  1. Thank the person for what they have done; for example, giving you an interview. (That’s the past, in our example that was thanking Aunt Abigail for our birthday present)
  2. Mention something you are currently doing or thinking as a result of what the person did for you; for example, developing a plan for one of his projects. (That’s the present, in our example it was using the giftcard to buy a new sundress)
  3. Speak about what you will do next or what you would like the person to do as a result of the 2nd paragraph; for example, invite you to a second interview. (That’s the future, in our example we mention using the dress for an upcoming trip to Europe)

On What to Write a Thank You Note

There are literally hundreds of thousands of stationery options that you could write your thank you note on – and I’m of the honest opinion that if you actually write one, you can do no wrong. I used to write mine on sheets of looseleaf as a kid, but have graduated to personalized notecards. Here are some of my favorites currently on Etsy:

Vintage "Merci" Map Thank You Cards, from Etsy

Vintage “Merci” Map Thank You Cards, perfect for the graduate who wants to travel to Europe after school?

Personalized Thank You Cards

Personalized Thank You Cards make for a pretty adorable way of expressing your gratitude in any circumstance


Personalized flat cards with your initial can be multi-purposed into any card you need!

Personalized flat cards with your initial can be multi-purposed into any card you need!

An adorable "Thank You" stamp in handwriting can make a cheap long-term option by just buying cheap plain cards and stamping!

An adorable “Thank You” stamp in handwriting can make a cheap long-term option by just buying cheap plain cards and stamping!



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Amanda is the Media & Operations Director for Effervescence Media Group (otherwise known as behind-the-scenes editor of What Would Kate Do? and The Refined Side). When she isn’t blogging, she can be found with a nice glass of red wine or browsing a vintage shop. Her interests are varied and include vintage couture, etiquette, and the financial markets. She resides in Vancouver, British Columbia
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2 Comments on The Lost Art of the Thank You Note

  1. Moriah
    March 24, 2013 at 12:33 pm (2 years ago)

    I used to be really bad at returning a thank you note in an appropriate amount of time but then I read a wonderful book that really encouraged me. Now I love writing people notes and cards for any occasion, be it a thank you card or a thinking-of-you note. I really recommend The Art of the Handwritten Note by Margaret Shepherd. It is a great book to really inspire you to take the time to write a real, heart-felt note.

  2. Blake
    March 26, 2013 at 6:43 am (2 years ago)

    I completely agree! I am always very disappointed when I don’t receive a thank you note for a wedding gift. Although some rules state that the bride has a year to write them, if you keep up with them as they come, it won’t be such a chore. People spend lots of time and money thinking of the perfect gift for you or purchasing a gift that you picked out for yourself. The least you can do is write a note in a timely manner thanking them. Besides, the giver needs to know that the the bride received the gift, especially if it was shipped. It is such a nice surprise to receive a note in the mail among all the bills, magazines and junk we get every day. In this day and age, it shows such class to send a note thanking someone for going out of their way, or as Moriah said, sending a note to let someone know you are thinking of them.