The Art of the Thank-You Note

by Kathie Martin

In today’s world of typing, texting and tweeting, the written thank you note is being left behind, the remnant of an earlier—and perhaps more mannerly—time. Yet the seemingly old-fashioned art of carefully crafting a note of thanks in one’s own handwriting is the one thing that truly tells the recipient just how much his or her kindness is appreciated.

Even before they can complete entire sentences, children are taught to say the simple phrase, “Thank you.” Even before they are able to write, children should be trained to express their thanks in writing. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy certainly saw the value in teaching her children early.

Before Caroline and John were writing their own notes, Mrs. Kennedy would sit down with her children and blank thank you notes. As they dictated their thanks—and we can only imagine how many gifts they received—she wrote. The children would pen their own “signature” and off it went.

A thank you note need not be an ordeal for children. You can start off with a sentence or two on a scrap of paper. All that’s necessary is four simple sentences. The first, second and final sentence should reference the gift. The third sentence should be about anything but the gift. An example:

Dear Mimi:

Thank you so much for the terrific yoyo you sent for my birthday. I’ve already learned to do two new tricks and am working on my third.

I’m looking forward to showing you our new house you when you come for a visit next month.

Thanks again for the great present!



Four simple sentences, and the note is finished. If four sentences are too much, don’t insist on four, making an ordeal out of the process. Work up to four gradually.

To make writing notes more enjoyable, visit your local stationery store with your child and look over its stock of note cards preprinted with names and fun images. If you buy the design your child loves, he or she will look forward to an opportunity to use it. When it’s time to mail, chose a stamp design that’s equally as much fun.

When should a child write a thank you note? Whenever someone has shown him or her a kindness. Thank you notes are appropriate for birthday and holiday gifts (even when they don’t fit, are the wrong color or are generally yucky), for special things a caregiver, teacher or family friend has done for your child, such as when a friend has invited your child to join his or her family on a trip to the beach or to a special concert.

Remember, children model their parents. If they see you writing thank you notes, they are more likely to follow suit. And parents have lots of reasons to write them.

When was the last time you wrote a thank you note?

Kathie B. Martin, APR is President of The Etiquette School of Birmingham

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