Day 16: Saying thank you in writing

Leading up to Thanksgiving, each day I will blog about what I’m doing to be more grateful. I invite you to join me, and to share your thoughts, observations, suggestions and ideas.

Day 16: Remember when your parents would prompt you with “What do you say? Say thank you.”

My mom was the thank you note enforcer. Writing them was non negotiable.

When I graduated from high school, Mom took custody of my graduation presents. Only after I had written a thank you note could I get possession of each gift.

Crane thank you

Crane doesn't just make lovely thank you notes -- they also offer a PDF with tips on writing thank you notes. Click here to read it.

So I admit to having a strong bias but I believe in the power of the thank you note — especially of the hand written and mailed variety.

It seems obvious to me that if someone has done something I’m grateful for, it’s a wonderful thing to say so and to say thank you. It’s one thing to make a note in my gratitude journal, which is good for my heart, but what if I can make the other person feel good, too?

Usually thank you notes are transaction specific — thanks for the gift, for inviting us to the party, for the job interview.

But this week I’m writing thank you notes for a variety of things and people I’m grateful for, even if my gratitude is big and broad or if the inspiring act was long ago.

If you stumble for the right words when you’re writing thank yous, the good folks at Write Express offer some pointers — these are just a few, you’ll find more on their site:

  • Stick to the point.
  • Be sincere–most people can sense when you aren’t being honest.
  • Be specific and include details from the event. Make your letter stand out.
  • Reaffirm your gratitude or restate the compliment.
  • Close with either an expression of thanks or an indication of your intention to continue contact.

Just to get warmed up a little:

Jim Wojcik, thank you for all your wisdom and patience not only as our college newspaper adviser but also as my job placement expert and frequent career therapist. I’m not sure where I’d be professionally without you and I will be forever grateful.

Julie Peterson, thank you for hiring me to be a health writer at the University of Michigan News Service when I’d never been a medical writer in my life. You trusted me to figure it out on the job. Thank you for that chance and for showing such confidence in me.

Karen Joseph (now Johnson), thanks for being my life raft of a roommate at one of the lowest points in my life. You probably didn’t know what you were signing on for when you rented my spare bedroom but I’m grateful for the kindness and support you showed me.

Cecil Shepherd, thank you for welcoming me into the University of Michigan family in New York City. You probably more than any other person made New York seem doable for a girl who’d never moved away from her home state. Your encouragement and enthusiasm made it so much less intimidating and I’m grateful.

This week I’ll be doing some proper thank yous, with pen and paper like Mom taught me, in addition to some social media versions on Facebook and Twitter, too.

Who deserves a thank you note from you? It doesn’t have to be big life-changing events — what about the colleague who’s helped you or the neighbor who always waters the plants and gets your mail when you’re on vacation? Or maybe it is big stuff: the teacher who inspired you or the friend you couldn’t imagine life without?

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13 replies

  1. I couldn’t resist commenting. Very well written!

  2. Colleen, this is a beautiful and powerful post. Thank you. I’m going to write two notes today.

  3. Years ago, I started celebrating Thanksgiving by writing – and sending – a thank you to at least one person who had changed my life. I am always surprised by what happens next.

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