My husband I and will soon witness the younger of our two children graduate college, so we're experiencing the usual blend of emotions: great joy and bittersweet nostalgia. In addition to taking mental trips back in time when our son and daughter were small, I'm also thinking of my school days.

No so long ago (ha!), with high school graduation approaching, my treasured English teacher deviated from the standard class to deliver a life lesson, one that I've always considered an invaluable parting gift. The topic was graduation etiquette. In addition to lecturing us about inviting appropriate family members (not distant cousins living on the other side of the country, who would surmise we were simply fishing for a gift) and close friends (not teachers, who would attend anyway if they desired or were required), she presented a tutorial on the proper way to package the announcement itself with the accompanying enclosures (such as the personal name card), as well as how to address the inner and outer envelopes. After covering the formalities of the invitation, she gave us a straightforward guideline on how to write a sincere thank you.

The idea of sending a note of gratitude for a gift was hardly new to my life. My mother had a strict policy: no use of the gift until you wrote the note. Emphasizing that the thought counted most, she further taught my sisters and me to mention the "good wishes" and "pretty card" first. Even with my mother’s coaching, however, the words didn’t come easily, and procrastination with the clock ticking only intensified the responsibility.

Thankfully, my teacher broke the task into a simple thank-you note template that has served me well over the years. Passing along the essence of her instruction with my take on the matter, I offer the following thank-you how-to:

1. As soon as possible after you receive the gift, grab a pen and any blank note that suits the occasion. A handwritten message is not only more personal than an email, but the greater effort also demonstrates a deeper appreciation. Texts and social media chats convey that you don't care as much or want to be bothered to do more.

2. Without technology to date the correspondence automatically, remember to write the month, day and year (or day, month and year) in the upper right margin.

June 31, 2017 (comma)

or

31 June 2017 (no comma)

 

3. Skip a line and then begin your note on the left margin with “Dear X,” followed by a comma. Dear—a universally accepted greeting that conveys fondness and respect—applies to all.

Dear John,

Dear Ms. Smith,

Dear Dr. Jones,

Dear Aunt Lucy and Uncle Bob,


4. Leaving a space between lines, begin your message with “Thank you for the ….” Don't speak in vague terms about “the gift,” leaving the giver to wonder if you care about it or remember it.

Thank you for the generous check you gave me in honor of my college graduation.


5. State why the gift was meaningful to you. Possibly comment on the giver’s commitment to you and/or why the person is important to you.

You have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and your gift and note remind me of how fortunate I am to have an uncle who is so supportive.


6. Add a space between lines and continue with one paragraph (aim for three sentences) describing how you have or will benefit from the gift. Your goal is to demonstrate the gift’s value to you.

The money will be a tremendous help to me this summer. Before I return to my old high school as a teacher this August, I’ll work for a nonprofit as a camp counselor. The organization runs a science and technology day camp with fun, hands-on experiments that encourage at-risk kids to think of the careers they could pursue if they stayed in school and challenged themselves. Most of the funding for the camp goes to facilities and supplies, not salaries, so I was a little concerned about making enough to buy groceries. You’ve helped me solve that math problem! 

7. Wrap up with a line or two that affirms where you and the giver stand. The person gave you something meaningful, you’re grateful, and your relationship is important.

Again, Uncle Bob, I greatly appreciate your gift. More than anything, I am so thankful for your loving advice, encouragement and amusing comments through all my antics growing up. As for the future, I promise to keep you entertained with tales from my classroom!


8. End your note with a closing that fits your relationship. Don’t sign your name without a closing. Words like love and sincerely highlight your sincerity and reflect good manners. Capitalize only the first letter of the closing and include a comma at the end.

Love,

With love and gratitude,

Best,

Best regards,

With appreciation,

Sincerely, 

Your friend,

Yours truly,

Most sincerely,

Best regards,

 

9. Drop down one line and sign your name.


Sample Thank-You:

                                                                                                                     June 31, 2017

Dear Uncle Bob,

Thank you for the generous check you gave me in honor of my college graduation. You have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and your gift and note remind me of how fortunate I am to have an uncle who is so supportive.

The money will be a tremendous help to me this summer. Before I return to my former high school in August to teach Chemistry, I’ll work for a nonprofit as a camp counselor. The organization runs a science and technology day camp with fun, hands-on experiments that encourage at-risk kids to think of the careers they could pursue if they stayed in school and challenged themselves. Most of the funding for the camp goes to facilities and supplies, not salaries, so I was a little concerned about making enough to buy groceries. You’ve helped me solve that math problem! 

Again, Uncle Bob, I greatly appreciate your gift. More than anything, I am so thankful for your loving advice, encouragement and amusing comments through all my antics growing up. As for the future, I promise to keep you entertained with tales from my classroom!

With love and gratitude,

John


If you are procrastinating over a thank you, simply pick up a pen and paper. At least type a sincere email. A few words, even if a little late, would be better than nothing.

My best to you,

Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady

Thoughts or questions? Please contact Sallie Boyles, owner of Write Lady Inc., to exchange ideas about effective communications and gain from professional writing and editing services. Receive monthly tips and insights by subscribing at www.writelady.com.