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Thank you notes: Rediscover a lost art

You've got Manners

Posted: July 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Some will say writing on paper is a lost art, that the personal, handwritten paper note is a rare happening.

Because of this, receiving this kind of mail stands out as a memorable gesture today. In business and in social settings, doing something that impresses a person’s emotions can be very impactful.

People have been remembered and hired into a company based on their correspondence etiquette and showing their willingness to go the extra mile with acknowledgment. Friendships are bonded based on the warm-hearted connections formed through respect and gratitude that a note can convey.

Saying a simple ‘thank-you’ upon opening a gift is not enough today. It’s similar to the automatic response of “Hi, how are you?” we say when passing by someone — it’s almost robot-like. It’s good to double–up.

Doubling–up means saying a nice “thank you” at the time of receiving the gift and then emphasizing our appreciation with a descriptive and timely thank-you note. Or, at the least, an enthusiastic thank-you phone call.

Consider writing notes a creative playtime between the person, the pen and the paper. This habit can begin at a very early age, and continue to be a beneficial activity long into the golden years. Shopping for happy-graphics and fun-colored stationery is a nice task in itself.

Often, if we don’t quite know how to do something, it’s easy to put it off. A good guideline for note writing is this: A well composed thank-you note would have at least three sentences — more if you are inclined. No one will get tired of reading how much you appreciate them.

1) Make the first sentence, a nice greeting.

2) Next, relate an interesting and personal comment about the item or favor you’ve received.

3) Express your way of stating appreciation.

A brief one-sentence thank-you does not qualify. Think of all of the effort, time, thought and money it took your friend to buy this item or do this favor, just for you.

This may difficult for children to express. If your kids need some nudging while writing a thank you note, you can begin by asking them what it is about the gift, or situation, that they like. Let them express themselves from there.

Here are some written examples of simple and meaningful notes for kids to follow — “kids” of all ages from 2 to 92 :

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,
It was fun to have you at my birthday celebration in the park. I really like the ring-toss set you gave me. We all had fun playing with it after lunch. Thank you so much for the gift and for being at my party.
Love, Jordan

Dear Abigale,
I was so surprised to open your present to see my favorite CD. How nice of you to hunt for that great music. Let’s listen to it together this weekend. Thanks for the thoughtful gift.
Your friend,Cami

Dear Colin,
I am glad you could come to my birthday dinner. The T-shirt you gave me is like the one you have. I’m really glad to have one of my own now. Thanks for noticing how much I liked yours.
Your good friend, Jake

Some parents start the habit even before their children can read or write — in fact, they may write the note in the voice of their very young child.

This can be read to the child, the child may add a colorful graphic with crayons or colored pens, and it sets the stage for future note-writing for the very young members of the family. When your child writes a note, bring on the praise and the support.

Dear Aunt Betty,
Even though I am just 3 years old, I already love jewelry. Thank you for the precious gold locket you have me for my birthday. I will wear it with very loving thoughts you, I am so blessed to have you as my Godmother.
With love, Audrey

If you find yourself in the situation of not being able to open a gift in the presence of the giver, then to write a thank you note right away is very important.

Sometimes including a photo of you with the gift adds a special touch. Sending your thanks also has a time frame; the sooner the better. Aim to put your envelope in the mailbox within a week of receiving the gift.Don’t wait for someone to ask you if you got the gift or liked the gift.

Giving and getting notes gives everybody a “high.” There is a good chance you will receive more mail when you send out mail — and that starts a happy circle of smiling faces. It’s a boomerang of the best kind.

Louise Elerding is a manners, etiquette and personal appearance coach and the author of “You’ve Got Manners!” an illustrated series of children’s books. For information on table manners classes held at Valencia’s Salt Creek Grille or to submit questions for the “Ask Louise” column, call 1 (818) 259-3961 or visit


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