How to Write Thank You Notes: A Guide for Teens
As a teacher, I used to receive a few dozen Christmas gifts from students and parents. I usually spent a few afternoons of winter Break writing thank you notes for each gift I received. When school started again, I handed out the notes to my students.
While most smiled, some acted as if they had never seen a thank you card in their life. Probably because they hadn’t. While thank you notes seem to have fallen out of style among families, they are alive and well in the professional world.
Thank you notes may seem old-fashioned, but they are necessary. They help build relationships, both personally and professionally. Your words let your family and friends know that you appreciate them – and they things they buy or do for you. And, these folks may be more likely to help you out in the future.
Writing thank you cards is also a way to practice gratitude. You are giving thanks for the people in your life! For more ways to practice gratitude, head over to my post here.
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How to Write Thank You Notes
Do I need to write a thank you card?
If someone has given you something or performed some service for you, the answer is probably yes. Just in case, though, check the lists below:
When you MUST write a thank-you note
- You receive a gift from someone out-of-town – birthday, Christmas, etc
- Graduation gifts
- Recommendation letters
- Interview for college or scholarship
Consider writing a thank-you note
- Advisors or coaches help you finish a project
- Someone goes out of their way to help you
- Teacher Appreciation Week
Etiquette says that you have up to one year to send thank you cards for gifts, but try to send them as soon as possible. The sooner you write them, the more likely they are to actually get them completed and sent. Always send letters to interviewers right away, the same day if possible!
And call me old-fashioned here, but an e-mail just does not do. You must handwrite this on an actual paper card. Luckily, it’s super easy to find thank you cards for all genders and interests.
How to Get Started
Writing thank you notes doesn’t take a ton of time, but a little preparation will help. Happily, this is an activity that can be done while binge-watching your favorite show or the latest movie!
You will need the following:
- List of people to whom you are writing cards AND what they gave you/ did for you; if this list is long, may I recommend a spreadsheet?
- Thank you cards and envelopes
- Pens (no pencils for this project)
- Stamps and mailing addresses if you are mailing the cards
Thank you notes don’t have to be super long. In fact, they are usually a paragraph or less. But they need to include a few key items:
- Opening line – Dear ___________
- A mention of the item you received OR the service you received.
- How you will use that gift OR how that service helped you
- Closing – Thank you,
- Signature – it’s time to bust out your cursive, friends
Your card might look
If you received money, there is no need to include the amount of money you received. But you do need to include how you plan on using the money. And be specific.
I usually write thank you cards in batches. I also make a template and use a few phrases over and over again. (The chances that these people will compare your thank you cards are pretty slim!) Write a quick draft on scrap paper and have someone check it BEFORE writing on the nice cards.
I have some sample cards (like the one above) you can download and use. You can also ask your good friend, Google.
Formality vs. Informality
The closer the relationship you have with someone, the more informal you can be. Your favorite aunt sent you an awesome Christmas present – you can be pretty casual. Your AP Physics teacher wrote you a college recommendation letter – keep it formal, please.
No matter how close the relationship, you must use proper spelling and grammar. This is neither the time nor the place for text abbreviations or slang, yo.
So, grab your favorite pen, those thank you cards, and get writing!