This particular minor annoyance is not from my own file. I actually enjoy writing thank you notes, however, it is a task that a lot of people find to be a nagging one, so I decided to tackle it at this post-holiday-high-volume-thank-you-note time of year.
Let me start by giving you my thank you note (t.y.n.) writing credentials. My mom (like many) made us write t.y.ns at an early age, and like most kids, we didn’t like doing it. We appreciated the gifts people gave us (especially toys and cash) and wanted them to continue providing said gifts indefinitely, so we took care of t.y. n. business in a timely manner. Mom had quite the knack for correspondence that she passed on to us, and even as little kids, we would analyze penmanship, content and sincerity of thank you notes that came into our house from friends and relatives.
“That kid is 10 years old, does his mom really let him get away with ‘Dear Lees, Thank you for the gift. love, Eddie’? And his writing looks like chicken scratch.” said 8 year old me. (And the serious nerd alert is still going off to this day)
As we got older, my sister and I refined our t.y.n. skills and we both carried it over into our adult lives as a mandatory requirement for any gift. Her t.y.n. skills are actually so superior that I save them and break out coffee and a snack when I get one in the mail so I can make an event of reading it, feeling perfectly arrogant about my abilities as supreme gift giver of the world after I read one.
Although not as superior as my sis, I’m proud to say that I have received the elusive and magical reciprocal t.y.n. from time to time. If you are not familiar with this little gem, let me educate you. I have actually (on several occasions) received a t.y.n. from someone thanking me for the wonderful t.y.n. I sent. I kid you not. I was so floored the few time that this happened that I had to stop myself from sending a reply note thanking them and thus extending the circle of thanks indefinitely.
Okay, so by now, you are in awe of me and my ability to appreciate via the written word…a little housekeeping before I reveal the formula:
Prepare to Thank!
- Gift List – It is important to write down who gave you what for any occasion where you are getting more than one gift (Christmas, birthdays, showers etc.) or where you are thanking on the behalf of other family members (infants, lazy husbands, pets etc.)
- Knock out the Admin – Get the administrative part out of the way before you start writing. This means putting stamps, addresses and return address labels on envelopes. Make it into a little assembly line with your kids sticking labels and such and then everything is ready to go as soon as you write your note.
- Block Time – You won’t need much time for each note. Plan to do no more than 1-3 notes at a time, or you may be apt to rush just to get through them, which will show in your content. Pick a time when you have a few minutes each day and do them on successive days. I have my prepped 10 notes/envelopes and gift list for Christmas 2013 on the end table in the living room next to where I sit and watch mindless tv when I am up early with my son. I can easily do 2 a day during this block of time for a week and be done by Friday.
The 4 Part Formula – There are four sections to my t.y.ns, that can be generated in about 3 minutes (more for a note covering gifts for the whole family and less for the advanced t.y.n.-er):
1. Opening Thank You – This is just a basic line thanking them for what they gave you. Be specific about the item vs. just thanking them for the ‘gift’.
Example: “Thank you so much for the ‘Cars’ pj’s you sent Rocco for Christmas”.
2. 1-2 sentences about each item – Next I address each item with a sentence that tells what I like about it, how I have used it/plan to use it or why I need it. This is where your sincerity is going to come through in talking about what a great job they did selecting the gift and why it is a perfect choice. To me, a t.y.n. is more about making the giver feel awesome than showing required appreciation. Be informal as if you were talking to them face to face about it.
Example: “Rocco’s room is always the coldest in the house and I was constantly washing his one fleece pair before you gave him this new pair, so they were a perfect choice. He loves the pattern and asks for his ‘car jammy pweeeease!'”.
3. A note about the event or occasion – If the gift giver was present when the gift was opened, you can make this part about how glad you were that they could share the occasion with you or something along those lines. If they were not present to see the gift opened, share a quick detail about the event with them.
Example: “Christmas at our house was a blast now that the kids are 2 and 3. Liana loved opening the presents and helped Rocco open all of his gifts since he was more intrigued with the visible toys that were already unwrapped. I hope you had a happy Christmas as well”.
4. Reiterate Thank You – Say it again to come back around to the main purpose of the note.
Example: “Thank you again for the sweet gift for Rocco, it was very thoughtful of you, and much appreciated”.
Tips – There are a few tips to keep in mind as you hone your skills and become a t.y.n.b. (thank you note beast) like me.
- Start Above the Fold – A seasoned t.y.n. writer will not be afraid to start above the fold of the note card, secure in the knowledge that they will easily fill (an probably need) the entire card and possibly even continue onto the back. The more you write and the more comfortable and speedy you get with it, the more you may find that you want to write.
- It’s Never Too Late – I’m sure there are plenty of manners experts who will give you a strict time frame within which you should send a t.y.n. for various occasions, but my feeling is that it is never too late. In some cases it makes sense to wait a little while until you have had a chance to use the item (“I made maple walnut cookies the other day and the hand mixer made it so much easier!”). I have sent t.y.ns the same day I received a gift and I have sent them as much as a month later. My sweet spot is to send them between a few days and a few weeks after opening the gift. Once, my aunt sent a birthday gift in July it was delivered by the postal service 9 MONTHS later after apparently going on a wild mail adventure that I was not a part of. I wrote my aunt a note thanking her and explaining the funny story – it made for a great t.y.n.! My point is, it is really never too late to send a note. If I sent something and received a note months later, I would find it very sweet that they are still thinking about it and never forgot the gift I had given.
- Why Emails Blow – Granted, I am a t.y.n.n. (thank you note nazi), however, an emailed t.y.n. kinda blows. I like my old school t.y.ns handwritten and snail mailed. Who doesn’t get a tiny flutter when, in among the sales sheets and credit card offers there is a little hand addressed treasure for them?! I could talk about how it is a lost art, but just believe me on this one.
- Every Gift Deserves a T.Y. Note – Some people have a theory that if they open a gift in front of you and give you the verbal thank you at that time, that a t.y.n. is not in order. I disagree. A written gesture is always in order to make that person’s thoughtfulness appreciated.
Thank you for reading this post. Your note is in the mail. And its superior.