When I first started tracking the information preferences of people visiting my Writing Help Central Web site I was surprised to find how many folks were seeking information on how to write thank you letters. In fact, “thank you letter” information and sample templates are the fifth ranked destinations at that Web site.
In reality, thank you letters are among the most important letters we will ever write. Whether business or personal, an effective thank you letter needs to be written with sincerity, tact and sensitivity.
Following are a few tips that will help you whenever you encounter thank you letter situations in your business or personal life.
One of the main issues with respect to thank you letters is to know when to send one. As a general rule, I would say “better to be safe than sorry”. However, make sure there is something noteworthy about the situation. A thank you letter for a routine situation doesn’t make sense and dilutes their meaning.
It is always best to send a thank you letter as soon as possible after the event for which you are doing the thanking. It will help with the level of sincerity in your letter if the event is still fresh in your mind. In any case, a delayed thank you letter will seem like an obligatory afterthought to the recipient.
In your introductory sentence, make it very clear that it is indeed a thank you letter and that it pertains to a specific event, situation and/or person. This will eliminate any confusion on the part of the recipient as to the purpose of the letter.
Get straight to the point and never exceed one page. Thank you letters should be short, direct, sincere, and to the point. In business situations they will always type-written but personal thank you letters can be hand-written or typed, as appropriate to the situation.
By definition, a thank you letter is a sincere personal gesture from one individual to another. It should be expressed as a heartfelt personal sentiment, even when written in a business situation. At the same time, strive to be balanced in approach and don’t be overly effusive.
Always write your thank you letter to an individual, not an organization or group. Even if it’s a situation where a group is involved, write your letter to the senior person in the group and/or the group spokesperson. Ask that person to please pass on your sincere appreciation to the other people in the group, and name them in your letter if possible. (Contrary to advice given by certain so-called experts online, in my experience, writing a group letter is NEVER appropriate and achieves little or nothing).
As when writing all letters make sure you carefully check your spelling and grammar. This is even more important for thank you letters, since they are almost always a sincere statement of appreciation from one person to another. Be sure to double check the spelling of all names used in the letter. There’s no quicker way to blow your credibility and sincerity than to misspell someone’s name.
The bottom line on thank you letters is “make it appropriate and sincere”, or there really is no point in sending one.