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Gifts, hospitality, help, encouragement on a big project, great service. All of these are special occasions for expressing gratitude to your friends, family, and colleagues at work. Don’t miss these opportunities to cement relationships by forgetting to say thank you.

And if you’re going to take the time to write a letter or note, make it count. Say something meaningful that comes from your heart—something that doesn’t sound like a pre-printed card or cliché that everyone else writes on such occasions. Make your letter or note one that they’ll read more than once—and maybe even file away for years as a memento of your relationship and the occasion.

Keep these guidelines in mind.

  • Thank the reader immediately for the gift, service, or kind act. Your thank-you comments should not sound like an afterthought at the end of a routine email or note about the situation or occasion. Instead, be direct and purposeful about the thank you.
  • Elaborate on why the occasion, note, kindness, or gift was particularly meaningful to you. Be as specific as possible. General phrases and sentences sound insincere. Don’t let clichés roll off your tongue; it’s the heartfelt sentiment that makes your note special.


    – “Your help before Bryan’s retirement luncheon saved me hours—the trip to the party mall, the trip to pick up the speaker at the airport, your hanging the posters in the lobby.”

    – “You obviously spent a mind-boggling emotional effort on securing volunteers to staff the booth for 24 hours during three days, and obviously you called in some personal favors with this team to persuade them to waive the exhibit fee.”

    – “Your cards during my mother’s illness meant so much to me because I know how …”

  • Avoid mentioning any negative outcomes or circumstances surrounding the situation. Even though your intention may be well meaning, such comments will detract from the overall feeling of satisfaction about the gift or deed.

    Examples (to avoid):

    – “Too bad more people didn’t show up for the party to enjoy all the effort you put into it.”

    – “You shouldn’t worry about the caterer’s snafu. Your back-up plan with the pizza worked fine. Most people had eaten before they came anyway.”

    “Even though we still didn’t meet our deadline with the client proposal, it certainly wasn’t your fault. Your graphics added immeasurable to the overall look of the document.”

Be prompt. A thank-you delayed is often a thank-you ignored. Ignored by the recipient, that is. Sincere comments suffer from delay. The reader thinks, “If they were so pleased, why did they postpone telling me for three weeks? Too much of a chore?” Say it sooner rather than later.

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