How to Write a Business Thank You Note

I could tell it was something pretty special the moment I removed the envelope from the post office box. Something important. Something that mattered. The envelope was notecard size; the address was handwritten. And it had a stamp on it!

Very special indeed. It was a handwritten thank you note. How long has it been since you’ve seen one of those in the business situation? Right. And that is precisely why it’s such a good idea. Because no one does it any more, any handwritten note, and particularly a handwritten thank you note, will make you stand out against your competition for, say, a job. A contract. An advocate.

Now in the business situation, there are layers – bottom layer is ignoring the thank you altogether. Not a good plan.

Next up – a spoken thank you. Depending on what the thanker is thanking the thankee for, this level of informality may be appropriate. In any case, it would certainly be preferable to saying nothing!

And then, how about a text? Or an email that could even be a bit longer. Well, still better than nothing, and it may be an appropriate tone and level of informality.

But how about that handwritten paper thank you note. Now that’s special. There is just something about holding that paper in your hand…

When to write a thank you note?

“Thank,” according to my Webster’s, means to show appreciation. You already do this, in a variety of ways, several times every day for kindnesses shown you by others.  But when do you write your thanks in the business situation? For those special kindnesses, as you would define special – the introduction; the special tip or suggestion that worked so well; the referral.

Timing is important. Write that note right away, and get it in the mail.

How do you make it easier to get started?

We could make this really hard. We could suggest visiting your stationer to select the appropriate notepaper and fountain pen. If you have the time, that is a good idea. But formal, dedicated stationers are harder and harder to find these days. The point really is that many stores carry good quality notepaper, and any pen that does not leave blotches or write only when it feels like it, will work just fine. Let’s not get bogged down with the details.

In the business situation, you will probably choose a neutral color, good quality stock with very understated, or no design. Some organizations have their own notepaper, and may use their own colors or design to echo or reinforce their brand.

When we were talking about thank you notes the other day, a friend shared a great tip from a friend of hers: Pre-stamp, and pre-return address several envelopes, and slip the blank notepaper inside each. When the occasion arises, all you have left to do is to use the same pen to write the note and address the envelope.

What goes into a handwritten thank you note?

  1. Sincerity.

Sincerity, a sincere appreciation for a kindness done you by another is also number two and number three on this list. Your reader has a built-in radar that can detect one of those I-don’t-really-mean-it-but-have-to-write-it messages from 10,000 feet! This is the same radar that can detect the difference between a sales message disguised as a thank you, and the real thing. If you don’t mean it, you have no reason to write it.

  1. The type of message that calls for a handwritten thank you note may very well be short, but should never be rushed. Take a few minutes to think about that kindness, and about the person you are thanking (you can do this while pouring your coffee, or brushing your teeth) before you write it.

A sincere thank you is always appropriate. A sincere written thank you is a very special thing.


Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email to learn more.

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