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Got presents? Give thanks with these note-writing tips

Giving feels great — and so does knowing how much the recipient appreciates your gift.

That's why you don't want to leave a kind deed, a package of socks or a brand-new pony unacknowledged. Carol Schwiebert, a stewardship coordinator for Ohio State, is a pro at saying “thank you,” and here she shares her tips for crafting the perfect message of gratitude.

  1. Enjoy the ritual.

    “At its core, writing thank-you notes is a custom of kindness that honors relationships. Don’t think of it as a chore — it’s a privilege,” Schwiebert said. “You have the chance to thank someone who cares about you, and show you appreciate them in return.” 

  2. Take notes — and use spreadsheets.

    As soon as you can, jot down a list of who gave you what — and include specifics. Schwiebert recommends tracking the addresses of friends and family in an online spreadsheet so you don’t have to hunt for them each time you write a note.

  3. Ask for help.

    For birthday parties, showers or other gift-giving extravaganzas, task a friend or relative with taking notes on gifts. “A friend can help you track gifts at children’s parties, or if you find yourself immersed in a sea of tissue paper during a shower or housewarming,” Schwiebert said.

A generally accepted timeline is two weeks for a thank-you note for a birthday or holiday.

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  1. Schedule your writing time.

    Setting aside time to write thank-you notes makes it a priority. If you’re writing a large quantity, you may want to schedule multiple sessions and set smaller daily goals. Designating this time is especially important if you’ll be helping young children with their notes, or collaborating on them as a family.

  2. Gather your:
    • Recipient list with addresses
    • Pens
    • Cards and envelopes
    • Stamps
    • Return address labels (optional, but handy!)
  3. Be creative!

    Schwiebert recommends stocking up on thank-you notes that have a personal flair. You can also create notecards that are both cost effective and meaningful. “My colleague is making thank-you notes this year featuring her son’s doodles,” she said. “He’s only a toddler, and it’s awesome to see how she’s already involving him in gratitude.”

  4. Don’t forget the key components.

    Details matter and make the note more personal. Be specific about how the gift made you feel, what it means to you or your plans to put it to good use. You can also reference a memory about a recent experience together, or mention a future meetup. Hint: The words “thank” and “you” are also pretty important here.

    Here's an example:

    Dear Reader1,

    Thank you2 so much for taking the time3 to read my tips for writing your next thank-you note! I hope they help you express your thanks this holiday season and all year long. Your interest in sharing gratitude is inspiring4!

    Best wishes in the new year5,


    1. Use the appropriate name.
    2. Say thank you!
    3. Specifically reference the action, time or gift. 
    4. Share why you are grateful.
    5. Don't forget a strong closing!
  5. Don’t wait!

    A generally accepted timeline is two weeks for a thank-you note for a birthday or holiday, while shower or wedding thank-you notes can be mailed up to three months after the gift is received. Guidelines are different in the professional world, where you should send thank-you notes for, say, an interview as soon as possible. Consider the gift, the giver and standard timelines to help you set deadlines to stay on track.