Gracious Girl’s Guide to Thank-You Notes Part I: WHY?

by Mindy Lockard on January 5, 2011

Last week I had a mental challenge.

Or, was it an intellectual challenge?


None the less, I found myself at the dining room table with two little girls working on thank-yous. As you know, I totally believe in the importance of saying “thank you” in writing. But in reality, sometimes it can be less than easy. Writing thank-you notes take time, patience, and good spelling…not to mention stamps.

Oh yes, nothing holds up a thank-you like not having stamps.

There I sat, trying to simultaneously spell words for two different girls. Trying to patiently help them, not confuse them, keep the words and people from getting swapped, and all the while biting my tongue as I watched yet another piece of custom stationery fall to the waste side.

Yes, I admit, it was overwhelming. That’s right, even The Gracious Girl broke a sweat over thank-you notes.

But then, I remembered; this isn’t about me or even the girls. This is about the beautiful act of sitting down and showing gratitude to someone else.

That’s right.

The “You” in the thank-you.

And let’s face it, an e-mail or text simply doesn’t carry the sentiment. So, why is it that this beautiful gesture often brings along its sidekicks guilt, dread, and procrastination?

How as an etiquette professional can we help the Thank-You loose the seedy crowd it’s been hanging with, help people embrace the “you” in thank you and pick up a pen and say these all important words.

Talk to me Gracious Girls, what holds up your thank-yous?  I’m all ears!

Oh, before you go.  In the spirit of Thank-you notes this week we hosting a three part series, and for festive measure will be giving away 5 Crane’s Blue Books!

Blue Book of Stationery

So, Gracious Girls, a simple comment will enter you to win one of these stationery must haves!

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah 01.05.11 at 7:57 am

I love sending and receiving thank you notes! My mom always sat my siblings and I down after Christmas to write thank you notes too. I didn’t like it much when I was little but I still do it to this day!

Sara 01.05.11 at 8:10 am

We love thank you notes and use the divide and conquer approach. After each event (birthday, Christmas, ect..) we make a list and divide it up to complete a few each day. Makes it much more manageable and especially helps keep the kids handwriting looking neat. That way the thank you note for the last person on the list still looks as good as the first. And if you start right away, they are always mailed in a timely manner.

Rachael 01.05.11 at 8:22 am

Ohh yes, those dreaded thank you notes! I got married in November & kept putting them off until finally tackling my part of it over the holiday break. It helped that I finally abandoned the idea of doing homemade cards & went and bought formal thank you cards.

The thoughts & dreads:
So MANY of them! And “they’ll never get done fast enough for my family so I’ll just be a late ingrate no matter what.” What to say to those who gave us cash or checks? And do we tell them we uhh spent the money already on the honeymoon? What if I sound fake or can’t think of enough to say? I’m so tired too, oh I don’t want to do this TONIGHT, after work. Weekend? Oh yeah I’ll get to them…

Like I said, I finally tackled the writing the part, with the help of a website or two (I think I got advice from The Knot). Now I’m just waiting for hubby to finish addressing, stamping & sending the envelopes… and wondering how long till (or if) I step in & help so we get them out.

I definitely felt very grateful for everything we received, but I have such a history of guilt from not knowing how to be gracious & pretty much mostly having gotten passive-aggressive messages from family (if at all) about it, rather than actual guidance.

Uhh, sorry about the long comment! Thanks for bringing up this great topic.

Katie Leonard 01.05.11 at 8:47 am

I bought a box of Thank You Cards the week before Christmas so I would be ready. I have labeled the cards with the name of the addressee, and so far that’s where we’re at. (Three years ago we made super cute thank you’s with pictures of the kids opening gifts from the people who sent them…they never made it out. I’m determined not to let this happen again.) It’s really important to me to say Thank You! but for me I think it’s the time involved that causes me to procrastinate. Addresses for all the cards, stamps, and then of course the sitting down with my littles to actually write them.

Kate 01.05.11 at 9:09 am

As effort is taken to select, purchase, gift-wrap, and send a gift, the energy and time it takes to write a thank you note seems small by compare. For me, it is a great opportunity to remember/document “who gave what”. Writing sooner than later is a pro-active step; you don’t have to “remember” or forget, writing the note becomes more daunting and embarrassing the longer you wait, and if you write sooner, then you can do a few a day and it becomes a skill, not a chore!

Doreen Mendez 01.05.11 at 9:35 am

I would love the Blue Book!!! I agree with Maria – Thank you Notes are very important in my family. It shows gratitude for the thoughtfulness that has come our way and it reinforces a special tie with the receiver which encourages gracious communication of our sentiments and it is a wonderful tangible expression of our gratefulness. Happy New Year!

Kim Cleveland 01.05.11 at 9:54 am

Do you need to write a thank you note for a gift you received at Christmas when you opened the gift with the giver in attendance and thanked them in person? I was always taught that you send a thank you note when you receive a gift and the giver is not in attendance (birthday, Christmas, etc).

jules 01.05.11 at 9:56 am

As wonderful as it is to give a gift, the very most delightful present one can receive is a note of thanks… speaks volumes! The gift giver is aknowledged that the gift has been recieved and brings delightful closesure to both the receive & the the giver.

catherine johnson 01.05.11 at 9:57 am

I think this would be a great idea for someone who is absent minded about sending out Thank you notes. I usually get out maybe half of the notes before I forget where I left off.So seeing this on More on KPTV 12 I thought what a perfect idea.

Jessica Peonio 01.05.11 at 9:57 am

Thank you Mindy for taking time to remind us all te importance of gratitude! I, too, sat with my two children and completed thank you cards last week for all of our holiday treasures. My four year old enjoys being hands on, but my six month old wasn’t sure about so much time being spent on something besides him.

I am a firm believer in hand written thank you notes for things as small as an enjoyable conversation to something such as a gift!

Your appearance on Good Day Oregon today is appreciated! I can’t wait to try the tea and toast!


Stefanie 01.05.11 at 12:30 pm

I struggle with thank-you notes. I want to write them and know I should write them but sometimes I don’t. When is it too late to write a thank-you card or is it ever too late?

valerie 01.05.11 at 12:34 pm

I saw your segment with Kimberly Maas and was thrilled to see such a good idea as “Tea & Toast” to encourage children to have fun with thank you notes. The most important aspect of a thank you note, as instilled by my grandmother, is to start with a sentence of how much one enjoyed the gift and NEVER start with the words “thank you.” I did not see this mentioned in the overview nor any of the comments.

I applaud your efforts!

Stephanie Jiroch 01.05.11 at 1:28 pm

I love thank you notes but I agree, timewise it can be quite the task! I keep a drawer of custom stationary and notes (usually from PaperSource) I’ve acquired over the years always handy for a simple hello, thank you or birthday. I received a new calligraphy set at Christmas and I am ecstatic to use for all my card writing endeavors! Personally, the flow and look of the ink on paper is just as important as the look and feel of the note. I ALWAYS recommend a handwriting class 🙂

Kate Holmes 01.05.11 at 2:01 pm

After looking for really great cards at my favorite stationery store I found several great choices. I plunked down the debit card which is still smoking hot from the Christmas purchases and bought them on the spot. Remember I complained about not being able to find cards I liked, but once I actually made the effort to get serious about wrapping this up it all came together. I still have labels and stamps from my Christmas cards so it was a cinch. The problem I have involves multiple gifts from parents of my husband’s students, choir members and other random people who give said gifts to husband who then allows the cards and gifts to be separated and I have no idea who gave what to us. Makes for an insincere thank you message I do believe. Then there is the quaint tradition of dropping off the gift at the house where my son will nosh on the treat if it is edible but can’t remember who brought it by. Eliminating the “middle men” would help but seems a bit heavy handed. So instead we established a scholarship fund for music students at my husband’s school so people can donate to that and it can be tracked. Folks seem to really love donating to a music program. If you send my one of those blue books I will make every effort to send a timely thank you note!

Emily Willard 01.05.11 at 5:11 pm

I saw you on Channel 12 news this morning and would love to receive a starter kit you are giving away. I am not sure where I am supposed to leave a message, but I thought this might work! Thanks! I can’t wait to get started being a Gracious Girl too!

Mindy Lockard 01.05.11 at 6:06 pm

Sarah! I love hearing that you enjoy the process now. It’s my hope and prayer that Elle and Maggie will fondly remember our times together writing thank-yous. Thank you

Mindy Lockard 01.05.11 at 6:06 pm

I think dividing and conquering is the key Sara! Thanks for that fantastic reminder!

Mindy Lockard 01.05.11 at 6:10 pm

Rachael, I can’t tell you how much I apprecaite your thoughtful and honest comment! I think we’ve put too much pressure on the act of thank-you. I’m like you, the more pressure that’s put on me for something the more I clam up. Get nervous. Where thank-yous are concerned, the pressure should be off! It’s a beautiful act–that should be done timely fashion–but we should never feel bullied into it. Thanks again for sharing!

Alanna 01.09.11 at 10:23 am

Oh I hope I’m not too late! Having a Crane’s Blue Book would be a tremendous help to me as I love to write thank you notes but often struggle with finding just the right thing to say. I like to show the recipient how much they mean to me by taking the time to send a well-written note! I didn’t even know Crane’s had these books! I will be adding this to my wish list, that is, if I don’t happen to win one!

Christina 01.09.11 at 2:46 pm

I am a huge believer in handwritten thank you notes. I love writing a note to thank someone for a kind word or gesture or gift. I feel like it is a little thing that can go a long way in making someone’s day.

I find it incredibly sad that hand-written thank yous seem to be something that a lot of people feel are not longer necessary in the time of email and text messaging.

Melissa 01.13.11 at 11:43 am

It’s never too early to learn “please” and “thank you” 🙂

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