by Beth Boswell Jacks
How difficult is it to write a decent note of gratitude? Not very. The fact is, unfortunately, note writing skills seem to be getting worse as the years go by, although I admit that as my age and crochety index rise, my nit-picking inclination does as well.
First of all, I deplore notes without a greeting. Please address my thank you notes like this: “Dear Mrs. Jacks.” I bought the gift and will tell Mr. Jacks, who paid for it, that you like it a lot.
Please use black or blue-black ink, and do avoid smilie faces and hearts as illustrations of your pleasure. Do not use a fill-in-the-blank card (“Thank you for the _________”) and do not use a fancy computer font to print your note. Handwritten means handwritten.
Length? Some old school marms insist on three paragraphs, each with three sentences, at the least; frankly, that’s about all one can squeeze on a note card. I don’t mind a shorter note, but three or four sentences should be minimum.
Simple is good. Cut to the chase. “Thank you for the velvet picture of Graceland that you and Mr. Jacks gave Billy Joe and me.” Do not thank me for sending a gift to “Billy Joe and I.” Would you say, “Thank you for sending a gift to I?” No, you wouldn’t.
Related rules to the above are 1) Don’t lie, and 2) Don’t exaggerate. You don’t have to say the velvet picture is “absolutely the most brilliant work of art” you’ve ever seen. I know that.
Say something personal to me if you can. “I remember what an enthusiastic cheerer you were at my ball games, and I hope to see you when I’m back in town visiting my parents.” Choose your words carefully; don’t imply (legitimately) that I’m a loud mouth.
What if you really hate the velvet picture of Graceland? Are there ways to express gratitude when you receive a present you’d like to pitch in the bayou? Of course. Be creative. Try these: “I really did not deserve such an extraordinary piece.” Or, “How can I adequately thank you for such a unique gift?” Or perhaps, “I opened your gift and told my mother, ‘Well, would you look at this!’”
Then finally, end the note by saying something like “Thanks again for your kindness,” but under no circumstances should you write the following overused, stale statement: “Thank you for thinking of me at this special time in my life.”
Awggg! I cringe as I type the words.
If you haven’t started writing thank you notes but the advent approaches, post a big reminder: “Remember the critical ‘special time in my life’ rule.” Put the words in caps if that helps or scrawl them on your palm with ballpoint pen. Carve them in the kitchen table with your Swiss army knife. Do something.
Follow these guidelines, my dears, and I will thank you.
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