The Under Estimated Power of Hand Written Gratitude.

Last Sunday, I stooped to a new low.

My friend had my family and me up to her country house.  She turned it into an impromptu belated birthday party for me, complete with a present and a made-from-scratch cake topped with thick frosting and sparklers.

In return I thanked her with a text message (complete with a typo because I wasn’t wearing my glasses).


I’m not an ungrateful oaf.  I’ve just always hated writing thank you notes by hand because no matter how well I prepare, I inevitably make a typo.   By this point I’m tense about making the same mistake again, but wind up making even more mistakes, because I’m even tenser about wasting stationary and time.  On top of this, my handwriting has devolved to that of a demented 4-year-old thanks to living life digitally.

If I do finish my note, the challenge then becomes finding stamps that have the right postage or don’t have a candy cane on them from Christmas.    Because of this, hand written thank you notes have been known to linger too long in my purse, getting mangy until finally I give in and let it rip with a GD holiday stamp in the middle of summer.

The thing is, my mother and grandmother beat old school etiquette into my head, so I feel I’ve somehow wronged the universe if I try to skate by with an email.  And I have to admit, there is nothing lovelier than the tactile experience of seeing a thick, handwritten envelope tumble out from the drudgery of bills and Pottery Barn catalogues.  I’ll almost always devour the note before I get in the door.

My grandmother (Grammy) was a master of hand written thank you notes and letters.  She would write them for every occasion and spritz them with Norel or Chanel #5 until she died five years ago at the age of 94.  The other day I came across a few and realized how much of her was still with me.   Her notes spanned a period of about 20 years, with each one bringing me back to the moment she wrote about, whether it was her reservations about my boyfriend (now husband), her delight at finding out I was pregnant or the joy she got from the white lilies I sent her each year for her birthday.   I believe a picture is worth a thousand words, but nothing can trump holding the real words of someone you love and miss in your hand.

Notes from Grammy

So in honor of Grammy, and to my friends who deserve better than a typo ridden text, I am whipping out my fancy stationary and penning some gratitude.  Here’s how I prepare myself to give a meaningful thanks:

1. Occasions for writing thank you notes.  I go the handwritten route when I’ve been given a gift, been a houseguest, when someone throws a  party in my honor of if someone has had me over for a special dinner (not casual pizza and Pinot).  Personally, I don’t think you have to wait for something big.  What made Grammy’s notes special was that she would write them for small gestures as a way of telling me how I special I was to her.

2. Timing. The ideal time to send a thank you is within 2 weeks, but up to 3 months is acceptable, so no excuses.  However, don’t write more than 2 thank you notes within a 6-month period, unless there are unusual circumstances.  You will begin to look like a stalker.

3. Accessorize with a fabulous stationary wardrobe.  As lazy as I am about thank you notes, I’m a sucker for great stationary and inky purple pens. You can’t go wrong with cards of fold over notes, just be sure to avoid legal size paper or 8×11 size that you might use for business.  My go to thank you note stationary du jour are these Kate Spade Florence Broadhurst cards.  They’re super thick and have unexpected punches of neon that say thanks in a fun way.  I’ve also just found religion in the Forever stamps which liberated me from the tyranny of left over holiday stamps.

4. Note structure should only be between 4-5 sentences.  Here is the basic framework:

  • Dear__________
  • Thank them for the gift/gesture
  • Tell them how you plan to use the gift, how it fits into your life or playback a small memory from the time spent together that made it special or moved you.  One note of caution; if someone gave you money, never refer to the actual amount.
  • Allude that you either hope to see them again, or are looking forward to an even where you know you will.
  • Sign off – either love, affectionately, or sincerely, depending on how well you know them.

5. Write it out on a computer before putting pen to paper to sound natural and avoid typos.  Before  you begin to write, think about how good that person will feel getting your note.  On top of that, think about what that person means to you in your life to inspire some extra personal meaning.

6. Spritz with caution.  I loved that every note I got from Grammy smelled like her, but save these for those very close to you or your female friends.  For instance, if you’re dropping a note to your friend’s husband who fixed your car and it smells like roses, it might send  the wrong signal.

How do you like to say thank you?