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What to write in a thank-you card to express your sincere gratitude

An etiquette expert shares tips and tricks to help you draft a heartfelt message.

The words we use to show our thanks lets the recipient know that we appreciate their gesture, no matter how big or small. Though it might seem insignificant, the act of saying "thank you" benefits not only the receiver, but the person showing the appreciation, too.

“Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build relationships,” according to Harvard Health.

Lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann says it’s good practice to write a thank-you note within one week and, if possible, within three days. "But being late is always better than never sending one at all," she told TODAY.

But when it comes to writing a thank-you card, finding the right words to express your feelings isn’t always easy. Swann, however, recommends keeping messages short and sweet.

“The reason why people have a challenge writing a thank-you note is because they’re putting too much effort to write this long, eloquent sort of perspective,” she said.

It's equally important to be specific about what exactly you're thanking them for. "Don't not name the gift or the act," Swann said. The same goes for money, which some people believe is taboo to mention in a thank-you card. "You can write 'thank you for the monetary gift,'" she added.

To get a handle on the best way to say "thanks," follow Swann's tips below.

What to write in a thank-you card for a gift

For anyone unsure of what they want to say, Swann recommends writing a first draft on a piece of scratch paper to work out any kinks, then copying it over to the card when you feel comfortable. “Do make sure that your note is handwritten as opposed to done electronically and printed out,” she added.

Need some more guidance? Take Swann's step-by-step approach.

  1. Though it might seem obvious, Swann says it's important to start off your note by actually saying "thank you." "Address the person and say ‘thank you' because sometimes people forget that part."
  2. Name or reference the gift specifically.
  3. Write a sentence or two about how you plan to use the gift or what you like about it.

If you aren’t a fan of the gift, Swann recommends writing about the giver rather than the gift. “Put your focus on the individual and thank them for their thoughtfulness or their kindness.”

For example, instead of writing how you’ll use the gift, Swann suggests writing something along the lines of “your graciousness has warmed my heart” or “your thoughtfulness is so meaningful to me.”

The ideas below are simply thought-starters because, as Swann puts it, there’s only one major don’t: not sending a thank-card at all.

Examples of what to write in a thank-you card

For a gift

The following messages can be tailored to different occasions, including birthdays, anniversaries and retirement.

  • Thank you for sending money for (occasion). I've been saving for ______________ and this will help so much.
  • Thank you so much for the ____________________ you got for my birthday. I genuinely love it and will use ________________ every day.
  • Thank you so much for remembering my birthday/ anniversary and sending such a thoughtful gift. I will treasure it almost as much as I treasure you.
  • Anniversaries are special and so was your gift. Thank you so much for the beautiful __________________. We will cherish it.
  • Thank you so much for thinking of me at Christmas and for the ______________________. You are always so thoughtful! Thank you again.
  • Thank you so much for the kind retirement gift. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and will use the __________________ to ____________________.

For a wedding gift

  • Thank you so much for the ___________________ for our wedding. We will definitely put ____________________ to good use. We are so happy you could share this special day with us.
  • Thank you so much for the generous wedding gift. We are planning to use the money for our honeymoon and appreciate your thoughtfulness.
  • Thank you for coming to our wedding and for the lovely gift of _________________. It was wonderful seeing you and we are glad you could share the day with us.
  • Thank you for thinking of us on our wedding day! We love the _______________ and appreciate your thoughtfulness. Sending our love and gratitude.

For a bereavement donation or gift

  • Thank you for thinking of us during this difficult time. We appreciate your donation to ___________________ in memory of our/my ___________________. Your thoughtfulness and support mean so much.
  • Thank you for the beautiful flower arrangement you sent for our/my __________________. Though it has been a difficult time, your thoughtfulness and support have been greatly appreciated. With gratitude, _______________.
  • Thank you so much for the gift in memory of _________________. We are grateful for your love and thoughtfulness during this sad time.
  • Thank you for your kind expression of sympathy and beautiful flower arrangement.
  • I am so touched by your thoughtfulness. Thank you so much for ________________ during this difficult time.
  • My heartfelt appreciation for your love and support during this difficult time. Thank you.

For a graduation gift

  • Thank you so much for your thoughtful graduation gift. I will be attending _____________________ (school) in the fall and the money will come in handy covering some of my extra expenses.
  • Thank you for the graduation gift! I loved getting the _________________ and plan to use it for _________________. I hope this finds you well. Thank you again.
  • Thank you so much for remembering me at graduation. It is an exciting time and I appreciate you thinking of me by sending __________________. Though I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to use it for, I'm grateful for the extra financial help!

How to write a professional thank-you note

It's not just about gifts. At one point or another, you may find yourself wondering what to send a potential employer after having completed a job interview.

Swann suggests following these three steps:

  1. Thank the employer for the "act, which is taking time for the interview." An example: “Thank you for taking the time out to meet with me last Wednesday.”
  2. Reference anything interesting you learned during the interview. This is also the time to mention why becoming a part of the team could be beneficial to you — and them.
  3. Close by saying you look forward to hearing from them soon.

If you were referred to the job by a friend or colleague, Swann says you should "say something about that referral." While you're at it, thank your referral and let them know you'll update them on the eventual outcome.

For a job offer or interview

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me about the _______________ role at __________________. It's an excellent position and opportunity for me to add value to the team. I enjoyed learning about ____________________ and look forward to hearing from you.
  • Thank you for referring me for the job at ____________________. It’s a great connection for me and I will let you know how things work out.
  • Thank you so much for meeting with me regarding the ________________ role at ___________________. I appreciate your time and learning more about the position. Please let me know if you have any further questions. Otherwise, I look forward to hearing from you.

How to thank someone for their help or support

Sometimes, actions speak louder than words (or, well, gifts). When someone does a favor for you or is there when you need it most, acknowledge them with a thank-you card.

"People will be grateful to see that you have remembered their kindness towards you," Swann said.

In this instance, it's best to write a note that comes straight from the heart. Even so, Swann's three steps still apply. Here are a few examples to help get you started.

  • Thank you for helping out with ____________________. We couldn’t have done it without you.
  • Thank you for pitching in to ________________ when we needed a hand! With gratitude, ____________________.
  • Thank you so much. Your support means so much, now more than ever.
  • There's no "i" in team. Thank you for all the help with ______________.