Modern-Day Etiquette: Thank You Notes

Photo: Iomoi

I love stationery. I can never have enough personalized stationery, letterpress cards and notepads; a paper goods shop is like a candy store to me. If I ever become a lady of leisure I would love to have a proper writing desk where I would sit for an hour or two in the morning writing little notes to people. As it stands, I am not a lady of leisure and I spend one to two hours a day mucking through my e-mail in-box and sending e-communication.


These days, written communication is mainly conducted via e-mail, SMS, messages left on your Facebook wall, or in an instant messenger window. When I look through my mail and I see a handwritten note from someone it totally makes my day. Not just because it is a change from the parade of bills, junk mail, and pre-approved credit card notices, but because someone took the time to sit down, take out a piece of stationery and write me a letter, track down a stamp and place it in the mailbox.

Following a meeting with a new client, an interview, a dinner or cocktail party I always send a handwritten thank you note. It’s memorable and it leaves a positive impression with the recipient. There is never a reason not to send a thank you note and the gesture is always appreciated.



When selecting your stationery, keep it simple. Make sure the lettering is visible on what ever card stock you select. Choose wisely, the stationery you choose will be a direct reflection of you -- stay away from cutesy motifs or anything too trendy.

Writing the Note

Neatness definitely counts -- bent paper, coffee spills and crossed out words render a thank you note un-sendable. I like to write a rough draft before putting pen to paper on my nice stationery. I like to write the draft in a notebook -- this way I have a record of exactly what I said in the note. It may seem like this extra step adds too much time to the task of writing a thank you note, but I think it is worth it to get the note and the sentiment right.

When thanking someone you know well, draw a short, diagonal slash through your last name. The slash will indicate that you are writing on an personal, first-name basis. On more formal or business notes, skip the slash.
Try and avoid using clichés, it makes the note less personal. It is also important to be natural and avoid sounding overly mannered or formal in personal correspondence. William Strunk and E. B. White said in their book The Elements of Style “Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.” The more personal and creative you are with your words the greater the impact of your thank you note.


All of the stationery featured in this post (with the exception of the blue pagoda at the top of the post, which is from Iomoi) is available at Red Stamp. Red Stamp is a great site for people obsessed with paper and office accessories. They also have a blog that discusses modern day etiquette. They currently have a great promotion going on called "You Deserve Good Paper" -- you get free stationery with every order!