Twelve simple steps to the perfect thank you note

thank you notesWe returned from a trip recently to a stack of newspapers on the counter and a pile of mail, on top of which were three hand-addressed note cards for me.

It felt like Christmas.

Oh, the art and tradition of the hand-written note, sent by parcel post with a bona fide, first class stamp. Proof positive each and every one of us is more than just a random collection of cells that managed to drag itself from the muck and become capable of inventing such wonders as two-ply toilet paper with little flowers stamped on it.

There is nothing quite like putting together the perfect note, one which you know your friends will open with glee, and pause to appreciate you as a highly civilized person, regardless of the type of toilet paper you stock.

I happen to have a stack of thank yous of my own to write. But the thrill I experienced coming home to a few addressed to me inspired a procrastinative pause to compile a few, simple steps to crafting the perfect one.

Step 1: Stock up on pretty note cards to have on hand when the need arises. They can be simple, unprinted cards, or expensive monogramed things that scream so much business, the mere act of opening your note will likely obligate the recipient to lunch at the club.

Step 2: Get a good pen. Avoid writing utensils that leak like you do these days when you sneeze. Random ink globs diminish the joy of the note-writing experience. You want to pay attention to ink flow as well. Nothing says “my family tends to intermarry” like ink smeared across the page from a goopy pen.

Step 3: Set the stage. Kick everyone out of the house, change into comfy clothes, put on soothing music. Get something to drink, note-writing’s thirsty work. The beverage should correlate roughly to the correspondence. A soothing cup of tea works for the letter to your committee member who takes excellent notes at meetings. Vodka rocks for that mea culpa to the deacon you called last week with a polite but panicked query about the program artwork his marketing department was to have sent the week before, and who subsequently likely heard you cussing like a sailor on his voice mail when you didn’t properly hang up.

Step 4: Think about what you’ll say. The best thank yous are succinct but comprehensive, warm without being disingenuous, witty without snark, direct, light-hearted, friendly, gracious, effusive, gregarious, lugubrious, convivial, and inspiring. Generally, you just want to give your reader a sense of floating above a field of freshly bloomed lavender, which waves languidly in the summer breeze while fluffy, white clouds float across an azure sky.

Step 5: I was kidding. Just say “Thanks, that was nice of you,” or something simple. Don’t use too many commas or words you consistently misspell. You don’t want to have to cross shit out and look like you hired a fifth grader to do this. And on that note, you should know a kitten dies every time you use an exclamation point, so be sparing on the bold statements. And please understand, if you use any of those bubble hearts for “i” dots, I will personally hunt you down and take away all your flower-stamped toilet paper.

Step 6: Wait a sec. Before you write anything, take out some scratch paper and practice your cursive. Remember cursive? It’s classy. And easier than the calligraphy you learned in ninth grade and subsequently every grandparent, godmother and aunt expected every note to look like it was penned by the damn queen mother or something. Cursive isn’t as bad as calligraphy so buck up, sister.

Step 7: Get another drink. This time make it a double and breathe. You don’t have to write the dang thing in cursive. Nobody can read that shit anymore anyway. Since you’ve apparently devolved into writing exclusively in the big, block lettering you developed when helping your kindergartener learn his ABCs, just go with that. At least it’s legible, and you’re running out of time. Everyone will be home soon and start asking about dinner.

Step 8: Get the address. You’ll find it either on the Christmas card list you stored in a file on your computer …. someplace. Or maybe it’s on that business card you stowed in your purse. There, in the back pocket with the lip balm and the remains of the ten-year-old throat lozenge that broke into a million pieces at some point. Do NOT take the time to clean out your purse right now, there are people coming home at any minute and you are going to get at least one thank you note done this afternoon, you loser.

Step 9: WHY do we never have freaking STAMPS in this godforsaken HOUSE? What are we, primates? Would it be possible to ever have a book of stamps on hand to send out a simple note once in a while? Refresh your drink.

Step 10: Tear the house apart looking for stamps. Mash some peanut butter sandwiches together when the kids come home wanting dinner. Dissolve into a puddle of self-pity on the bathroom floor because you cannot, apparently, function as a fully-fledged adult and complete this most basic act of courtesy.

Step 11: Calm down. Sober up. Buy stamps. While you’re at it, buy some better pens, too. And maybe some nice note cards and envelopes for the next time you get the bright idea to write a note.

Step 12: Find the handwritten note you forgot about days (or even weeks) later when you finally sort through the stack that’s been pushed to the back of the desk with a bunch of papers. Stick a stamp on it. Put it in the mail. You’re terrible at this, but you can hold your head high for at least getting it done, which is more than we can say for ninety percent of the entire human population.

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6 comments

  1. My kids used to write thank you notes, now everything\’s emailed. I\’m guilty of hardly ever doing them anymore except if its an older relative. Like the idea of vodka on the rocks, however. Will keep that in mind…

    1. I realized last night that I\’d inadvertently missed a thank you note that I\’d meant to include in the pile, and it was soooo late. My son said \”text him, mom, text him right now and tell him a thank you note is coming.\” So, kind of a hybrid solution, I guess.

  2. *shudder* I dang near had an anxiety attack just seeing the words \”thank you note\”. About 99% of the reason I wanted a small wedding was to cut down on the number of those I\’d have to write afterward.

    Still too many. Should\’ve eloped.

  3. Ha ha, love this! I\’m always so happy to receive hand written notes and letters, but I really don\’t look forward to writing them myself. I do it anyway though, lol! I\’m always struggling to find stamps \’round here too! I started keeping a book of them in my car, which I\’ve been very, very grateful for many times! I\’m kind of sad that hand written letters and notes seem to be way less common than they used to be!