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Thank-you notes are an important and timeless aspect of business and social etiquette. They’re a gesture of your gratitude and respect. They should be sent to anyone who gives you a gift, hosts a party, has entertained you for dinner or overnight,  or went the extra mile for you (I.e., your cat sitter also shoveled your driveway while you were gone!). And after a job interview, sending a thank-you note is a professional gesture that shows good etiquette.

Yes, you can send your thanks via email, or perhaps you thanked the giver in person, but there’s nothing that makes you stand out more…and makes the recipient remember you well…than a handwritten thank-you note.

January is National Thank You Month. So, here are a few etiquette tips on how to write a perfect thank-you note and when to send it.

Swift thanks is sweet thanks. Send the note within 24 hours if possible, or no later than 2-3 days after the event or receipt of the gift. An interview thank-you note should be sent the same day or next day.

Always start the note with a greeting such as Dear Aunt Helen or Hello, Bill. Using a greeting is more personal than just starting right into the body of the note. Use formal titles and forms of address such as Mr. or Ms. for an interview thank-you note.

Thank you notes are short notes. Express your appreciation in 4-5 lines. Mention the specific event or item and how you plan to use it. For example: “Bill and I love the framed picture you took of us in front of the Eiffel Tower. It brings back such fond memories of our Paris trip with you.” Or, “You made our holidays so special by inviting us to be with your family this year. You made us feel so welcome and at home. We especially enjoyed playing board games in front of the fireplace.” Or, “Thank you for your generous gift of money. We plan to use it for our new sofa and can’t wait for you to visit and see it!”

Have a final short separate paragraph before the closing. For example, “Again, we appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness.”

For the sign off or closing, use what fits your relationship with the recipient. Examples: Love, Warmly, Sincerely, Appreciatively. For the business thank-you note, use Sincerely, Warm regards, Kind regards, etc.

Use a real stamp, not a postage meter. A thank-you note is personal, so keep it personal by choosing postage stamps that reflect your interest or season of the year. And, address the envelope by hand in your best penmanship.

Teach children the art of the thank-you note. Even pre-schoolers can send thank-you notes with the help of an adult. Purchase fill-in-the-blank thank-you notes which make the task easy and fun. As a child grows older, he or she can dictate to the parent what to write, and eventually write their own note.

In today’s fast-paced, microwave world, a hand-written thank-you note will elevate you and will always put a smile on someone’s face.