— -- If you still haven't written a thank you note for a gift you got last month, you've broken one of the rules of thank-you note etiquette already.
There's still opportunity to redeem yourself -- but it's not by email, text or even phone.
Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized etiquette expert, author and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, says while an email or text message is nice and a phone call is fine, nothing conveys heartfelt thanks better than a handwritten note.
“A handwritten note is a tangible and personal expression of your appreciation. It signifies that you took the time to focus solely on the giver, that you cared enough to express your gratitude,” Whitmore said. “Letter writing is a lost art and when you write a personal note, you are creating something that will last, both on a piece paper and in a person’s memory.”
In other words, time to take Nike's slogan to heart : Just do it.
Whitmore’s seven tips on how to write the perfect thank-you note:
1. Keep it short and simple. "A thank-you note doesn’t have to be long, it just has to say thank you." The average thank-you note contains 4-5 lines, Whitmore said.
2. Write by hand. Don’t worry if you think your handwriting is illegible. "Your handwriting will hold allure for the reader because it is an extension of yourself."
3. Start with a salutation. Begin by writing, “Dear Paul, or Hello Paul.” This makes it more personal than just launching into the note, Whitmore advised.
4. Express your gratitude. Be specific by mentioning the gift. "Instead of saying, 'Thank you for the pottery.' Try, 'Thank you for the handmade ceramic bowl from New Mexico.'"
5. Mention how you plan to use the gift or how much the gift means to you. For example, “'The bowl goes perfect with my décor and I plan to proudly display it on my coffee table,”' Whitmore said. "If you receive money or a gift card, allude how you intend to use it by saying something like, 'Now I can buy that new pair of shoes I’ve always wanted.'" Even if you don’t like the gift, a simple thank-you will suffice, she said.
6. Reiterate your gratitude. Close your letter by saying, “Thank you again for your generous and thoughtful gift.”
7. Send it promptly: "It’s best to send your thank-you note within a week of receiving a gift," Whitemore said. "If more time passes or you simply forget to write a note, send the note as soon as you remember. After all, it’s better to send it late than never."