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Five Great Finishing School Lessons: Pt 3, No, Thank YOU. | Manolo for the Big Girl

Five Great Finishing School Lessons: Pt 3, No, Thank YOU.

Dearest Big Willie,

William you are the sweetest thing with two eyebrows on the face of this earth! Thank you so much for the monogrammed set of toothbrushes, I just adore them. I’ve needed a good toiletry set for ages and these are perfect. Now I can keep one at the cathedral and one at Lambeth, so you won’t have to go waking up the curates asking them to run to the corner shop. You’re so thoughtful! The whole thing reminds me of the time we were up all night writing “Canterbury Rules, York Drools” in toothpaste on Archbishop Sentamu’s Daewoo. The look on his face! We should definitely do it again soon…how is Pentecost looking for you? I’d love to express my appreciation in person. Thank you again and give my best to the Queen next time you see her, is she still made at us? I’m so embarrassed. Who would’ve thought palace walls would be so thin.

All my love,

Plumcake

That, my friend is how you write a thank-you note, which you should do. Often. On nice stationery with a proper pen. If you think you can get away without writing thank you notes you are wrong wrong wrongity wrong.  Email is handy, the telephone is fun, and texting is convenient but nothing will ever replace the thoughtfully written note of thanks, received in the mail.

Now, the received wisdom is “Nice Girls only use Crane” and rest assured, I love my Crane letterhead, but  for notes I’ve been a devotee of the California Classic Frame from Sassy Girl Stationery for years.

Plumcake's stationery

And since an order from Sassy Girl usually sets me back  less than $60 including embossed envelopes and monogram seals as compared to Crane where fifty embossed note cards would set me back over $300.  Crane IS better, but it’s not $240/yr better.

The format for writing a thank you note is as follows:

  • Salutation –If you are affectionate with the person, use an affectionate salutation. Otherwise use the appropriate business title and plain old “Dear”.
  • Opening Acclimation —This is finesse work and makes the note feel more conversational
  • First Thanks —You thank the person for the gift, specifying what it is.
  • Express Need — Let them know how your life was just a shell before their gift IF IT’S A BAD GIFT skip expressing need and put something nice about how flattered you are that Auntie Hilda was thinking about you.
  • Express intent —What you’re going to DO with the gift.
  • Personal Anecdote —Another bit of finesse work. Remind them of a happy time together.
  • Invitation —Invite them to keep in touch or have an activity together so you can thank them in person. If this isn’t plausible, at least express a wish.
  • Final Thanks —Thank them again and add a little “stinger” at the end to make them smile.
  • Closing —Love, Sincerely, whatever works for you and is appropriate.

17 Responses to “Five Great Finishing School Lessons: Pt 3, No, Thank YOU.”

  1. wildflower April 22, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    Nicely done, Plumcake! Thank you!

  2. Rosa April 22, 2010 at 5:59 pm #

    I love writing and receiving personal cards. To find more gorgeous stationery beyond Crane’s – including beautifully letterpressed notecards – your readers should also check out Etsy and its various artisans. Also a great source for handmade, pretty – and made to order! – clothes from all kinds of solo-shop designers world-wide.

  3. Jessica April 22, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    Wonderful article, I had such a hard time finding well-expressed instructions on wriiting thank you notes!! I think I have written over 300 in the past two years (wedding and baby!) so I’m getting to be quite fluent in the language of thank you’s. I will be saving this article to look back on. After writing many thank you’s in a row you have to be reminded of the content and form, otherwise it all turns into a mush of quickly/sloppily written thanks. I am loving this series of Lessons!!

  4. teteatete April 22, 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    If you’re REALLY wanting some to-die-for stationery, try Smythson of Bond Street. It’s absofreakinglutely gorgeous stuff. Incredibly expensive, but so so sososososo amazingly wonderful. I had one of their leather yearly diaries and I’d take it out of my purse to just smell it.

  5. Toby Wollin April 22, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    One of the great things about all the email, tweets, facebook messages et al. is that a personal letter on any sort of paper is something special. I’m not saying that sending a letter on paper ripped out of a spiral bound notebook would be considered special (definitely unusual, but not particularly special), but at this point, I think recipients would gasp with pleasure whether the message was put on Cranes or something else nice. I checked the site of the mocha cards and, psst, they are on sale and come in other color combos as well.

  6. Kristen Mead April 22, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    Plumcake, dear, you are a wonder. I’ve been reading on and off for years, and it is rare to find someone with such wonderful social taste. My husband’s mother refused to invite any less than 150 couples and families to our 2nd wedding reception, so I’ve had to write many, many thank you letters. My husband and his mother have wanted to know what takes so long with a thank you note–and this is why. Folks out there were thoughtful enough to send us something special, they deserve a full fledged Thank You Note, written with thought, wit, grace, and encased in style. Not some silly little el-cheapo thank you note with two bare sentences hastily scrawled. I have not seen many of these people since, and may not ever again, but this letter will make an impression. And if I’m going to make an impression, it had better be a wonderful one–so that they know that their beloved little Russell is in the hands of a very special lady.

    Thank you again for such a wonderful explanation!

  7. Mrs. Hendricks April 23, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    When are you going to write your book, dear Plumcake? Or have you already, and you’re just looking for a worthy publisher? Today’s finishing school lesson was marvelous. I think I write a pretty good thank you note, but I’m still keeping this little gem nearby.

  8. Mrsbug April 23, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    Excellent point. My mom always made us write thank you notes to my grandmother for the gawdawfully patterened clothes she made. :sigh: She was an amazing seamstress, but still stuck in the 70s with her cloth patterns. Of course, now, I’d be dying for some of those, but…anyway…

    Another great place for stationary is Paper Source: http://www.paper-source.com/cgi-bin/paper/stationery/index.html

  9. The gold digger April 23, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    And if you don’t write a thank-you note to me for your high school graduation gift (that was extorted from me via a graduation announcement from your mother, my college friend, even though I DO NOT KNOW YOU), I will certainly not send you a college graduation gift.

    Yes. I keep track of those things.

  10. The gold digger April 23, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    PPS I have had to write three condolence notes in the past six weeks. Nice parents of my friends, dropping dead.* I always struggle with those, especially when I did not know the parent. Would you do a segment on “I’m so sorry for your loss?”

    * The mean, nasty ones refuse to die.

  11. Astra April 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    So, I’m 39, so I have spanned the transition from computers being rare to ubiquitous. Now that I do everything on a computer, my hand cramps up quickly when I write and the less said about my handwriting, the better. I still write thank-you notes, but has anyone else noticed the decline in hand muscles in the modern era?

  12. missm April 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    In my family, too, if one stopped writing thank-you notes, one stopped receiving gifts.

  13. Plumcake April 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    @Astra, yes. And also the decline in penmanship. I think the NYT had an article on penmanship for adults a few years ago. I’ve got a nice enough hand, but look at some of the letters our founding fathers wrote. Their penmanship is beautiful.

    @MssM: As well they should! I think I read once about a lady who sent a check for someone’s birthday and the recipient “forgot” to send a thank you card. Next year the lady “forgot” to sign the check.

    @Gold Digger:
    Done and done, look at today’s post.

  14. hickchick April 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    Now I feel really bad about the wedding thank you notes I just sent out. I was considering it a win that it actually got done…

  15. larkspur April 24, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    @Astra – me too! I can barely make it to the end of a thank you note, and the writing doesn’t look so good… For some reason, i also have trouble thinking of what to say while writing it out by hand, but have no trouble writing when I’m typing.

  16. Tiff April 25, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    When I was a child, from the time I was old enough to hold a pencil and form recognizable letters, my mother stood over me until I had completed a thank you not each time I received a gift. I am eternally grateful for this- when I got married, a mishap with my husband’s business delayed us for a day in taking our honeymoon, so I spent my first full day of married life, quietly writing out all our thank you notes following more or less this format. We mailed them the very next day. When I saw his aunt at the family reunion a month and a half later (my husband’s godmother, known as The Protocol Aunt), she leaned over to me and said, “Tiffany, I got your thank you note so promptly!” I mentally pumped my fist in triumph.

  17. Lee April 27, 2010 at 6:25 am #

    @Astra – me too! I can barely make it to the end of a thank you note, and the writing doesn’t look so good… For some reason, i also have trouble thinking of what to say while writing it out by hand, but have no trouble writing when I’m typing.