How to Write a Thank You Note – Gratitude Day 3 of 30

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”
William James (1842-1910)


So many workers today face another day of thankless tasks. Mopping, sweeping, trash detail, jobs that have no name and may never be observed.

I found a Gallup poll (and shared it in the first post) that found:

65% of workers reported receiving no recognition or appreciation at work in the past 12 months
(How Full is Your Bucket by Rath & Clifton, 2004)

One would wonder what could happen to such a majority of thankless workers if someone started a Gratitude movement.

But how could you start this movement?

Keep your leadership simple. Take one small step everyday towards your goal : one thank you note per day.

Thank you notes are a lost art. Handwritten anything is a rare commodity with so much of our world gone digital.
Thus it’s value has increased.

I follow a simple template with all of my thank you cards:


Introduction – state what you are thankful for (1-2 sentences)

Middle – share details of why you are thankful (2-3 sentences)

Conclusion – restate your gratitude (1-2 sentence)


Maybe you think this is a boring format. That’s fine, spice up your notes. Everyone enjoys a purple cow.

However, I learned in my career and social life that this template never fails to inspire me when I write a Thank You Note.

Here are a few other rules when writing thank you notes:

1) Never request anything

The whole point of a thank you note is expressing your gratitude and displaying praise. A thank you note is ruined by a request because a request defeats the purpose of the note.

It’s like giving a wedding toast to the bride and groom but spending the majority of time discussing the intricate model of the quantum physic theories. It doesn’t fit in.

2) Only use the word “Thank You” twice

Stating your gratitude is great. You’re already above 99% of the population. But saying it too much is self-defeating.

“Thank you for this opportunity to be at the conference. I am so appreciative of the time we spent together. You were so generous to share your current projects with me and I thank you for this. I am extremely grateful for our meeting”

After the second sentence, the note just reads “blah, blah, blah”.

Limit yourself to no more than two “thank you’s”. Also, “appreciate” and “grateful” count as thank you’s.

3) Handwritten >>> Emails

Emails can be tossed into the digital trash bin forever, but a handwritten note means so much more.
I understand that in today’s world, we may not have a physical address, so email may be your only option.
But if you have an email, it’s easy to request a physical address.
I still have my handwritten thank you note from Jen McDonough (The Iron Jen) after I was on her show.

Here’s an example of a handwritten thank you that I wrote this morning:

 Dear XXXX,

Thank you so much for your daily hard work. 

My office would be a complete mess without you! It has been my pleasure having you in our office and I look forward to seeing you everyday.

I know our departments do not directly interact, but let me know if there is anything I can do to help you. Again, I really appreciate your service, it means a lot to my productivity. 

Sincerely, Alex Barker

photo (2)(Excuse my poor handwriting. I left out the name here and in the card for this blog)

Matt McWilliams (future guest on the Leadership Dojo podcast) has a great free ebook about the revolutionary power of Thank You Notes.

Everyone has the power to change the world in a small way. Thanking those individuals who never receive thanks for a job is an easy way for you to change someone’s life

“You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world’s happiness now. How? By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone
who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.”

Dale Carnegie


Who is someone you can write a thank you note today and what would it say? 

About the Author Alex

Skip Prichard says November 28, 2013

What a perfect “how to” for thank you notes. And what a difference they make, not only to the receiver but also to the writer. Expressing appreciation starts a spark that brings creativity and ideas.

    Alex Barker says December 3, 2013

    Skip, I’m honored your here! and super glad you enjoyed the post. We should have you in the Leadership Dojo as a podcast guest! Interested?

      Skip Prichard says December 3, 2013

      Thanks for the kind words, Alex. I’m over committed for a few months, but would love to do that some time.

Larry Poole says November 30, 2013

Hand-written thank you notes will give you an extreme return on investment.

They’ve done wonders for my personal life, church, and business. Powerful idea that we often forget.

Great article.

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