We know even suggesting you write a thank you-card for every gift is a bit archaic — an Instagram post of your beloved new item seems to do just fine. But of all the old-school manners that are disappearing from modern etiquette, this tradition is one is worth preserving. Expressing gratitude (and taking time to write it out) is good for our brains. Since fewer and fewer people do it, writing them makes you stand out — especially after a job interview. And because it takes more effort, the recipient feels extra-special. But we know finding the right thing to say isn’t always easy. You don’t want to sound trite or contrived. Luckily, there is a recipe you can follow to write a quick and meaningful note every time.

A woman writes a thank-you note

1. Start with the thanks. You don’t need to beat around the bush, but you do need to be specific. Don’t just say, “Thank you for the gift.” That’s the written equivalent of a lazy mass text. Instead, acknowledge their specific gesture: “Thank you for the gift card,” or, “I appreciate you writing my letter of recommendation.” This little detail makes all the difference.

2. State why you’re grateful. People tend to put a lot of thought into gifts. They want to know you actually like the present and will put it to use. Again, be specific, but don’t ramble. You can note why you love the item or when and how you’ll be able to use it. For example, “The necklace is the perfect statement-piece. I can’t wait to wear it to my best friend’s engagement party next month.”

3. Close it. Acknowledge your in-person relationship. That could mean recalling a recent encounter (“It was great to see you at Christina’s birthday”), a possible time to talk or visit in the future (“I’ll call you when I’m in Chicago next month so we can get drinks”), or a mix of both (“I had an awesome time at dinner last week and can’t wait for our next girls’ night!”).

4. Sign it. End with an appropriate sign-off — whether that’s a professional “sincerely” for bosses and mentors or a sweet “love” for family. Then, actually sign your name — yes, in cursive.

It’s best to send a note right after you receive the gift or gesture, but if you forget, don’t let the fact that it’s belated stop you from sending one at all. Ideally, it won’t take you months, but later is still better than never in this case. Take your time to make it pretty. You don’t necessarily need personalized stationery (though that’s a nice touch), but do practice good penmanship. The reader shouldn’t have to strain to read your handwriting.

How often do you write thank-you notes? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)