Expressing gratitude to someone who did something to help you or acknowledging a person who went out of their way for you is not only thoughtful, it’s memorable. People are inherently motivated by expressions of gratitude. One way to express appreciation for someone is to write a letter to that person. A thoughtful, well-written and sincere letter of appreciation is the simplest and most impactful way to let someone know you’re grateful for them. Here are a few steps you can take to write an impactful letter of appreciation.
Thank You Letter Format
- Start with a greeting.
- Share your gratitude with specific examples.
- Include any details from your conversations.
- Close with any additional thoughts or information.
End with a polite closing.
*Proofread your message: Take a few minutes to review your thank you notes for any spelling, grammar or syntax mistakes. A message that’s free of errors shows you’re professional and detail-oriented.
What is an appreciation letter?
An appreciation letter is a professional note written to business contacts that demonstrates your gratitude. There are likely many times in your life when it is appropriate to write a letter of appreciation. You might receive a gift, advice or professional connections from a person in your personal or professional life. Regardless of what favor you are showing gratitude for, an appreciation letter can make a positive impact on someone you know.
How to write a letter of appreciation
Follow these steps to write a thoughtful and engaging appreciation letter:
- Be prompt
- Choose the appropriate format
- Write a greeting
- Express the letter’s purpose
- Be specific
- Conclude and sign
Consider how each of these steps can help provide the structure for your letter and use them as a guide.
1. Be prompt
Thank you letters, whether they’re thanking an interviewer for meeting with you or expressing gratitude for a gift or favor, should be written and delivered no later than three days after the event. Not only does your promptness have the potential to make a good impression of your manners and efficiency, but it also conveys the sincerity of your message. If you miss the recommended three-day window, don’t panic. Expressions of gratitude are better received late than never.
2. Choose the appropriate format
Determine whether the recipient of your letter is a professional connection or a personal one. Letters addressed to professional contacts should be typed and printed on quality paper if you plan to hand-deliver the letter, otherwise, it’s recommended to express your appreciation in an email. If the letter you’re writing is addressed to a personal acquaintance, a more casual format can be appropriate. This means clearly and legibly hand-write the letter on a nice card or stationery you love.
3. Write a greeting
Professional letters to business contacts, potential employers or people you don’t know well should include a title in the greeting, such as “Mr." or "Ms.”. Personal letters to someone close to you tend to call for more personal greetings using the recipient’s first name.
The greeting you choose will set the tone for the letter. For this reason, it’s important to use the appropriate greeting to begin your message of thanks.
Related: Guide to Thank You Notes
4. Express the letter’s purpose
The body of your letter should start with a simple, concise expression of your gratitude.
For example, thanking someone for meeting with you in a professional setting should start with something akin to, “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me on Tuesday. I very much enjoyed our conversation.”
Stating the reason for your letter will immediately inform the recipient of the reason you’re writing.
5. Be specific
Specify examples of why you’re grateful by mentioning a detail or two about what you enjoyed or are thankful for. Taking the time to personalize the letter in this way will convey your sincerity. Be sure to keep it concise and impactful.
You could say something like, “I especially enjoyed our discussion about the impact of teaching social outreach in a high school setting. Your thoughts on implementing community service into the general curriculum were exceptionally insightful. I plan to continue looking into this idea’s viability.”
Be sure to keep your tone sincere, or you’ll risk sounding like you’re pandering.
6. Conclude and sign
Restate your thanks and the impact their input has had on you.
You could say something akin to, “Your ideas have made me much more motivated in becoming involved with teaching local students the value of outreach and encouraging them to take actions that will make a crucial difference in the lives of the people they help.”
Reiterate the value of their contribution by saying something like, “Your selfless ideas have encouraged me to refocus my educational and outreach goals and to continually improve and expand on my efforts in helping members of the community.”
Choose an appropriate closing and sign your name at the bottom of the letter. The most common closing for professional letters is “Sincerely,” but other options include “Respectfully,” “Best Regards*” and other similar phrases.
Signing your name by hand is customary if you’re delivering a physical letter, followed by your typed name below your signature. If your letter will be delivered via email, simply typing your name is sufficient.
Related: How to End an Email
7. Proofread your letter
Before delivering your letter, take the time to carefully proofread it for errors in grammar, spelling and typing. A letter containing mistakes leaves a less positive impression and could indicate to your recipient that you rushed through writing it.
A few proofreading tips to help you deliver an error-free letter include:
Read the letter aloud
This can help you catch errors you may miss by reading silently due to the fact that reading aloud isn’t as likely to allow your brain to “fill in” the appropriate version that you expect to see; rather, speaking what you’re reading will clearly identify mistakes as well as parts that could just be generally improved.
Have a trusted friend or colleague review the letter
Choose someone you trust to point out errors and possible improvements without worrying about offending you. Additionally, make sure the person proofreading your letter is fairly adept at reading and writing the language so that they’re more likely to identify problematic spelling or grammar.
Read the letter backward
Reading from the end will help you identify missing, incorrect or misspelled words. This technique works better for some people than others, but it will not hurt to try it out.
Know your common errors
Keeping in mind the errors you’re prone to committing will help you look for those specific errors more closely while proofreading your letter.
Writing appreciation letters to those who have uplifted you is important in all aspects of your personal and professional life. Not only does it strengthen your relationships, but it also helps to encourage a positive mindset in both the writer and the reader at absolutely no cost to either party. The self-perpetuating nature of gratitude reminds people to be more thankful for the things others do daily, whether or not it benefits them directly.