A Good Time to Think About Thank-You Messages

Like me, you probably get quite a few thank-you messages at this time of year—messages thanking you for being a loyal customer, a member of a professional organization, a donor, a committee member, or maybe even a helpful teacher or mentor.

We all know that thank-you messages are an important genre of business communication. They can help you attract and retain customers, land a job, reinforce your employees’ contributions, or put you on an important person’s radar. They are critical to the human-relations dimension of business.

If you’re looking for ways to supplement what your textbook says about such messages, you might start with the website “Thank You Note Examples and Tips: Helping You Build Better Relationships.”  As far as I can tell, the author, “Julie,” is just someone who happens to like thank-you messages and appreciate their importance. But her site does a great job of conveying how many different situations require thank-you messages, and the sample messages provide a realistic glimpse into the world of business thank-yous.

In some cases, you’ll find that the sample messages on this site use wording you wouldn’t advise (for example, would you really say in a customer-appreciation message that the customer helped your company achieve record profits this year?). Yet even the flaws can make this site useful for your classroom. You and your students can critique the samples to generate dos and don’ts for different kinds of thank-you messages.  You can find many additional samples to critique at thank-you-note-samples.com, created by another thank-you note enthusiast.

Another site that could prove useful—and one with more authority—is http://www.emilypost.com, where the Emily Post Institute continues the advice-dispensing tradition of the famous etiquette expert. On its “The Business of Thanks” page, you’ll find a discussion of which occasions warrant which medium:  note, face to face, phone, or email. Explore this useful site and you’ll find more thank-you-related tidbits, as well as valuable advice on other etiquette-related topics.

The Small Business section of Chron.com, the website of the Houston Chronicle, has quite a good page on “Thank-You Note Etiquette for Business,” with links to other useful pages. Like the Emily Post site, it also has nice tips about professional behavior overall.

The advice I actually like best, though, was written by Leslie Harpold, a web designer and long-time blogger who died several years ago. Her page on themorningnews.org, “How to Write a Thank-You Note,” is funny, frank, and surprisingly relevant to bcomm even though it’s about writing personal messages. In her 6-part guide to writing a thank-you note, she warns against the “I’m just writing to” opening, against talking too much about oneself, and against lying—all traps that our students could fall into if they underestimate the thought and skill that often need to go  into these brief messages.

One of my resolutions for the new year will be to incorporate thank-you messages more into my courses.

And while we’re on the topic . . . thank you for following our bcomm blog and for all you do to advance the art and science of bcomm. Together, we can help our students be both successful and gracious.

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