There is something special about a good, old-fashioned thank-you note. These small yet personal touches are a great way to show how much you care, whether it’s for a loved one or for the chance to interview with a great employer. They sound simple . . . until it comes time to write them.

Where to begin?

Timing is key

First, a word of advice: write and send every note ASAP. Otherwise, you might forget!

I recommend keeping a stack of simple notes in stock at all times and keeping a book of stamps always at the ready. Consider investing in a large, 50-count box of thank-you notes, so you will never be left empty-handed. Or order some blank cards like these, which can serve for any occasion, not just expressions of gratitude.

If you plan to send a professional thank-you note after an interview, consider bringing those cards with you, writing your note in the lobby or a nearby coffee shop, and then leaving it with the secretary (if the company has one). That’s sure to leave a positive impression! Or, drop your note in the nearest post office box straightaway to ensure speedy delivery. It’s easiest to write a thank-you while your memory of the interview is still fresh! Double check your spelling, and bring some extra notes in case you make a mistake.

Wondering whether a formal thank-you note is still necessary in a digital age? When in doubt, sending a card and an email is a safe bet. For interviews, I refer back to this tried-and-true template before putting pen to paper.

What if you have a lot of thank-you notes to write, like after a holiday or your wedding? It’s up to you whether you would prefer to write your notes in batches or all at once. (For example, I tend to get a “writing blister” on my ring finger after an hour or so, so I like to tackle large quantities of cards over several days.)

However, if you decide against doing everything right away and at once, it is still important to be timely. The queen of etiquette, Emily Post, advises sending a note immediately so your loved one knows that the gift was received. For wedding presents, a note is expected within three months of the honeymoon. But if something slips through the cracks, a late note is better than none: gratitude is always welcome!

Select your stationery

Next, a note on stationery styles. Whimsical thank-you notes add a personal touch to special occasions by expressing your personality and bringing extra cheer to a loved one’s day. Target’s Green Inspired line are some of my favorites for their pretty designs with lovely textures, but your options range from fun florals to funny food puns.

In a professional setting, like after a job interview, opt for a note that is crisp, classic, and simple. Avoid overly complex designs and motifs, like plants or animals. My favorite is this sleek and simple gray card.

For an even more personal touch, you might consider buying from smaller vendors on sites like Etsy, where you can customize your cards with your name or initials.

Finding the right words

My favorite piece of advice comes from Lemony Snicket, the pseudonymous author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Snicket writes in his typical humorous tone:

I recommend learning how to write a very good thank-you note. A child who can write a nice thank-you note can turn into a cocaine dealer five years later and be remembered as the child who wrote nice thank-you notes.

He then offers three simple steps for doing this:

1. Do not start with the thank you.

2. Start with any other sentence. If you first say, “Thank you for the nice sweater,” you can’t imagine what to write next. Say, “It was so wonderful to come home from school to find this nice sweater. Thank you for thinking of me on Arbor Day.”

3. Then you’re done.

As Snicket points out, a thank-you note doesn’t have to be long or complicated. It’s about the gesture, the fact that you appreciated someone’s gift or time. And as he colorfully illustrates, the little act of expressing gratitude can have a big impact!

I have found this advice very helpful when it comes to personalizing my thank-you notes. For your first line, you can share the story of when you received the gift, how much you enjoyed seeing them at your celebration, or (if it’s a cash gift) where you plan to spend the money. This little detail will take your “thank you’s” from generic to perfect! Now you are all ready to make your mark as the woman who wrote nice thank-you notes.