Thank You Notes 101: Derek Blasberg's Expert Tips

Q&A with Derek Blasberg

Why is a handwritten thank you note so important?
“More so now than ever before, a handwritten note packs a punch. It's some unexpected thoughtfulness, a whimsical touch, the little something that someone remembers. As we spend more time in a digital age, when something tangible pops in the mail, it leaves a lasting impression.”

What is the maximum amount of time that can go by before sending a thank you note? What's the ideal time frame?
?“When I was a boy, I prided myself on next-day thank you notes, but I’ve let that slide in my old age. My tip is to keep a box of stationery and envelopes by your desk (or in your kitchen, wherever you spend most of your time), so you can dash one off as soon as you think about it. I try and send within a week for an invitation and a few weeks for a birthday present or unexpected gift. But, truly: even if you’re late, just send the friggin' thing. The note itself will offset any offence caused by its tardiness!”

Can you tell us three of your favourite places to buy stationery? Which styles do you like best and why?
“I have ordered my personalised stationery from Crane & Co. since I was in high school, and it’s the same size, font, and colour as when my mother and I picked it out together. London has wonderful stationery shops (try Smythson, or Mount Street Stationery). Because often it's the thought that counts, I sometimes grab whatever is available: including postcards and the stationery in hotel rooms. (The Chateau Marmont does a sweet "In Residence" letterhead when you check in, which is chic and makes me want to write letters to all my friends.) I like my stationery to have a classic feel and appearance, but with a little wink when you read it. Those can be hard to find, which is why I’ve developed my own stationery line with Paperless Post. But more on that when it debuts in the fall!”

In this electronic era, are emailed thank you notes ever acceptable? What if they're followed up by a handwritten note? Do you need to do both?
“To do both is to show that you’re truly thankful. I have been known to dash off an email straight away (sometimes in the cab home from a dinner party), and then send a note that’s more thoughtful a few days later. The purpose of a thank you note is to show thanks, so an email is better than nothing, of course. And there are now services that send fabulous notes. But I still find that to send an actual note leaves the longest lasting effect.”

What is the basic messaging every thank you note should include?
“Thank you notes can be simply written: warm greeting, outpouring of gratitude, inside joke or funny anecdote regarding what one is thankful for, the desire to reconnect soon, and finally a sweet salutation. Done!”

What is the best way to end a professional note?
?“It depends on how professional you want to sound. When I finish a note to someone I work for, I use “Sincerely” most often. But I’ve been known to switch in a few “Bests and “Yours’” depending on how well I know the person.”

Let's talk pens: do you have a preference?
?“The pen I use the most is the PaperMate Flair in black. It writes cleanly and darkly. But, literally, I have buckets full of all different pens and markers. I like Sharpies, and I like colourful inks, but I hate ballpoints (they remind me of school teachers) and I’m careful not to use anything that’s slow-drying or runs the risk of smearing. That’s the worst. Spend all that time writing a sweet thank you note, and then it smears? No, thank you.”

We asked editor and etiquette expert Derek Blasberg—the charming author of Classy: Exceptional Advice for the Extremely Modern Lady and creator of the witty Handwritten Letter Helper stationery for Opening Ceremony—to share his tips on proper messaging. Find all of his tips below and scroll through to shop stationery must-haves and more. One last word to the wise: Blasberg's debuting a line of greeting cards and party invites for Paperless Post next month, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled!