How Do You Start A Late Thank You Note?

How Do You Start A Late Thank You Note?

Late Thank You Note Wording: How to Start


If you’ve ever sent a thank you note late, you know how embarrassing it can be. Not only does the act cast you in a negative light — your recipient might assume you don’t care enough about them to thank them promptly — but it also diminishes the value of your recipient's sacrifice. The latter is certainly something to avoid. You never want someone that's done you a favor to either regret it or resolve never to help you again. 

The good news is that you can set things right if you sculpt your message correctly and, most importantly, get a thank you note in the mail as soon as possible. The later your note is, the harder your atonement will be.  But we all have a busy life, and the people care about will forgive you.

We can't put your belated thank you notes in the mail for you (well, actually, we CAN, but more on that later), but we can offer suggestions on just what to say to start a late thank you note to smooth over any hurt feelings.  Remember that we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. If you regularly miss important communications, it may be challenging to make amends. However, if the occasions are rare, the right phrasing can get you off the hook with most people, particularly if they’re friends or family. 

 Let’s look a little more closely at the problem.

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A favor is an unspoken transaction. While the provider might not consciously expect gratitude in response, some deep-seated part of their brain does. Human relationships are built on reciprocity. You do things to help the community, and in return, community members do things to help you. As long as this balance is maintained, no one feels taken advantage of. 

 Gratitude acts as a form of emotional currency. When you can’t pay a favor back with another favor, you can substitute a thank you. This simple act recognizes what the other person did for you and admits a debt, even if that debt exists only in your mind. Later, an opportunity to pay the favor back (or forward) will present itself, and the unspoken debt is repaid. Until then, your thank you helps maintain mutual benefits. 

 When you send a late thank you note, or worse, don’t send one at all, you interrupt this delicate emotional exchange. The act leaves unanswered questions for your recipient. They might assume you don’t like their gift or that they angered you somehow. Sending a thank you note quickly grants closure. It lets your recipient know that you received what they sent or that you’re aware of what they did for you. Without that closure, they’re left feeling uncomfortable. 

 Remember, it's never too late to send a thank you note. A late arrival, even if it's a very late note, is always preferable to not sending one at all. Here's what to say.

SEE ALSO:  Gratitude is a Business Strategy

A card that reads, "Thank you. I really mean it, despite how late this card is."


Here are a few thoughts on how you might begin an overdue expression of gratitude. Above all else, consider your reader. If it’s a close friend or family member, there’s likely nothing to forgive. Simply acknowledging your tardiness is enough. For more distant acquaintances, gauge the strength and quality of your relationship and format your note appropriately.

Apologize Before You Say Anything Else 

No matter who you’re writing to, the first words out of your pen should be some form of “sorry.” This releases any pent-up tension by acknowledging the elephant in the room — that your thank you note is very, very late. Here are a few examples: 

 “I hope this note finds you well. I'm so sorry for not acknowledging your generous gift earlier.” 

 “I wanted to apologize for not sending this earlier. You lent me a hand when nobody else could, and you deserved a prompter response.” 

 “Please accept our sincere apologies for the lateness of this well-deserved thank you. We absolutely loved the tea set you sent in celebration of our special day.”  

 “So sorry for not getting this in the mail sooner. Please know that your kindness was noticed and very much appreciated.” 

 “Please accept this heartfelt but woefully tardy thank you for the anniversary party you organized last month.”

“Please forgive me for this long overdue belated thank you note. Your wedding gifts were greatly appreciated. It was a beautiful scarf you included, so please accept these thank yous accordingly.”

A grouping of Scrabble tiles that read "Please forgive me."

Explain the Reason for Your Tardiness

If you’re close to your recipient, no explanation is likely needed. But for business contacts and similarly reserved recipients, providing a reason can help smooth things over.  

 One caveat. If your excuse is a lousy one, don’t include it. It can do more harm than good. For instance, you don’t want to say, “I thought you wouldn’t care if I sent a thank you, so I didn’t bother,” or “Your gift has been sitting at the bottom of our closet, unopened for the last few months. We’re just now getting around to opening it.” Be aware of how your recipient might react to your reason, and skip it if it’s likely negative. You might say: 

 “I wanted to thank you for helping us move months ago, and for your hospitality, but we’ve been swamped with unpacking, cleaning, and organizing — not to mention selling our old house.” 

“I wanted to thank you for the lovely picture frame you sent. It was a very thoughtful gift. I would have sent this earlier, but somehow your package got left in the trunk when we moved all of the gifts from the event location, and we just now found it.”

SEE ALSO:  When You Should Send Out Cards

A satisfied woman working at her computer.


With the right verbiage, you can effectively deal with overdue gratitude. But it will never be as gratifying to your recipient as a timely sentiment. The best way to ensure on-time delivery is to make the process as simple as possible. Simply Noted can help.  

 Choose a card design, type your thank you message into our simple online order form, supply an address, and you’re finished. Our handwriting machines will translate your digital message into a lovely, ballpoint pen-written thank you card and drop it in the mail. It’s a great way to send a heartfelt thank you when you don’t have the time to handwrite a card yourself.  You supply the message and your thank you note closing and we'll do the rest.

 See? What did we tell you at the beginning of this article — we CAN put your card in the mail for you! We can also handwrite your and hand-address your envelope. Consider that if you don’t have the time to write thank you cards, you’ll likely never do it. Instead, take a few minutes to order your card from Simply Noted and never miss a thank you again.

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