Thank you notes

Writing thank you notesImage by eren {sea+prairie}

Hi Julie,

I’ve only just started reading my Writer’s Jungle so perhaps this question is already addressed somewhere in there.

How do I help my 10yo son improve his vocabulary choices while writing? He is a voracious reader and can comprehend vocabulary words way above grade level. However, pulling descriptive words out of him during writing is another story.

Here is how a recent session writing thank you notes went:

(Proofreading) “The (gift) is fun. You are very nice.”

Me: Hmmm…I think you can select words that pack a more descriptive punch. Let’s think of another word other than “fun”.

Him: Uhhh…okay, how about “good”?

Me: Well, “good” is also a bland word. Let’s think of the (gift). What words can you use to describe it?

Him: Fun. Good. Nice.

Me: Let’s do this…get the Synonym Finder and we will look up a new word.

Him: (Big Sigh, rolling eyes) NOOOOO! I want to use the word “fun”!

Me: Okay, let’s move on. How about finding a replacement for the word “nice”. (In my mind, I am thinking of words like “generous”, “thoughtful”, “kind”, etc.)

Him: Uhhhh….I can’t think of anything.

Me: You can’t think of anything?

Him: Okay, how about “good”?

And so on…

Help! Do you have any tips for me?


Hi Linda!

Your request likely feels like a very big challenge to your son as he is not thinking in specifics but vague generalities.

The best thank you notes tell a little anecdote. So rather than asking him for a summary word, ask him about playing with the gift. What did he do the first time he played or did he have a big win or did he beat the computer or whatever?

Help him to remember the thing as it is used, not as it is described in terms of adjectives.

Fun is a great place to start. Now help him to show the fun he had (rather than summarizing it).

How about:

Thanks for the really fun gift! My brother and I played with it for four hours. I ________ until my brother tried to _________ and then right when I thought I would lose I __________ and whipped his butt.

Something like that.

The point is, don’t write about the gift in general. Try to put it in a specific context and the words will more likely come forth.

Also, words like generous, thoughtful, kind are parent words. Nice is a meaningless word. So perhaps you can help him to say what he really means:

I love that you knew to get me that gift because….


It’s so cool that you would buy me the thing I’ve been wanting forever…

That kind of thing rather than generalizations.

I hope that helps a bit!

Hi Julie,

Your tips helped!

Here is his latest thank you:

Thank you for the Key Card Door Alarm. I rigged it to my drawer. I put my favorite Christmas presents in the drawer. Now they are safe from sneaky monkeys!

I love you very much!

What I love about it is that it captures a bit of his personality, which is what Brave Writer is all about!

Thanks, again!

2 Responses to “Thank you notes”

  1. Anne says:

    Thanks Linda and Julie for this discussion. I have had identical experiences with my 11 year old daughter. We are writing much belated thank you notes this morning, so I will be trying out Julie’s suggestions very soon.

  2. Linda says:

    Thanks again, Julie, for your tips. My son is tickled pink that you would put his thank you note on your blog. What a boost this does for his confidence!

    Blessings to you!