Handwritten thank you notes are many things that email and text messages could never be. They're a tangible and visual delight. A statement of style. A welcome reprieve from junk mail and catalogues. And a reminder of your sincere appreciation; it takes time to purchase a card, sit down with a pen, find a stamp, and drop it in the mail.
Most importantly, they're a holdover from simpler times... one of the only acts of old-school decorum left that is undeniably still worth doing.
So, stop dragging your feet. Get out your pen, treat yourself to beautiful monogrammed stationery, and start writing. Here's all you need to know about writing notes that would make your grandmother proud.
When to Send
If you’re wondering whether you should send one, the answer is "yes." A thank you note is always appropriate. Even if you had the opportunity to thank the giver in person, send a note every time you:
receive a gift for a birthday, wedding, shower, illness, or condolences,
receive a kind gesture, assistance or time,
have been a house or party guest,
or have been interviewed for a job.
Send a thank you note within within one month (one week is ideal) of receiving a gift. Three months is acceptable for large events like weddings. (Just keep in mind that the giver may be awaiting your note to confirm you received her gift!) Don't stress if it has been longer… better late than never.
Thank you notes (and their envelopes) should be hand written, even if you have poor penmanship. Steer clear of pre-printed sentiments; the message should be personal and thoughtful. At a minimum, your note should include the following:
Greeting / Start with “Dear…” and then call your recipient whatever you would if you saw them on the street, for example, "Mr. Jones," "Jack," or "Dad."
Gratitude / Say thank you and mention the gift specifically. It's also nice to say why you love the gift and/or how you plan to use it.
Closing / If you like, include a personal tidbit like "we'd love to host you next time game night" and reiterate your thanks. Sign off with a line that compliments your greeting. "Sincerely" and "best" work well for formal notes. "With love" and "xoxo" are absolutely appropriate for friends and family.
Use stationery that reflects both your style and the occasion. For example, notecards for business-related matters should boast clean lines and simple designs. For friends and family, show a little personality!
Dear Aunt Judy,
Thank you so much for the bouquet of flowers. It smells divine and looks beautiful on our coffee table - such a treat in the middle of winter. We’d love to host you for dinner and games after the holiday rush; I'll reach out in January to find a time. Thanks again for thinking of me - your generosity brightened my day.
Weddings, Showers and Holidays / When you receive a gift via post for an upcoming event (wedding, shower, retirement), it is appropriate to open it immediately and send a thank you note. (Emily Post suggests holding off on using said items until after the event, however; if the event were called off, you would be expected to return all gifts.) If you’ve been inundated with gifts and anticipate it will take longer than normal to send a handwritten thank you note, take a moment to send a text or email to the giver letting her know her gift arrived:
“Blythe, Just a quick note to let you know we received your beautiful gift. A formal note will follow, but I couldn’t wait to say thank you for thinking of me! With Love, Mary”
Interview / We can't deny that a timely (i.e. same day) email is a smart move. For extra credit, double up with a handwritten note.
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