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Thank You Note Etiquette Guide

Thank You Note Etiquette Guide

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The event that prompts the most thank you notes to be written is your wedding, but I believe everyone should write thank you notes for gifts they receive, whether it be a birthday, Valentine's day, graduation, etc.


For weddings, you have 3 months from the day you receive a gift to write a thank you note. I suggest writing the note ASAP because according to all the etiquette authorities, you have 3 months after the wedding to finish all the rest of your thank you notes from the gifts you get from the wedding. (But remember, people have until your first anniversary to send you a wedding present before it's a faus pax!)

For non-wedding related gifts, etiquette dictates a 2-week turn around before the thank you note goes stale, so it’s good to try writing one within a week, giving it another few days to travel through the USPS.


If the gift is for you and your significant other, whoever is closer to the gifter writes the letter. Use a quality black pen (I recommend the Pilot G2 Mini Pen, because "splotchy ink does not a thank you note make." - Miss Manners.) Also, write the note in the first person, but be sure to include the spouse’s name in the letter. (For example, “Kate and I greatly appreciate the candle sticks…”)

A thank you note should include the following sentences, in this order:

  1. Begin the note with the gifter’s informal names, “Dear Janice and Bill” unless the gifter is an acquaintance of your parents, in which case use honoraries, “Dear Dr. & Mrs. Finegold..."
  2. Thank them for the gift. Be sure to name the gift in detail! Don’t just say “Thank you for the platter” instead write, “Thank you for the beautiful china platter with the sunflower pattern!” Include the quantity if it’s multiple gifts, "Thank you for the four nambe napkin-holders.” If it’s multiple gifts, list them. If the gift is cash, it’s up to the writer’s discretion to include the dollar amount or not. If it’s a donation in your honor, thank the gifter graciously for their contribution to this important cause.
  3. Discuss Use. Even if you hate it and return it, the people who bought it for you want to hear that you love it!! For example, “These day-glow plaid snowman sweaters are perfect for the chilly weather in Massachusetts.”It is crucial to include a desired purchase with the money given, “Barry and I are putting the gift towards the purchase of our new couches." If it’s a donation to a charity, mention how that charity will benefit the community.
  4. Mention the Past, Allude to the Future. If the thank you is sent before the wedding, acknowledge if they will be attending or not, “I’m sorry to hear that you can’t make it to the wedding…” If it’s after the fact, acknowledge their presence! “It was so wonderful seeing you and the kids at the wedding!” The same goes for graduation gifts, birthdays, etc. If they came, mention it, if they can’t come, suggest seeing each other soon.
  5. If you’re close, personalize it! Include a sentence or two from the heart. "I can't believe you and John started dating thanks to my wedding..." Otherwise, say something nice: “It meant so much to my family that you flew up from DC…”
  6. Closing the letter is two fold. First Grace: “Thanks again for your gift,” followed by Regards “From us both,” (“Love from us Both,” “The Best from us Both,” etc.) and then the writer’s name. Thank you cards are written by one person and should be signed by that person only.

Here's what NOT to include:

No news about your life. This is not a time to update them about future plans, vacations, etc. - No photos. That is a separate letter with a separate agenda! - If the gifter is in for another thank you note for multiple gifts (say, if your birthday falls near a gift-giving holiday), make sure to keep the notes separate. Don’t include a wedding-shower gift along with the birthday thank you note. Send a separate thank you note attached for each.

How to Write a Thank-You Note

“Sincerely, Help?” Having trouble finding the right words to thank cousin Sal for that mango slicer? How to write the perfect, honest thank-you note every time.

Tim Eitel, White Skirts, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin and Pace Gallery.

Question: I have a crushing inability to write proper thank-you notes. Can you offer me some guidelines? &mdashHelen

Answer: I was wondering when you were going to ask that question, and frankly, I&rsquom a little disappointed it took you so long. Somewhere in between your mom making you sit down with your Peanuts® stationery and you shooting off an email, you completely lost touch with the concept of simple thank-you notes. Now that you&rsquore a grown-up, an email just won&rsquot do, and more is expected of you than scratching out &lsquoThanks for the present, you rock!&rsquo

Grandma might not say anything to you, but trust me: She and her friends are probably at this very moment sighing over how young people today just don&rsquot have manners.

As extra motivation, I will also grudgingly tell you the hidden secret of thank-you notes: They improve the frequency and quality of the gifts you receive. People like being appreciated, and if they feel you actually notice the nice things they do for you, they&rsquore more likely to give an encore performance. Do not, however, use this as a strategy to avoid writing thank-yous to those who regularly give gifts you do not like. Every gift deserves a thank-you. Even the &lsquoKeep On Truckin&rsquo&rsquo blacklight poster your crazy Uncle Alvarez gave you when you moved into the dorms.

I assure you, writing thank-yous is easier than you remember. Get yourself some stationery, plain note cards or a selection of attractive postcards (yes, postcards are perfectly acceptable!), and proper postage. Avoid the pre-inscribed &lsquoThank you!&rsquo cards in loopy script, as there are times you&rsquoll want to write notes where that aesthetic feels all wrong. Better to choose paper you like. Stay away from full-size sheets&mdashnote cards are best, as your message will be brief, and would look silly swimming around on a page that large. Store all of these items somewhere easily accessible and preferably in plain sight so you won&rsquot hesitate too long or forget too easily. Say, the top drawer of your desk or on a bookshelf at eye level or below.

If you want to know when you get a genuine pass on writing a note, the litmus test is simple: Do I live under the same roof as the giver? If the answer is &lsquoyes,&rsquo you need not write a thank-you note (although a thank-you Post-It might be a nice touch).

I&rsquom not going to go all Miss Manners on your ass and get into the social intricacies and delicate situations that surround thank-you note writing, as I was taught that a solid thank-you note will transcend all complicated situations&mdashand I have seen no evidence to the contrary.

There is a six-point formula to the proper thank-you: Learn it, know it, memorize it, and it will never fail you.

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Show Gratitude

You might think that the importance of showing gratitude in your note is a given. However, there are some people who overlook writing a simple "Thank you," even though that was the purpose of the note. Even if you don't care for the gift, you should send a thank you note with an emphasis on the person's thoughtfulness.

Phrases to help with the opening line:

  • Thank you for the.
  • I am grateful for.
  • I am thankful for.
  • I appreciate the.

Etiquette 101: The Handwritten Note

I’ve always had this fascination with etiquette. With manners, tradition,and all things prim and proper. With being an actual lady or gentlemen. Whatever it is, it makes me sad to see all of this becoming a distant memory for most. For most, but not for me. Enter Etiquette 101 . A weekly post that will cover the basics of all things etiquette. I’ve enlisted the help of none other than Ms. Emily Post herself and together we are going to request all of you to embrace being ladies and gents again. To keep tradition alive. To welcome being fancy!

So without further ado, I give you the first of many Etiquette 101 posts, The Handwritten Note. Enjoy!

First things first…

When addressing the envelope there are a few key points to take into consideration.

Rule Number One: Make sure the writing is perfectly legible, even if it means using block letters.

Rule Number Two: Double-check the address – it can take weeks for a misadressed letter to be returned.

The return address. When addressing the envelope its important to know that because the USPS uses high speed scanning machinery to read and route the mail it prefers the return address on the front of the envelope in the upper left hand corner. Printed envelopes for personal stationery or special invitations such as weddings usually have the return address printed on the back flap, which is fine, but it is HIGHLY suggested to whenever possible put the return address on the front. I’ve been guilty of always putting the return address on the back flap (oops) which I won’t be doing anymore.

The recipient’s address. Suggested and preferred form when writing out the recipient’s address would be block form for a more formal or business letter and indented form for a more personal or friendly letter.

A handwritten occasion…

A handwritten note is the most popular and appreciated form of communication, and most used to say thank you for a gift, but there are many other reasons to pick up the pen.

  • Thank you for a dinner party or overnight stay
  • Thank you for a favor when you return something you borrowed
  • Thank you for a job interview (a more detailed post focused on this topic will be coming soon)
  • To congratulate someone on the birth of a baby, graduation, promotion, or a special achievement o
  • To acknowledge a celebration: birthday, wedding, anniversary
  • As invitations
  • To stay in touch
  • To thank your host when you’ve been the guest of honor
  • To send condolences on the loss of a loved one
  • To apologize for a mix-up or mishap

Thank-You notes. The two most important things to strive for when writing a proper thank you note is sincerity and pomptness. A note arriving more than a week after an event or gift received loses its fizz. When writing, use expressions that come natural, nothing too stiff or contrived. And if you choose to use a card that includes a message from the greeting card company you MUST always pen a personal note below the greeting as well.

I bid you farewell…

In earlier days, the complimentary close of a letter (the word or phrase that precedes your signature) was long and flowery, but it has gradually been shortened over time and at times can seem non existent. The standard complimentary closes for more modern times depend of course on the type of note or letter:

  • The preferred ending to formal social or busness correspondence is “Sincerely,” “Sincerely yours,” “Very sincerey,” or “Very sincerely yous.”
  • “Kind regards,” “Kindest regards,” “Warm regards,” and “Warmest regards” fills the gap between formal and more initimate closings.
  • In friendly notes, the most frequently used closings (listed from least to most intimate) are “Cordially,” “Affectionately,” “Fondly,” and “Love.”
  • “Gratefully” is used only when a benefit has been received, as wehn a friend has done you a favor.
  • “As always” or “As ever” is best for someone with whom you may not be close with or haven’t seen in awhile.
  • “Faithfully ” and “Faithfully yours” are rarely used today, but are appropriate on very formal social correspondence: letters to a high member of clergy (because I write the clergy all of the time), a member of the cabinet, an ambassador, or anyone else along those lines.

If you must…

Email. According to Emily Post (don’t shoot the messenger) it is only appropriate to email a greeting or thank you to people you email with regularly and who frequently check their email. And if you must email, it’s important to write your message as you would on a traditional card. Do not, under any circumstances use shortcuts, abreviations, or acronyms. And if you’re emailing numerous people make sure to put all addresses in the BCC column as to not share everyone’s personal email addresses.

So there you have it, Emily Post’s modern day views on the handwritten note. I hope you enjoyed this new series, and maybe even learned something. Along with introducing this series to the blog, whenever its applicable to what we’re chatting about you’ll find a Waiting On Martha discount code. So for 2 days only use code ETIQUETTE101 during checkout to save 20% on all of our notesets . I know it can be expensive to build a stationery collection so consider it my little way of making sure we’re all minding our manners!

Happy Thursday Loves, or should I say Warmest regards? xo

Thank-you notes should be written as soon as the patient feels well enough—or a friend or relative can write the notes to acknowledge the gifts. It’s also okay to call or email close friends rather than write. The important point is to be sure the gift is acknowledged in a timely fashion, not to create a burden for the person who is ill or recovering.

Everyone who has sent a personal note, flowers, or a donation should get a written thank-you. A close friend or relative can write the notes on the recipient’s behalf.

How to Write a Thank You Note

Sometimes it's easy to write off a heartfelt thank-you note. Other times, writer's block can set in—especially when you are staring down a large stack of them. Before you start, remember that thanking people needs to be about just that: expressing thanks. So refocus, reorganize, and rethink the process.

Above all, try to enjoy yourself. Giving thanks shouldn’t be a chore—and doesn’t have to be if you make the effort to keep it interesting.

This is a brief note, about four sentences, meant to express something you are grateful for. Be sure to say what you mean directly. The thank-you note is special it's to express your appreciation, so keep the focus there.

  1. Use a salutation.
    • Formal/Professional – Dear <><<last_name>>,</last_name>
    • Professional – Dear <><>,
    • Close Professional/Social – Dear <>,
    • Social – Dearest <>,
    • Good friend – First name, Nickname, or Initials
  2. First sentence – Thank them explicitly for the specific gift or act for which you are writing the letter.
    • I am so thankful/grateful for.
    • I want to say how much I appreciated.
    • I am writing this note to acknowledge.
    • I want you to know how much I value.
  3. Second Sentence – Personalize the note with an original thought about the things you are thanking for, the effort or thought behind it, what it means to you and the relationship.
  4. Third sentence (optional) – Pull the focus back and think about the future. Suggest future actions or direction or develop the thought from sentence two.
  5. Fourth sentence – repeat the thanks or offer a concluding thought.
  6. Use a closing.
    • Formal/Professional/Social – Sincerely
    • Professional/Social – Best regards, Regards, All the best, Best, Respectfully yours, Cordially
    • Social/Personal – Yours truly, Warmly, Affectionately yours, With great affection, With love, etc.

Resources Related to Thank You Cards

Now that you’ve got your message figured out, finish off your thanks with an envelope even the postman will find impressive. Select matching address labels and custom postage to assure your thank you’s get signed, sealed, and delivered in style. There’s no need to have a hard time writing thank you cards anymore with our templates and wording ideas. If you need a little added motivation for putting the pen to paper, pick out custom stationery that you really love. No matter what the occasion, make sure to show your appreciation with a handwritten thank you note.

In navigating these uncertain times, Shutterfly plays an important role to look after our employees, support our customers, and aid our communities. See how Shutterfly For Good is dedicating resources to help those in need and help us, as a society, emerge stronger on the other side.

Miss Manners: Once you get the hang of it, thank-you notes are easy

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Hi. Can you help me write a thank-you note to my family members for my grad party gifts?

Miss Manners was about to snap back like that because, in her experience, when a student asks for help with a simple task that is generally considered to be onerous, he means, “Do this for me.”

But that would be unprofessional of her, and unfair to you. Surely what you mean is that you are eager to know what makes a letter of thanks gratifying to the recipient.

It is really not that hard. All you have to do is to give the impression that it was not written under duress, as it doubtless was. Rather, you should seem so overcome by the thoughtfulness involved that you can hardly wait to set it down on paper.

That means that you are actually using paper, and that the words “thank you” are not printed on it, but written by your own hand.

However, “thank you” should not be the opening words, because that would suggest you were writing by rote. Start with a statement of emotion — that you were delighted that they came to your party, or thrilled when you opened their present. Then come the thanks, with a specific mention of the present (except that money is referred to as “your generous gift”), and then a friendly line about the donors (such as that you remember something they told you, or that you hope to see them soon). A line about your own plans — summer, college or work — is optional.

It sounds complicated, but Miss Manners assures you that it amounts to only three or four lines, and you will soon get the hang of dashing off these letters. Not only will that assure you of a reputation for graciousness, but it is likely to inspire even more generosity.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was taught that there is a proper way to ask for someone on the phone. Specifically, once the line is answered, callers should announce themselves and then ask for the person they wish to speak to. For example, “Hello, this is Mr. Smith. May I please speak to Mr. Jones?”

This seems to be unheard of anymore and, as someone who has to answer the phone for a living, I am constantly having to ask, “May I say who is calling?” The next time that person phones, same thing.

Why don’t they get it? I always announce my name when phoning someone. Am I the only one?

GENTLE READER: If not, you will soon be. Pretty nearly everyone now is used to individual cellular telephones that connect directly to their owners and that state the name of the person who is calling. And the land-lines that remain are as likely to reach recordings as people.

At the risk of sounding lazy, Miss Manners — who believes your complaint to be justified — despairs of teaching such manners before they are no longer necessary.

Being Thankful: Thank-You Note FAQs

Sometimes it's easy to write off a heartfelt thank-you note. Other times, writer's block can set in—especially when you are staring down a large stack of them. Before you start, remember that thanking people needs to be about just that: expressing thanks. So refocus, reorganize, and rethink the process. Get in touch with the sincerity of thanking people for thinking about you and sending you something—even if it’s a hot pink polyester sweater. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about writing thank-you notes.

All gifts should be acknowledged with a note, unless the present was opened in front of the giver—then you have the chance to thank them in person. An important exception: Many of an older generation expect a hand-written note. Providing them with one is an appropriate gesture of respect and consideration. Also, send a hand-written note for gifts received at a shower, even if you said thank you in person at the time.

The person who received the gift should write the note. Group notes are acceptable for Aunt Patty who sent the household a group present—just ask each recipient to sign. For couples, it’s perfectly fine to split up the notes for gifts you received together. For the kids, note writing will vary depending on age.

Write your notes as soon as possible, and don’t hesitate if you feel you’re late: A late note is always better than no note at all. Thank-you notes for wedding gifts should be sent within three months of returning from your honeymoon, though an immediate turnaround is recommended, both to acknowledge the gift arrived and to stay on top of them.

Absolutely. Incorporating photos, children’s drawings—anything at all that compliments the sentiment is appropriate. Just remember to include a short, written thank-you as well.

Email is okay to thank for a coffee or meal that was casual or whose invitation was extended by email in the first place. It's also okay for very small favors. But for dinner parties, big favors, an actual gift, or being a houseguest, handwritten thank-you notes are your best bet for an expression of warm, heartfelt thanks.

We all love getting presents and are sincerely thankful, but some of us procrastinate terribly when it’s time to write notes. One woman, bemoaning the fact that she had to write not only her notes, but also notes for her three children and her husband, hit upon a brilliant idea.
She had a party. On a Sunday afternoon in January, she invited her husband and their kids to the kitchen table. Everything was ready: note paper, pens, pencils, crayons, envelopes, address book, stamps, and lists. The smallest (ages 4-6) drew pictures of their gifts, and Mom and Dad added dictated captions and thank you’s. The 7-8 year-olds wrote one or two sentences, practicing new writing skills. The 9-and-olders were able to work more or less independently. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad helped with spelling words and addressing, and, in the quiet moments, wrote a few notes themselves.
When everyone was finished, there was hot cider and banana bread. She was amazed at how successful the afternoon was. The kids were involved, the notes were done and the family had time to be together and talk about their holiday, friends and relatives. And a new family tradition was born.

If you’re on your own, break up the list. Schedule a few different days to write your notes, and each time give yourself a little something to make it interesting: music, a glass of wine, your favorite radio show, a cup of tea—perhaps even some chocolate. Take the time to yourself for writing out thank-you notes: don’t try and wedge it in between laundry, a TV show, or extra work from the office. You’ll be able to think more clearly and your focus will translate to the page. Above all, try to enjoy yourself. Giving thanks shouldn’t be a chore—and doesn’t have to be if you make the effort to keep it interesting.

Watch the video: Etiquette Bites! How to Write a Thank-You Note (June 2022).