Saying “thank you” is one of the fundamental aspects of a gracious society and handwritten thank you notes have stood the test of time. Of all the ways that we can express ourselves, none is more personal than a handwritten note. But, just like every aspect of our lives, technology is creeping in and the handwritten thank you notes are being replaced by email, text message and Facebook messenger. But is this proper etiquette?
Several years ago, saying “thank you” in an online message would have been bad form. However, as our modes of communication change, so should our etiquette rules. If the rules never changed we would still be hand-delivering our pen-and-ink calligraphy notes in person.
But, there are still rules of etiquette to follow. If you are trying to decide which way to send your thank you message, remember, a handwritten note is never wrong. The recipient will always appreciate the effort and it is always nice to find a written note rather than a bill or junk mail in your postal box. With the speed and cost free options of the internet, the time and effort of handwriting a note is more valuable than ever.
Whichever mode of communication you choose, keep in mind, that it will take you less time to write a note than it took the person to pick out your gift or prepare a meal. The most important thing is to take a moment and genuinely express your gratitude.
As we enter the graduation season and June weddings, what are the new rules? When is a handwritten note required and when is it acceptable to use email, text or messenger to send a thank you note? Here is a breakdown of which mode of communication is considered proper. Graduates and brides take note, a handwritten thank you is still proper etiquette for gifts.
The most important thing is to take a moment and genuinely express your gratitude.
Always send a handwritten thank you note:
- Anytime the recipient is not a big technology person. Your grandmother, great Aunt or elderly neighbor will always love and expect a handwritten note.
- Send a handwritten note for gifts including wedding gifts, graduation gifts, birthday gifts, baby gifts
- Send a handwritten note when a gift is not opened in front of the giver.
- Send a handwritten note after a dinner at someone’s home that is not a family member or close friend.
- Send a handwritten note when someone other than immediate family is your out-of-town host.
- After an illness or death of a family member, send a handwritten note for food, a donation to a charity, flowers or any act of kindness.
- Send a handwritten note after a job interview. It is fine to send an email immediately after, but make yourself stand out by following up with a handwritten thank you.
It is acceptable to send your thanks via email, text or messenger:
- Send a quick text when a gift arrives to let the giver know it was delivered. Include a fun picture showing your excitement. However, it should be followed up with a handwritten note.
- Send an email thank you to a business associate when an email is the next contact you will have with the person.
- An email or text is appropriate for a small act of kindness such as a neighbor doing a favor, someone giving you a recipe, being treated to a small meal or coffee etc.
- An email or text is appropriate if your normal contact with the person is that way and you don’t have their mailing address. However, it is never wrong to ask for their address so you can send a written note.
- An email or text is appropriate when the gift is given to you online. An example would be an online gift card, pictures or requested information that is sent via text or email.
- Facebook messenger should always be a last choice. There is too much chance of the message being lost in the multitude of information on this platform. However, if this is the only way you communicate with the person and the gift does not require a handwritten note, this method would be acceptable.
Whether the note is handwritten or sent electronically, it should be timely and simple. Three or four sentences are sufficient. Be authentic. Sound like yourself when you write and don’t use words you wouldn’t normally use. True gratitude is spontaneous and your words should be your own. Try to send the thank you note within a week.
While it won’t be the end of society as we know it if we don’t acknowledge a kindness, showing gratitude improves your mood. It puts the focus on what you have and not what you lack. Negative attitudes are bad for you and gratitude makes you happier and healthier. Even more important, it makes the recipient feel appreciated. It is just the right thing to do.
True gratitude is spontaneous and your words should be your own.
The bottom line is summed up by Emily Post: “Saying thank you in any form is better than saying nothing at all. Thanking people needs to be just that: expressing thanks.”
The Anatomy of a Good Thank You Note!
- Date the letter. You are creating a historic record.
- Greet the person as you would address them face to face.
- Try not to use the words “I” or ‘we” in the first sentence. Say something nice or something you appreciate about the person. Things like “I am lucky to have a friend like you” or “You are always so kind.”
- Express your gratitude for the gift or act of kindness by specifically mentioning it. Tell the reader what it means to you or how you will use it. The exception to this rule is if the gift is money. Don’t mention a monetary amount but highlight the person’s generosity.
- End the note by mentioning the past and/or present and let them know how they fit into your life. For example, “It was great seeing you at my graduation. I hope our paths cross again soon.”
- Thank them for the gift or kindness one more time.
- Close the note with the appropriate regards (love, sincerely, yours etc).
- Sign your name.