Thank You Etiquette 101: When to Send a Handwritten Note

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Thank you notes are always appreciated, but in a modern and fast-paced world filled with emails, changing schedules, and social media posts, it's easy to forget to stop and write a handwritten note.

Even if you've said thank you verbally, pick out a great card or piece of stationery and pen a thoughtful thank you. Here are the standard rules of etiquette for receiving and giving thanks for gifts and events thrown in your honor:

  • Shower gifts: Even if you had a chance to say thanks in person, a handwritten note of gratitude is considered standard etiquette for both gifts and those that hosted the shower on your behalf.
  • Wedding gifts, bridal party, and vendors: Send a note within two to three months of the wedding for gifts and to those that made the special day possible. These often can't be tackled in one day, so have note cards on hand in advance and write a few at a time.
  • Congratulatory gifts or cards: All gifts and congratulatory notes should receive a written note in return. Don't forget to remind your new graduates!
  • Gifts received during an illness: These notes should be sent once the patient has recovered, or can also be sent on their behalf by a friend or relative. It's also okay to call or email instead of writing—the goal is to make sure the gift was acknowledged in a timely fashion.
  • Condolence gifts: Thanks for flowers or donations can also be written by a friend or relative.

But gifts aren't the only reason to send a thank you card. While not technically required, here are some additional occasions when a handwritten memo is in good taste:

  • Interviews: It shouldn't affect a hiring decision, but sending a timely and well-written note can reflect positively on interviewees for their extra effort. Thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration.
  • Dinner parties: Though less common, it's just good manners to follow up with your host the following day with a quick call or message and also send a card thanking them for opening up their home.

We all slip up and forget to express our thanks, but sending a note late is better than never. For more specifics and etiquette tips, get them straight from pro Diane Gottsman or The Emily Post Institute.

To put these manners into practice, pick up a fresh note card set proactively and you'll always have a blank one ready for your next occasion.

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