Thank You Note Etiquette

A proper thank you note shows class and appreciation.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #366

With the holidays nipping at our toes, it’s just a matter of time before we have a stack full of presents to unwrap, and a mountain of thank you notes to write. It seems that with every joy of opening a present comes with the agony of having to write a thank you note. 

However, as much as people hate writing thank you notes, the key is to remember that you’re lucky to even have the opportunity to write a thank you note. Yes, it’s an opportunity. Someone had you in their thoughts, and being the mannerly person that you are it’s only proper to make sure that thank you note is sent out in a timely manner. So before your hand cramps up and you pull your hair out with frustration over what to put down onto paper, step back, take a breath, and let Modern Manners Guy help out with three tips for Thank You Note Etiquette:

Tip #1: Timing

In my tenure as Modern Manners Guy, thank you notes have been a constant issue with readers. Sure, issues about rude daters, coworkers, and family members tend to be the focus of most questions I receive, but thank you notes are up there as a major gripe. And the actual timing of the thank you note is a topic of great debate. First, let’s be honest, we’re all manners enthusiasts, and appreciative of people thinking of us, regardless of the specific gift, but still, it’s the buckling down and actually doing it that shows the real appreciation. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Bottom line, Modern Manners Guy, how long can I push off writing a thank you note and not come off as lazy?” What, too harsh? Trust me, I’ve been there.

Folks, I have two answers for you about the proper timing for thank you notes. The first is a simple concept: write the thank you note when you use the gift. By this, I mean if you take out the new coffee maker to brew a fresh pot, you should be writing a thank you note at the same time. It takes a minute and you are benefiting from that person’s generosity. If that new jacket fits perfectly, and is ready to take out for the night, then a thank you note should be invited to the party, too. Think about it, if you run into the person who gave you that item, they will immediately be wondering where their thank you note is. After all, you had time to try it on, but you didn’t have time to write down how much you liked it? 

Secondly, timing can be broken down per event. For a wedding, you get more time to respond since you’ll be inundated with gifts. It takes time to sort through what stays and what’s returned. I say a good month to play around with is OK for wedding-related thank yous. I’d even say it’s okay to stretch it to six weeks if you must, but we should all know what we are keeping WAY before that, so it’s proper to stay in the four-week range if you can. Now, if it’s any other “event,” where the gift load can easily fit in the backseat of your car, then cut that timeframe in half. Even if it’s a dozen presents (say for a birthday) that’s only one a day! No one is that busy. 

Tip #2: Money Matters

In Tip #1, I mentioned weddings as an example of a very popular thank you note situation, and with weddings, unless you win the lottery, a wedding is likely the most money you’ll be handed in one night. Unlike buying someone a toaster, and wondering if someone digs it, when you give money as the gift, the gift giver knows you like it. When it comes to gifts, green is good and the gift giver will be expecting a thank you note that shows your gratitude for it. Like I said, if someone gives you an object, they can only hope you like what you chose. However, money is always a good fit. So, knowing you’re not going to spend hours as you would with a new lamp, deciding if you’ll have to write an endearing thank you note, when it comes to money you should always speed up the process.