Thank You Note Etiquette

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Do you ever wonder whether or not you should write a thank you note? If so, you probably should. After all, it is better to write one that isn't necessary than to not write one when the occasion calls for it. The recipient will appreciate your acknowledgment and gratitude.

The purpose of a thank you note is to show your appreciation for a gift or service that someone has provided for you. If someone has done a favor for you, it's nice to acknowledge with some heartfelt written words.

It's also nice to send a thank you note to someone who goes beyond the call of duty. These people often go unnoticed, and they'll be pleasantly surprised to see that someone noticed.

The ideal form of gratitude is a handwritten note or letter. An email will suffice, but even then it’s not a bad idea to follow up later with a letter that requires paper, a pen, and a stamp.


Each thank you note should be different and meaningful to the recipient. If you are an organized person, you might want to keep a stack of cards on hand so you won’t have to run out to the store and purchase one every time you need to thank someone.

  • When you have multiple thank you notes to write, such as after a birthday party or shower, make sure you send the correct message to each person. One way to keep this straight is to have a trusted friend jot down the person’s name beside what he or she gave or to tuck the card back into the box that the gift came in.
  • If you receive a gift in the mail, you may send a brief email letting the person know you received it. Follow up with a written note.
  • Most of the time, a thank you note can be short and to the point. However, if you have more to say, there is nothing wrong with a long thank you letter.
  • Be specific about what you are thanking the person for. You don’t want to simply say, "Thank you for the gift." That may give the impression that you can’t remember what the person gave you.
  • Even if you didn't care for the gift, you should send a thank you note.
  • State how you will use or have used the gift or service.
  • Wrap it up with a personal comment.
  • Send your thank you note as soon as possible.


Not everyone is blessed with the gift of knowing what to say. If you are someone who struggles with the right words to express your gratitude, follow these examples and tweak them to make them fit your needs.

Thank you notes are frequently written for the following occasions:


The tone of your message should match the relationship you have with the person you are addressing. For example, a letter to a lifetime friend will be more intimate than one you would send to a prospective employer. A thank you note after a job interview will be much more formal than one that is personal. After a baby shower, thank you notes to your friends may be fun, light, and perhaps even humorous. When thanking a client for a gift, you might want to have a more straightforward message, unless you are absolutely positive how a humorous message will be perceived. If uncertain, don’t try to be funny.

If you are in doubt about how your message comes across, set it aside for an hour or two, and then come back and read it aloud.


Make sure the message in your thank you note is clear. Check it for spelling and grammar after you finish writing it. You may want to write a rough draft before copying it on the stationery or card that you wind up sending.

When It Is Not Necessary

Almost any gift or good deed deserves at least a brief, handwritten thank you note. If in doubt, send one. The worst thing that will happen is you will be considered "too polite," and that’s not a bad thing.

There is one time when you don’t need to send a thank you note after receiving a gift: if the person sent flowers to thank you for something you did for him or her, just pick up the phone and let him or her know how much you appreciated the thoughtful gesture. Otherwise, you may find yourself sending thank you notes back and forth for a very long time, to the point of being ridiculous.