Oh what a thrill to open your mailbox and find, amid a sea of bills and junk mail, a hand-addressed note filled with appreciation for wonderful you.
But we’ve all been guilty of failing to send a “Thank You” note, often because we don’t know what to say, or how to say it, or wonder whether it’s needed in a world that revolves around texting and e-mail. So we turned to an expert to help us figure it all out.
Lizzie Post of the Emily Post Institute is the great-great-granddaughter of the legendary etiquette maven Emily Post. In spring, she is unveiling a rebooted version of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th edition,” and hosts a podcast, Awesome Etiquette. She says that the general rule is, if you receive a gift, you should send a hand-written “Thank You” note:
“There’s something very lovely about the personal, physical touch of someone’s handwriting on an actual piece of paper that arrives at your door.”
Here’s Post’s anatomy of a “Thank You” note:
Step 1: Start with an opener or greeting: ‘It was so lovely to see you at Thanksgiving this year!’
Step 2: Thank them for the specific item given and tell them how you have already used the gift, or plan to: “Thank you for the lovely bowl. It is the perfect fall color for my dining room table and I can’t wait to enjoy it all season long.”
Step 3: Then, a closing. It’s nice to include a wish for the future but not obligatory. “I look forward to visiting in the New Year and hope that you enjoy the holidays.”
There are only a few exceptions to the “You should always send a ‘Thank You’ note’” rule, she said. One is when a family member or friend says it’s OK to text or email a “Thank You” note. Personalize it if you can by adding a picture of you wearing or using the item. Another is when an especially close family member, say, your spouse, gives you a gift.
A “Thank You” note is especially important when you don’t open the gift in front of the giver, Post said. It’s frustrating for the giver not to know if the gift was ever received.
Don’t feel the need to include a gift with a “Thank You” note.
“Gift giving is not a guaranteed reciprocal act. It’s an expression of generosity and spirit,” Post said. If someone gives you a gift, and you’re standing there empty handed, send a gracious Thank You note without guilt: “Rather than focusing on not having a gift for them, focus on how wonderful and generous it was for them to think of you.”
Finally: It is never, ever, ever too late to send a “Thank You” note. Just do it.