Choose the thanks to fit the occasion.


twitter & header image - Different Ways to Say Thank-You


Handwritten, Email, or Phone Call?

It’s always correct to send handwritten thank-you’s, and people always appreciate them.  Handwritten notes are warmer and more personal than a phone call or email, and only second best to thanking someone in person.  The general rule is: If you open a gift in the presence of the giver, then your verbal thanks are sufficient.  For example, when you receive a hostess gift, or a holiday/birthday gift from a good friend or relative and you open it and express your sincere thanks personally, then a follow-up thank-you is optional. If the giver wasn’t present, then a phone call is fine.  Email is great when you just need to say a simple thanks quickly.  Here’s a rundown of when a note is expected:

  • Wedding or baby shower gifts.  After giving shower gifts, the majority of people consider it rude if they don’t receive a written note of thanks even if you’ve given thanks in person.
  • Wedding gifts.  Each wedding gift should be acknowledged with a written note within three months of receipt of the gift, even when you’ve given thanks in person.
  • Congratulatory gifts or cards.  Send a note to anyone who sends a present or card with a personally written message to acknowledge an accomplishment, such as a graduation or promotion.
  • Gifts received when sick.  Notes should be written when the patient feels well enough, or a relative or close friend can write notes on his or her behalf.
  • Sympathy notes or gifts.  Send a written thank-you to anyone who sent a personal note, flowers, or a donation.  It’s fine for a close friend or relative to write notes on the recipient’s behalf.

Different Gifts, Different Thank-You Notes

Different kinds of gifts and occasions merit some tweaking to the standard thank-you note.

    • Gifts of money.  In your note, let the giver know how you’ll use a money gift—to furnish your apartment or add to your savings. It’s up to you whether you mention the amount, but doing so let’s the giver know the funds arrived intact.
    • Holiday and birthday gifts.  Write thank-you notes for holiday and birthday gifts as soon as possible, preferably within two or three days.  A good standard is to acknowledge Christmas or Chanukah gifts before New Year’s Day.
    • Other gifts.  Thank-you notes are not always necessary for presents that have been given in person at a housewarming, going away party, or similar occasion.  If a sincere thank-you was expressed in person when the gift was received, that’s sufficient.
    • Thank-you gifts.  Gifts sent as a “thank you for…” require a note of appreciation in return.  It’s necessary to let the sender know that the present arrived and is appreciated.

  • Acknowledgment cards.  Printed acknowledgment cards expressing appreciation can be used in three instances:
    • After the death of a prominent person when scores of sympathy notes, gifts of flowers, or donations to charities are received. They can also be used as a placeholder acknowledgement until a personal note of thanks can be written.
    • When a public official is elected and receives a landslide of congratulatory messages.
    • When a bride has such a large wedding that she and the groom simply cannot write personal thank-you notes immediately.
  • A newspaper “Card of Thanks.”  In some small towns and rural areas, it is not only permissible but expected that recipients of a large number of gifts or contributions—after a birthday, anniversary, retirement party, funeral, or even political campaign—put a public “thank you” in the newspaper.  The notice is typically headed “Card of Thanks” and is followed by a brief message.