Saying 'thank you' in writing

Expressions of gratitude never go out of style

Expressions of gratitude never go out of style

January 13, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

Dear Aunt Mary,

Thank you for the beautiful knit sweater. I wore it the other day and received several compliments from my co-workers. The color goes great with my hair, and it's toasty warm.

Sorry we didn't get to see each other this holiday season, but I'm looking forward to our visit later this year.



That doesn't seem too difficult.

A short note and a 39-cent stamp - or a 24-cent stamp if you use a postcard - can mean a lot to the person who gives a gift.


Saying thank you is never out of style, according to etiquette experts.

While e-mail makes it easy to give someone instant gratification for a gift, there is no substitute for a handwritten note, says Robyn F. Spizman, author of "The Thank You Book: Hundreds of Clever, Meaningful, and Purposeful Ways to Say Thank You."

"A thank-you note is an elevated way to express your appreciation because it becomes a written record of the other person's action," Spizman says.

"It's a powerful way to give another person that moment that they deserve because they spent such time and effort in picking out a gift for you," she says.

According to a survey at the Emily Post Institute's Web site, 70 percent of respondents think it's appropriate to send thank-you notes via e-mail though it might be more appropriate for certain situations.

"A quick thank you to acknowledge assistance given, a favor done, or a small gift is appropriate, especially if you know the person you are thanking uses e-mail frequently and the thanks won't sit out there in cyberspace for an extended period of time," notes the institute.

"However, a handwritten note sent through the regular mail system is the nicest way to show appreciation for a gift received and is the form you should use to send thanks for wedding gifts and holiday or birthday gifts," the institute notes.

Here are some more thank-you note tips:

  • Unless the gift was opened in front of the giver so you have a chance to say thanks in person, the gift should be acknowledged with a note, according to the Emily Post Institute online at

    An important exception is when the gift is from a member of the older generation because many of them expect a handwritten note, the institute states. Such a note shows respect.

    Judith Martin, who writes the nationally syndicated Miss Manners column for United Feature Syndicate, also recommends writing a thank-you note to someone who presented a serious gift, such as a gold bracelet, even when the gift was opened in front of the giver and a verbal thanks was extended.

  • If ever in doubt about whether to send a thank-you note, just remember it's always correct to send one, Spizman says.

  • Thank-you notes should be written as soon as possible, according to the institute. However, late is better than never.

    Martin tells her readers that writing thank-you notes is to give thanks, not critiques, according to her Miss Manners columns.

  • Thank-you notes don't have to be boring. The Emily Post Institute suggests complimenting the sentiment by incorporating a photo or child's drawing.

    Spizman says the stationery used can be personalized too. Design-her Gals at allows women to customize stationery with an image that looks like them, she says.

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