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Giving Thanks: The Right Way

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Thank you note or thank you email: Our etiquette expert lays down the law!

Woman thinking

momlogic's Jenny: I don't know about you, but I can never figure out how to say "thank you." Growing up, my mom insisted that all gifts, special occasions or exchanges be followed up with a thank you note. But these days, I feel conflicted. Nowadays, can't an email suffice as a thank you? It's fast and timely, and after all it is written (just not by hand) -- so doesn't that count? Well, I contacted Lisa Gache of Beverly Hills Manners for the proper etiquette on saying thank you, and here's what she had to say:

The simplest way to determine how to respond with a thank you is to think about the person you are thanking. Are they formal or casual in their behavior? Are they older, in which case they may tend to be more traditional than a younger person who is technologically savvy? The standards and practices of the recipient may often dictate the sender's type of thank you.

Here's a list of some thank you scenarios:

  • Gifts - All gifts should be acknowledged with a verbal thank you (if applicable) followed by a handwritten note of thanks within the week of receiving the gift.
  • Dinners - A handwritten note of thanks is best when sent the following day after a dinner invitation. Since snail mail takes a couple of days to receive, it is also proper form to phone or email your host later that evening or the following morning, thanking them for a lovely evening.
  • Job interviews - A handwritten thank you note is the proper protocol following an interview. Make sure to take a business card and check the proper spelling of the recipient's name and grammar before sending. This is part of your overall first impression and is crucial to the interview process.
  • A first or second date - The dating world is considered more casual, therefore an email thanking your date for a lovely evening is a perfect way to convey to your date that you are interested in seeing them again. In this case, a handwritten note would seem like overkill and might be considered a turnoff.
  • A doctor that has helped you (delivered your baby, performed surgery, etc.):  I would recommend a handwritten thank you. Many doctors, especially pediatric doctors, display their notes on the office walls for all of the patients to view. Some are even embellished with children's artwork. These notes are testimonials and validations of the quality service and expert care they provide.
  • Someone sending you flowers - In this instance, a formal thank you note is not necessary. However, a phone call and/or email thanking the giver for the thoughtful gesture is most appropriate.
  • Bridal showers, baby showers, etc. - Handwritten thank you notes on personalized stationary are the most suitable way to thank your guests for attending your event and for bringing gifts.
  • Help with something (moving, painting, giving a ride/driving) - Helping someone to move their home or paint their house is hard work and therefore a handwritten note is the best way to express your sincere thanks. You may also wish to buy them dinner for their efforts. On the other hand, a kind gesture such as offering someone a ride is perfectly noted by sending a friendly email thank you.
  • Hand-me-down (a sofa, or clothes, furniture, etc) - Big-ticket items such as furniture, appliances, vintage clothing or maternity clothing are best acknowledged with a handwritten thank you note. If your friend is unloading a few items from her closet, then an email thank you will certainly suffice.
  • Job referral - In this case, either snail mail or email is acceptable.
Do you write thank you notes?

next: Must. Have. Mac. and. CHEESE!!
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Elizabeth January 24, 2009, 5:13 PM

I am appalled at your Bye Bye Bush video. You people (term used lightly) should be ashamed. You will rue the day that you have partaken in drinking the Obama Kool-aide. Talk about a classless act.

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Fashion Design October 12, 2010, 5:39 PM

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Credit Card December 24, 2010, 6:58 AM

i agree 100% thanks for writing

Genaro Comiso January 24, 2011, 1:20 PM

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long sleeve flower girl dresses March 28, 2011, 6:26 AM

The Constitution gives every American the inalienable right to make a damn fool of himself.

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