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Expressions of Gratitude For The Win!

Hello, I’ve got a question on thank you notes. Growing up we weren’t expected to send thank you notes. I’m now 26 and trying to rectify that. I’m aware that after a wedding you should send thank you notes, but I was recently told by someone that past twenty one or so thank you notes are no longer necessary for gifts. Is this true? I’ve started sending them for birthday and Christmas gifts for more distant connections, like my step aunt for example. Often these gifts are gift cards and I was also informed you “never thank someone for a gift card with a card”. I’m second guessing this and I wondered what the consensus is? I’m enjoying writing out thank yous so I hope I’m not cast into the flames. 0111-18

Society has sunk to a new low when thank you notes are considered poor or unnecessary etiquette.

Here’s the scoop on thank you notes.  They are always a “win” regardless of whether they are written to express gratitude for the receipt of a gift or a service/kindness done for you.  Obviously wedding, shower, Christmas and birthday gifts should be recognized with a thank you note.   The only caveat to this would be if the gift giver hands you the gift, you open it in their presence and then effusively thank that person for the gift.   Christmas gifts opened on Christmas morning in front of the gift giver deserve a verbal thank you but no need for a written one. Same goes for birthday gifts.

If someone does a favor or kindness for you, a thank you note expressing gratitude for the time and thoughtfulness that person expended is very good manners.    In business, it can advance your career.

But even if the thank you note recipient thinks notes are unnecessary and pointless, do them anyway and here is why.   Just the action alone of writing a short note of appreciation and thankfulness puts you into a grateful state of mind where you assume nothing is owed to you and you appreciate it all.   That is a WIN for you!


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  • Alysoun February 20, 2018, 7:26 am

    Yike, I wonder who has “informed” her of these crazy-ass ideas. Someone simply ignorant? Someone lazy, who wants company in their laziness? Or someone actually trying to sabotage her relationships?

  • Aleko February 20, 2018, 7:36 am

    The notion that “past twenty-one or so, thank you notes are no longer necessary for gifts” is obviously absurd. You might as well rule that “past 21 or so, it is no longer necessary to say thank you to anyone for anything”. It sounds like pure wishful thinking on the part of someone past 21 who, having left the parental home, can no longer be chivvied into sending them by their parents and wants an excuse for no longer bothering.

    The one about “never thank someone for a gift card with a card” sounds like a mishearing of the rule that there is no need to send a card to thank someone for a thank-you card (or there could logically be no end to it).

  • Miss R February 20, 2018, 8:21 am

    I wish more parents would read this. Parents who, when their child is given something as small as a piece of candy, in person, prompt “What do you say?” But when a gift is sent, no thanks are forthcoming, or if they are, it is from the parent, when the child is well past the age of being able to write or scribble one for themselves.

    I’ll even go with the times and say, send me a short video with the kid saying Thanks, a photo, an email message from them, anything.

  • Michelle February 20, 2018, 8:49 am

    Regarding thank-you notes and advancing your career: In 2002 I was looking to change careers. I applied for a position with a museum. Afterwards I sent a thank you note. When they officially offered me the job, the Executive Director told me that I was their front runner for the position and the thank you note had just knocked it out of the park.

    Sixteen years later, I am still with the museum, I have moved quite a few rungs up the ladder (I started part-time in a Guest Services/museum store/front desk position and I am currently the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director) and they still talk about the thank you note.

    I also had my children write thank you notes when they received gifts through the mail from family or friends who could not be with us for celebrations but still wanted to let us know their thoughts and best wishes were with the child. Many of those relatives and friends were tickled pink to get a thank you note carefully printed in the child’s handwriting.

    • at work February 21, 2018, 7:38 am

      A small thing you did, really. But such wide ripples! Excellent story.

  • ladyv21454 February 20, 2018, 9:22 am

    That “past twenty-one or so thank you notes are no longer necessary for gifts” just about sent me searching for the fainting couch. It is NEVER wrong to send a thank-you note! As Ms. Jeanne said, it puts the writer in a grateful state of mind – and it also produces a warm glow of positive feeling in the heart of the recipient. (And not incidentally, that warm glow is likely to motivate the recipient to continue providing gifts!)

  • Annonn February 20, 2018, 9:27 am

    I think Thank You’s should be sent if a gift is received. I agree with Admin, if opened in front of person, no need to send a thank you if it was thanked then; however, baby shower/bridal shower gifts are opened in front of people, but they deserve a thank you. It is a kind way to say “thank you for thinking of me.”
    My neighbor next door was pregnant, we couldn’t make the shower, we brought gift over. She opened (it was a check), and thanked us. I said to her, don’t send a thank you, this was thanks enough. She had enough on her plate with having to do thank you cards for the shower prior to the arrival of the new bundle.
    The thank you has gone by the wayside, and it is sad to see how some kids don’t even acknowledge a gift from a grandparent, let alone anyone else. I make my kids (11, 10, 8) write thank you’s to anyone that sends a gift. Grandparents included. It teaches manners, and the proper way to treat people.
    It is sad to see how many kids these days are just oblivious to common manners that should be displayed!

  • JD February 20, 2018, 9:33 am

    Past twenty-one or so thank you notes aren’t needed? Why would that be? Because the older we get, the less we want to know someone actually received the gift? You care less about whether you please someone with your gift as you get older? Because as the giftee gets older, the giftee should begin to expect gifts as if they are owed to him or her, like a debt? As we get older and can perhaps afford more expensive gifts, the gratitude from the giftee is automatically lessened in some kind of inverse relationship? Where on earth did the person telling OP this drivel even get this idea from? OP, you are being wonderfully polite and gracious. Please keep on with the notes, regardless of criticism from boors, secure in the knowledge that you are doing the right thing. Some people will be very happy to see your notes, and as admin points out, they can even advance one socially or professionally, not that they should be written for that reason alone.
    The rule about cards is, you don’t send a thank you card for a GREETING card, such as birthday, anniversary, or sympathy, when the card is not accompanying a gift but sent alone. A gift card is not at all in the same category as those — a gift card is a gift, and thanks should be sent, if unable to thank in person.

  • Outdoor Girl February 20, 2018, 9:40 am

    I sometimes write a thank you note, even if I have thanked the giver in person. Because sometimes, once I have a closer look at the gift, I discover something interesting or unique or more useful about it than I noticed upon first opening. So I’ll write the note to comment on that part.

    At Christmas time, my brother’s girlfriend’s son and his partner invited us to join them for dinner on Christmas Eve. The four of them were exchanging gifts and I guess the partner thought we’d feel left out so she had a gift for me, my DF and my Dad as well. It was probably about $10 on sale but she’d taken the time to individualize them a bit and wrap them. We did thank them (probably all her) in person but I ended up sending a thank you note because, to me, it was above and beyond good hosting.

  • LKW February 20, 2018, 10:23 am

    My 70 year old mother still writes thank you notes. I write thank you notes. My sister writes thank you notes. My nephew writes thank you notes.

    There is no age limit on thank you notes.

  • Harry's Mom February 20, 2018, 11:22 am

    I agree, thank you notes are a lost art. At one shower, all guests were given a pen and a blank envelope so we could write out our addresses on them… On the flip side, I would be remiss not to acknowledge some very nice thank you cards I’ve received over the years, some that I even kept as I liked the wording so much and wanted to incorporate them into my TY notes.

    • LizaJane February 20, 2018, 10:08 pm

      I don’t mind writing my address on an envelope. Especially for a baby shower since mom-to-be has a lot going on. I know a lot of people on here are horrified by it, so no need to debate that again.

      Around here the envelopes are collected in a basket and one is drawn for a door prize.

      • Dee February 21, 2018, 11:40 am

        But what happens, LizaJane, if the guest doesn’t address her own envelope? Does this mean she doesn’t receive a thank-you card? And why the assumption that the guest has more time and ability to write that address than the mother-to-be? I had plenty of time, before and after my babies were born, to write notes, and I had special needs kids who didn’t like sleeping at all and spent virtually every waking hour hollering and fighting. Scratching out notes while holding a screaming baby is one of the easier jobs a new mom will do. Driving? Not so much … and yet new moms don’t seem deterred from doing that.

      • ladyv21454 February 21, 2018, 1:42 pm

        Funny how for decades, moms-to-be had time to write thank you notes, but now they don’t? And if it’s a baby shower, why isn’t dad helping with the thank you notes? It’s HIS baby too.

    • Outdoor Girl February 21, 2018, 10:18 am

      I also don’t mind writing my name on the envelop, especially when I doubt the MTB has my address. I do, however, object to not ever receiving the expected note. My soon-to-be step niece had a baby shower in October. I’ve yet to receive a note and the baby arrived before Christmas.

  • Dee February 20, 2018, 11:43 am

    I don’t know why this has gotten so complicated; the rule is – if someone gives you something, whether it’s a gift or a service, you say “thank you”. If you’re in a restaurant and the server brings you the menu, say “thank you”. If Aunt Tootsie knits you a hideous bonnet, say “thank you”. If Uncle Leary says you look lovely, say “thank you”. If he then pinches you, slug him and say “you’re welcome”.

    In my childhood, it used to be that wedding gifts were opened during the wedding; there was no dancing or music, so there was lots of time for the gifts. The couple sat at the head of the hall and as each gift was opened it was announced who that gift was from, the couple (and others) oohed and aahed over it, and said “thank you” to the giver, somewhere in the crowd. No notes were necessary because the thanks was already done.

    Thank whoever gave you whatever. That’s the only rule you need to remember. My (adult) kids hate writing notes (or writing anything, for that matter) so they choose to phone instead. Job done. And is that gift card a gift? Then there’s your answer.

    And Admin’s last paragraph is a keeper. Every time you do something helpful/nice for someone else you are reaping rewards for yourself. The only time it isn’t good for you is if you’re not able to “support” yourself because you’re so busy giving. The act of thanking people is not so onerous that it will ever unduly tax a person in possession of a minimum amount of mental and physical capacity.

    I’m glad you like writing those notes, OP. I’m sure that feeling shows in the notes, too, and is a gift you give back to those who receive your notes.

  • Ripple February 20, 2018, 4:00 pm

    When my niece was four or five, she received a Christmas present from the family across the street, but they misspelled her name. She was a bit put out about it, until I pointed out that, when she sent them a thank you note, she could spell her name correctly and then they would know.

    And my nephew once sent me a thank you note for the birthday card (nothing else, just the card) I sent him, which I found hysterical and teased him about.

    Both of them still send thank you notes and they are in their 30’s now.

  • Shoegal February 20, 2018, 4:52 pm

    The OP’s information on thank you notes is completely wrong. Why wouldn’t a gift card need one too? When I give something like a wedding gift/ shower gift/ graduation gift, I am on the look out for my thank you note. I also look to see how it was done. I especially appreciate a thank you note that is more personable and does something a little more than the standard “Dear Aunt Em, thank you for the gift of money. We will put it to good use. Love So and So.” This is acceptable but I like it to actually be to me from the recipient. I took so much time and effort into my wedding thank you notes. Admittedly, they were months after the event – so kind of late – but extremely personal. I cried writing them – each were like a paragraph long. I had my husband read one and he said he almost broke down if you can believe it.

  • Devin February 20, 2018, 5:10 pm

    This isn’t a generational thing, I’m only slightly older than you and had gift card writing drilled into me at an early age. As I’ve aged and learned to appreciate the thought and generosity that people put into the gifts they give, I’ve also learned to enjoy writing thank you notes. Writing thank you a has helped me stand out in business groups on several occasions and has even gotten me added to people’s business gift list (all those bottles of wine around the holidays). I think writing thank you notes for gift cards is especially thoughtful. It’s a chance to let the person know what fun (or necessary) items you bought and that you thought about them when using it.

  • Calli Arcale February 20, 2018, 6:19 pm

    It is fine if the friend personally does not expect thank-you notes. There are actually many people who will not mind if you do not send them a thank-you card. But I think you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who’d actually be offended. 😉 Indeed, even those who find them unnecessary will likely be pleased. Worst case, they’ll find it silly, but if a person is offended at a thank you note, that is a reflection on them, not you.

    So the best course of action is this: thank them for their opinion, and then go on and write the thank you notes anyway. 😉 If they ask why, if you want you can tell them it’s your habit, and it’s easier to thank everyone than to try and remember which ones said it was unnecessary, although you really don’t owe anyone an explanation for having good manners.

    • Dee February 20, 2018, 7:15 pm

      I’ve heard people say that they don’t want or need thank you notes, or even a “thank you”, for a gift they’ve given. I’m so confused as to why a person wouldn’t want some acknowledgement of their gift. But more than that, I wonder what a person like that thinks if they’ve sent a gift and then never hear anything more. Why wouldn’t a gift giver need to know if a gift actually arrives at its destination? And why wouldn’t a gift giver want to hear if a gift is something the recipient can use or wants?

      The only way I can puzzle out a person like that is if they don’t put any care into what they give, and so it makes no difference to them how it is received. As if they simply checked off the box marked “give the obligatory present to Tommy” – check! done!

      Otherwise, if thought and care are put into the gift, and if it’s important to the giver that the gift is something the recipient really wants, then it would be quite a negative thing to never hear from the recipient. No feedback leaves one quite lost, especially if one needs to buy another gift the next year.

  • NostalgicGal February 20, 2018, 8:35 pm

    This made my jaw drift for the carpet. It just sounds like the informant is trying to get others to validate THEIR want to not to be bothered any more.

    Write the cards anyways. Late last fall I had plans fall apart a long ways from home. People that gave me rides and such… everyone that extended me some sort of kindness, I wrote a thank you card and mailed them before I left there. Things other than physical gifts may warrant a thank you card. If in doubt, write the card.

  • Rebecca February 20, 2018, 8:58 pm

    I’m 52 and I agree you don’t need to thank me again in writing if you’ve already thanked me in person. But while I don’t think a thank you note is ever wrong, I’d appreciate and emailed note of thanks, or a phone call. I think the only occasion I would think a thank you note is a must is for a formal occasion like a wedding. For a birthday, a casual email to let me know it was received and appreciated is fine with me. Others beg to differ though, so no harm in sending a note.

  • pickles February 20, 2018, 9:26 pm

    I had an aunt who lived some distance away but always remember our birthdays and Christmas with a card and a gift. When I became older I realized I had never written a Thank You note for all the times she made the effort to think of my siblings and me. So I wrote her a letter to let her know how much it meant and I apologized for not thanking her before. She wrote back “Your mother always sent thank you notes for you kids. And now I feel I’ve had the pleasure of making the gift twice!” What a gracious lady.

  • BagLady February 20, 2018, 10:44 pm

    If someone gives (general) you something, you thank them. Period. If they can’t be thanked at the time of giving, you thank them after the fact. You can handwrite and mail a note; send an email, text or Facebook PM; or call them.

    OP is 26, so I’m guessing whoever told her “thank you notes are for kids” is around the same age. This is a generation that grew up with multiple methods of communication, so s/he may be thinking that only the very young, who don’t yet have access to email/texting/social media, need to write notes.

    It has become more socially acceptable to thank people via text, email or whatever. I’m a lot older than 26, and I haven’t sent a thank-you note since my wedding 30 years ago. (Weddings seem to be the last bastion of the written thank-you note, maybe because the invitation process itself tends to be formal and snail-mail based). And I can count on one hand the number I’ve received in the past 15 years. I’ve sent and received lots and lots of thank-yous over the years — most of them just haven’t been the handwritten note in the mailbox variety.

    Is the OP wrong for writing thank-you notes? Absolutely not. Even if some recipients find it silly or quaint, there is no such thing as being too polite.

  • Hick February 21, 2018, 1:58 am

    I was not raised with thank you notes. It is a concept that did not exist in my family. We were taught to always give verbal thanks in person or on the phone if the gift was sent but thank you notes were unheard of.

  • Marie February 21, 2018, 6:26 am

    I have a question on “thank you notes”. I’m from the generation (I’m 30) that doesn’t really send cards anymore and usually thinks a call or digital message is acceptable.

    When my mom received a gift from me (a book), she send me an email thanking me and thanked me again in person when I visited the week after. When I receive – let’s say – flowers from a friend, I will text them with a thank you and quite possibly a picture of me being happy with my flowers.
    It feels like an awfull lot of work to go to the store, get a card, get a stamp, write on the card, send the card by mail and two days later the person gets a card, thinks “how nice” and the card gets tossed in the garbage bin by the end of the week.

    After my wedding, I did send a physical card, but that was a one time special event and there was a different kind of gift giving.
    So I wonder, when is which “thank you” acceptable? I think it’s perfectly fine my mother send me a mail. The message – that she was happy with her gift – was what mattered, not the way the message was relayed. I also never had complains about sending a text to express my gratitude, and my friends do the same. What do you guys think?

    On a whole other note: I used to have a relative that always send a card after receiving a card. So she’d send a gift, get a thank you card, and then send a card back to thank for the thank you card. We always considered sending a thank you for the thank you for the thank you card back, but we decided not to risk insulting her.

    • Rattus February 21, 2018, 9:26 am

      I am nearly 60 and I’m okay with digital thanks, as long as some sort of thanks are given. For environmental reasons I gave up on cards a long time ago, so I can appreciate that others may not wish to add to the landfill, however, some sort of thought should be given in the digital thanks. Maybe (and this is what I do) take a picture off of the internet or one of your own, use the editing software that comes with your phone (or download an app) to personalize it, add the message you want, and voila – a card that won’t end up as garbage.

    • JD February 21, 2018, 9:49 am

      As I understand from Miss Manners, the original thank you notes were written on the person’s stationary, which everyone used to keep in the house. I keep stationary, and write my thank yous on it. I keep stamps around, too. I realize, I’m in the minority here in that I still keep those things. It used to be common, and thanking someone was a simple matter of pulling out a sheet from your stash, jotting a quick note, sticking on a stamp and dropping it in the mail box for the postman to pick up.
      If you are thanking, in person, phone, text, whatever, you are far ahead of too many others, who consider it an unnecessary burden to acknowledge someone else’s generosity. I’d find your method of thanks acceptable to me, no problem.

      • NostalgicGal February 21, 2018, 1:18 pm

        I was given a few packets of stationery for graduation, and if in doubt broke that out for declining an RSVP or if I didn’t have thank you cards on hand, for writing thank yous. That stuff lasted for quite a while but still got used.

        I wonder how many still would sit down to write and send an acceptance or decline of an invitation these days, by hand, on their own stationery, and mail it?

      • Margaret February 21, 2018, 4:04 pm

        After I send something to someone, I would be happy with any form of thank you. Text, message, email, card – anything!

        I sent a cousin’s daughter a wedding gift 18 months ago by UPS. The UPS office was rather chaotic. The bride’s grandmother hates me, which is why I didn’t go to the wedding. I still don’t know if the bride got the gift – never go any acknowledgment. Yet, I got a thank you for a card I sent her when she was in the hospital with pregnancy issues. So…..?

        I sent a substantial gift card to my nephew after the birth of his first child. Several weeks later, I got a nice thank you card but I think I would have preferred a quick electronic message so I would know that he and his wife got the gift.

        I often send a niece who is away at college a Starbucks card and she immediately uses FB Messenger to dash off a quick thanks. That way I know she got the card and that her evil roommate didn’t steal it.

        So, send some thanks somehow! Just do it quickly.

  • WifeyDear February 21, 2018, 2:06 pm

    I have a friend who, when favors are down for her, writes a thank you and gives something small, like a gift card for a coffee, etc. I know I’m The I e doing the favor, but getting a tangible gift with the thank you always makes me think I should be sending a thank you as well. I give a verbal thank you for her ‘thank you’ and reiterate that there’s no need. She’s a wonderful, generous person and I just wondered if anyone else has encountered this sort of conundrum.

  • imc February 22, 2018, 4:27 am

    To me, the most perplexing thing about the supposed “no thank you notes after 21” rule is that there doesn’t really seem to be a point in teaching kids to write thank you notes when they’re young, if it’s something they’ll eventually give up when they’re older.
    Why would only kids need to send thank you notes?

    • admin February 22, 2018, 4:31 am

      Good point.

  • Wanda888 February 23, 2018, 7:39 pm

    Thank you cards are a cultural thing. In my mother’s culture, gifts are a big thing but thank you cards don’t exist; the proper thanks for a gift is another gift at the next appropriate or symmetric occasion. Because my father is from European-American culture and I grew up in the States, she did what was expected and sent thank you notes on our family’s behalf for Christmas gifts, etc., but she always seemed a bit put out about it and never taught me to do so because deep in her bones she cannot help but feel it is wrong etiquette. So I started writing thank you notes when I starting living on my own, around when I was 21…

  • bopper May 1, 2018, 4:25 pm

    I think it is “Past 21, your parents will no longer nag you to do thank you notes as you are an adult and can reap the consequences”