Thank-You Etiquette

Thank-You’s are a big part of our society. They help us to remain polite, kind, caring people who genuinely appreciate the things that others do for us. Without saying “thank you” to someone for the things they’ve done, we might come across as rude or ungrateful. However, there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all type of thank-you that is appropriate in all scenarios. The type of thank-you you choose will largely depend on a number of factors including: who the subject of thanks is, what they did for you, how well you know them, and where they live. Here’s a look at some of the etiquette behind the various types of thank-yous, and when you should use them all.

Verbal Thank-Yous

This type of thank-you is my method of choice. When someone gives me a gift, if they are right there with me to watch me open the gift, then I say “thank you” in the moment. Once I have thanked the person, I believe that should be enough. They have been thanked for the gift and can see that I appreciate it. Typically, I don’t follow this type of thank-you up with a thank-you card, because I believe a card is not necessary in this situation. They already know I said “thank you,” there shouldn’t be a reason to say it again. Unfortunately, I do know a few people who demand thank-you cards and sometimes even thank-you phone calls after being verbally thanked. I do it, but it’s a bit annoying, as it feels like they’re looking for me to grovel, at this point.

Text Message Thank-Yous

Text message thank-yous are appropriate when you were either: given a gift in person but had to leave right away and weren’t able to open it right then and there, or when the person had you go pick up the gift from somewhere, and wasn’t able to see you open it. That being said, this type of thank-you should only be used with immediate family members or friends, and should also depend greatly on the type of gift that was given. If it is something small, then a text message thank-you is appropriate. However, if it is a large item, or something very meaningful or quite expensive, a thank-you phone call or even a card would be a better method of thanking the gift giver.

Phone Call Thank-Yous

Sometimes, the best type of thank-you is a phone call. These should be used in the event that a family member who is either significantly older than you or who isn’t part of your immediate family, drops off a gift or sends one to you, regardless of item type or value. This type of thank-you is also appropriate if the giver lives in another city, state, or country. Then they can hear you express your thanks right there on the phone, and you can also have a meaningful conversation with them.

Email Thank-Yous

I feel as though email thank-yous are extremely formal, and the only time they should really be used is when you are thanking someone for a service they have provided for you, an event that they hosted, or something along those lines. For example, after a job interview, you should immediately send a thank-you via email to all those who interviewed you (if you are able to obtain their email addresses). You should also send a email thank-you to event coordinators, photographers, cake decorators, customer service representatives who did an amazing job (this would typically be if you had live-chatted with that person), etc.

Thank-You Cards

Here’s the big one: the thank-you card. I always feel weird writing thank-you cards, because I never really know what to say, especially if the person that I am writing to gave me a gift that is meant for a specific purpose. I mean, how do you write a thank-you card for someone who gave you a toaster? While I am grateful for the toaster, I feel like my thank-you message would sound something like: “Thank you for the toaster. I am going to use it to make toast…” You don’t say! That’s what toasters do! So how does one write a thank-you card in this scenario? Generally, I say “Dear X, Thank you so much for the toaster! I really appreciate it. It is certainly something that [Insert Spouse’s Name] and I have been needing for a long time, and we will definitely get a lot of use out of it. Thank you also for coming to our wedding (or whatever other event it may be). It was nice to see you there. Love and blessings, Bythnia.” Now, if the person wasn’t able to make it to the event, I will write the same message, but will leave out the part about their being at the event. I may change the line to something more suitable, or I may leave it out entirely. It depends on the person to whom I am writing, and the reason why they couldn’t come to the event in question.

As for when to write thank-you cards, these should be used whenever you have thrown a big event, like a wedding, bridal shower, baby shower, etc. When there are a lot of people and a lot of gifts involved, the event is generally seen as a “formal” event, even when it is relaxed. You may get a lot of people from out of town coming exclusively for your event, so it is important to let them know that you appreciate them. This is the only situation in which I believe you should still send a thank-you card, even after giving a verbal thank you. It’s just seen as a common courtesy. However, if you have not thrown a big party/event, and have received a gift for a birthday, or for Christmas, or just because, then I don’t believe a thank-you card should be necessary unless you want to send one.

Hopefully, after reading this guide, you now have a better sense of the etiquette behind each type of thank you, and can understand when certain scenarios merit one of the aforementioned types of thank-yous. I also hope this guide takes a little bit of stress off of you when preparing thank-yous, and that you will be able to express your gratitude in a way that is appropriate for the giver of the gift or provider of the service in relation to the situation. If you have any questions, leave a comment for me!



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