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Understanding Proper Thank You Card Etiquette

thank you card and envelope next to hand holding a pen

Although the habit of writing thank you cards has been falling by the wayside, it shouldn’t. Understanding when to send thank-you cards and what to say makes it easier. People who do nice things appreciate when you use proper thank-you card etiquette.

Occasions That Merit a Thank You Note

Proper thank-you card etiquette notes that several occasions merit sending these notes. These include any time you receive a gift or you’ve had an interview or been a guest in someone’s home. If someone sends you a condolence or get-well card or gift, send a thank-you card. Likewise, if you receive a congratulatory gift or card for a special occasion.

Proper Timing

It’s typically best to send out a thank you note within a day or two. With weddings, proper thank-you card etiquette gives couples leeway and extends this period to six weeks. With illness or condolences, you can send these cards as soon as you’re feeling better.

Potential Benefits

Send a thank-you card so you stand out from the people who don’t do so. This is helpful when you’re looking for a job and thanking the person who interviewed you. But also, sending a card will make the person receiving the card happy. It makes it more likely they’ll think of you kindly.

What to Include

Handwrite the note as legibly as possible rather than using a preprinted note. You should thank the person for whatever it was they gave you or did for you. With a gift, it’s great to note how you’ve used the gift or plan to use it. Even better, include a picture of the gift in use. Make the note personal, so the recipient knows that you’re thinking of them. Keep the tone in line with your relationship. Use more formal notes for more formal occasions and lighter notes for close friends and family.

Potential Substitutes

With friends and family, you can often thank the giver in person, over the phone, or over email. This isn’t the proper wedding thank-you card etiquette. Even in these cases, an actual handwritten thank you is preferable. When in doubt, send a card. If someone sends you something as a thank you, call or email to prevent a loop of thank yous.

Potential Thank-You Card Etiquette Mistakes

Make sure you spell everything, including the person’s name, correctly. Don’t say you didn’t like the gift, but don’t lie and say you love it. If the gift was a joint gift, everyone receiving the gift should sign the thank you note. Likewise, if the gift was from a group, address the thank you note to everyone in the group.