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Thank You Card Etiquette

A thank you card carries with it enormous meaning. It’s an expression of appreciation – of thanks – for a thoughtful act, gesture or gift received.

Indeed, there are many occasions in which a thank you note is to be expected. Etiquette says that a 'thank you' should be sent as soon as possible, usually within one week, and that the note should reflect your personal appreciation for that person’s thoughtfulness.

Occasions to Send Thank You Cards

You could send a thank you card for almost any occasion or act of kindness. It’s never a bad idea to be kind in return and sometimes, when least expected, that’s when a 'thank you' can have the greatest impact.

With that said, there are certain occasions when a thank you card will be expected. If you receive a gift, then definitely compose a thank you card and send it to the giver. It doesn’t have to be a long letter. A short note that conveys your appreciation is all that’s needed.

Send a thank-you note for:

  • Wedding shower gifts
  • Bridal and baby shower gifts
  • Sympathy letters, cards or flowers
  • Gifts of congratulations (e.g. graduation)
  • Gifts given during a hospital stay

You can also send a card to the host/hostess who throws you a party; to someone who’s done you a favor such as house sitting; or to the person who interviews you for a new job. However, these are more acts of politeness. When it comes to gifts, it’s not only politeness, but also social etiquette. In such cases, you should always send a thank you card.

When to Send

The Emily Post Institute advises, “Write your notes as soon as possible, and don’t hesitate if you feel you’re late: a late note is always better than no note at all.”

It happens more often than it should, but people oftentimes put off writing a thank you note because they’re unsure of how to write one. In the end, they end up sending nothing at all because they feel too much time has passed. This should never happen. Just remember that a 'thank you' doesn’t have to read like perfect prose, so long as it comes from the heart, it will be appreciated.

So definitely, send your thank you cards. After your party, sit down and make the effort to complete this task. While companies can customize thank you cards pre-printed with thank you message on it, this is less personal than a simple card that has space enough for a hand-written note.

Etiquette says a thank you note should reference the gift received. If you’ve pre-printed your “thank you,” this is impossible.

Exceptions to the Rule

While etiquette says you should send your note within a week of a party or receiving a gift (gesture or favor), there are three exceptions:

  1. Wedding gifts: Couples are given three months to send their thank-you notes. However as always, the earlier the better so as to avoid a crunch at the end and consequently, messages that are less thoughtful.
  2. Hospital stays: The timeline for people in the hospital starts once the patient becomes well enough to send a note. So long as it takes, this is understandable.
  3. Gifts received in person: At a birthday party, bridal shower, or baby shower, you have the opportunity to thank the giver in person. However, it’s always kind to send a note still – especially to give them a better sense of how much you like it (e.g. “Sarah loved the blanket. She’s used it every day since.”).

The 'Thank You' Card

Some thank you cards are printed with only a design and empty space left for you to hand write your message of thanks. This is the simplest and least expensive option.

Others prefer to have either 'Thank You' or their name pre-printed across the top of the card. This is a little fancier and also leave plenty of room for your hand written message.

Thank you cards are an often over looked simply courtesy that is easy to do, inexpensive and well worth the effort.

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