Do you need to write a thank you note if you said thank you in person? The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. Here are 7 savvy ways to know when to follow up with a written note and when one isn’t required.
By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor
If you’ve been on the receiving end of a meal, a gift, or an act of kindness recently, writing the person a thank you note might be in order even if you said thank you at the time. But how do we know when saying thank you is enough, and when we need to engage in writing thank you notes after saying thanks?
A reader emailed me the question below. She wanted to know about sending a thank you note after eating Easter dinner at a friend’s house. But the heart of the matter keeps the manners the same after any meal that you’re treated to, whether it’s a lavish holiday spread, a summer backyard barbecue, a five-star restaurant meal, or merely fast food.
And it’s not just for meals. The same manners apply to anything we’re thanking someone for giving us or doing for us. Consider this your all-in-one thank-you-note information bulletin board! 🙂
7 Savvy Manners for Writing Thank You Notes After Saying Thanks
Q. Dear Maralee,
You spoke at my church’s women’s event several years ago. I haven’t forgotten a word of it! My question: Do you always send a thank you card after a meal? I thanked the hostess while I was eating and then again as I was saying goodbye. We’re good friends and don’t stand on formalities. If I should send her a card, when should I send it?
Columbia, South Carolina
Writing Thank You Notes after Saying Thanks
1. Short Answer:
Hello, Robyn! Thank you for remembering me and for sending your question my way! It’s always a joy to speak at churches, and I especially remember speaking at yours in Columbia!
In answer to your question, when someone provides us a meal, a thank you note is always a gracious gesture. While good friends are casual with one another, no one minds being appreciated. I’m sure she’ll receive your card with love, sweet surprise, and appreciation.
The odds are close to zero that she’ll read it, shake her head, and think, “Why did she waste her time writing me all these nice things?” 🙂 So no, it’s not required, but it will only take a few minutes to write, and it will touch her heart! So I always encourage people to write one. (Here’s how to write a great one easily!)
2. When Is the Note Due?
You’ll want to pop it in standard (snail) mail the next day (more about this below). Bascially, we want to put that strict time limit on ourself becasue we’re busy, and days can quickly turn into weeks.
3. Proverbs, DNA, & Why Writing Thank You Notes Is Good for You — Body & Soul:
The book of Proverbs reminds us that “Kind words are like honey — sweet for the soul and healthy for the body.” When we say them, we’re blessed as we’re blessing the other person.
Thanking your friend during the meal and as you say goodbye is kind. If you’re the type of person who wants to go the second mile (and if you’re reading this post, I’m going to assume you are), saying it is the first step in expressing your appreciation.
Going the second mile means gifting your host(s) with a permanent reminder of your gratitude by sending them a handwritten note. The multi-sensory experience for the hosts as they spot your card in the mail and open and read it makes your thank you memorable.
Think about this: it’s also uniquely personal because it contains a part of you. You touched the card. It’s in your unique handwriting. You licked the envelope. Your DNA is literally a part of the note. No one else can send the note that you can. It’s gracious evidence of your appreciation that can be kept, re-read, and passed around to others. It lasts long after the words we said at the time are forgotten.
4. Due the Next Day?! What’s the Rush?
True gratitude is spontaneous. If flows from the heart as fluid and unstoppable as an overflowing river.
Think of a child opening a gift that’s something she has had on the top of her “I want” list for months. When she tears open the wrapping paper and sees what’s in the box, she starts jumping up and down; a smile conquers her face; her eyes light the corners of the room where she stands. Nothing is quite as endearing as spontaneous appreciation. Sending a thank you note is our grown-up way of expressing that same sense and level of gratitude.
Also, there’s a practical reason. We’re all busy. If we don’t do it the next day, it’s going to get pushed down on our to-do lists by the demands of the following day and then on and on until it’s off our radar.
5. What about Thank You Notes for Little Gifts and Acts of Kindness?
Some might say, “Sure, he made us dinner, gave us a little gift, or sent flowers — he didn’t donate one of his kidneys to us.”
The thing about that is that true appreciation doesn’t set up a rating system. It’s OK to gush a little, even over the little things. The recipient of your note will find you gracious, endearing, and attentive.
Make sure to thank the giver in person. And then while not necessary, it’s nice to follow up with a handwritten note. This is especially true if the giver thought it was important enough that it was wrapped for you (if it was a wrappable item).
6. What If You “Owe” Someone a Card for a Gift or Meal from Weeks or Months Ago?
That’s O.K., we’ve all been there! A thank you note sent late is better than one never sent. Go ahead and mail it along with a quick apology for the lateness.
In the future, we all need to remember (me included!) that the ones we send weeks after the event, even though we’re sincere, can send a mixed message. The recipient can sometimes read between the lines, imagining the giver thinking, “Thank goodness this nagging task is finally off my mind and off my to-do list.”
7. Can I Send My Note Via Text or Email?
Sure, as long as your meal wasn’t planned in advance and was served in a fast food chain, or a casual local restaurant. In other words, if someone says to you, “Hey, do you want to catch some lunch with me? I think I’m going to the taco truck at the corner.” And then when you’re there says, “Here, let me get this for us.” A verbal thank you followed by a quick text or email thank you is fine. You’ll also want to return the favor when the next opportunity arises.
Etiquette has evolved to meet our needs and sensibilities. There are lots of times when texted or emailed thank you notes are fine. Here’s a post, with all the details about graciously emailing or texting your thanks. Thank You Notes: When to Send a Handwritten One, When It’s OK to Email or Text, & When One’s Not Required
Thank you notes are short. They take us about five minutes to write, address, and drop in our mailbox — much less time than the other person spent on preparing food or buying us a gift. Send your note with a glad heart. You’ll brighten the day of the recipient, who realizes you noticed and appreciated the effort spent on you, and you’ll have exercised your virtue of gratitude.
Important Grace Notes
Here are other posts about thank you notes with new, additional information. You might enjoy checking them out, too!
The Gracious Five-Step Formula for Writing Thank You Notes: I feel this is one of the most important and impactful posts on the blog. If you want an easy formula to follow which, even though it’s a formula, will allow you to write authentic thank you notes from your heart that will touch the hearts of those you’re sending them to, this is the post for you!!!
The 3 Persons You Really Should Write After-Christmas Thank You Notes To: This post talks about Christmas. When it comes to the manners of the situation, you can substitute anything in for Christmas, and the manners remain unchanged. It’s actually year-round info!
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We know manners won’t fix the world, but they will make our daily encounters with one another less stressful and more confident, gracious, and kind. I’d say that’s a great start for a happier life for us and for our children!
Until next time, keep doing what you were put on Earth to do: bless others by being you…at your authentic best!!!