by Kim Wadsworth
Some see it as a social obligation. Others remember it as a dreaded childhood task.
Truth be told, expressing gratitude should be as rewarding for you as it is for the recipient.
The gold standard of appreciation will always be a handwritten thank-you note; there’s nothing like receiving a card or letter with a heartfelt message. But in today’s electronically driven world, there are lots of communication options beyond snail mail. It’s important to know when it is acceptable to write, email, text or call.
The Handwritten Word
Letters and cards sent through the post office or hand-delivered will always stand out. According to etiquette experts, gifts – such as birthday, bridal, baby, graduation or housewarming – deserve a written note. While some believe that opening a gift in front of the giver and verbally expressing gratitude is enough, a descriptive note adds a personal touch. Other circumstances where sending a note is considered de rigueur include being a guest at a business or social dinner; kindness shown during an illness; or condolence extended due to personal loss.
To make this ritual more engaging, it’s important to have stationery and note cards readily available. You can go the extra mile and have them personalized with your name or initials. With so many stationery outlets available, from Paper Source and
Papyrus to Michaels and T.J. Maxx, there’s no excuse not to have some form of notepaper handy. Choose correspondence cards or folded notes if you are a person of few words; brevity can convey the same message as a lengthy letter. Either way, the recipient won’t judge your efforts. Buy a sheet of attractive stamps to add a personal touch to your envelope.
Get in the habit of scribing your note as soon as possible and have it ready for the next day’s mail. Keep it gracious and allow your words to do the rest.
To Email, Text or Call: That is the Question
When it comes to electronic-communication protocol, options have relaxed considerably and continue to evolve. This new form of netiquette, a term used for online and social-media etiquette, reflects a mindfulness towards internet correspondence. While close friends and family members are often the ones that deserve a personal note for all they do, we’ve come to believe that it’s not expected and a thank-you text or email will suffice. As close as you might be, there will be times that call for more than a clever emoji or gif.
For colleagues and coworkers, an email or text for a lunch treat, work-related help or a last-minute act of kindness is certainly acceptable as long as your gratitude is evident. After an important business meal, an email or phone call recapping the details discussed with thanks for an enjoyable meeting is sufficient, but sending a written note offers two advantages, according to etiquette experts Peggy and Peter Post: It doesn’t interrupt the business associate’s day and comes across as more gracious. Offer a double dose of gratitude by texting a preliminary thank you such as, “Dinner last night was great – a proper note will follow,” then pop a card in the mail.
For more casual moments like a coffee catch-up, a supportive phone call or a last-minute favor, a brief email of thanks or an upbeat text with an added emoji shows you care.
Finally, there are moments of gratitude where only a phone call will do. Text the recipient first to reserve a convenient time to talk. Whether it’s telling a host how much you enjoyed a recent visit or recapping a special event with a family member, you can never thank them enough for the efforts they made to include you.
Regardless of the situation, do more than you think you should and find the right form of communication to get the message across.
Kim Wadsworth has been a source of etiquette protocol for 20 years. Hear her most recent advice on Mind Over Manners at WHRV.org/MindOverManners.