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To write or not to write....tips on Thank You Notes

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

To write or not to write....tips on Thank You Notes

I think I heard a saying once that went something like...

"Southern born and Southern bred, and when I die I'll be Southern dead."


And any good Southerner, well "bless our hearts," we know how to mind our manners.

My mom enrolled me in cotillion when I was in middle school to learn etiquette.  Things like which fork to use at dinner if there are 5 of them, how to foxtrot (which has been ever so helpful in child-rearing), how to write a proper acceptance letter to a wedding (because at 12 I was hot on the wedding circuit,) and more!  And I'm not even as prim and proper as some, but when it comes to questions on etiquette, you can bet that if I don't already know it, I'll find out.  

And noone knows what's proper better than Emily Post.

Last night I went to a baby shower of a dear friend.  I just love baby showers and I LOVE giving gifts!  But after writing almost 450 Thank You notes surrounding the occasion of my own nuptials, I really don't love writing Thank You notes anymore.  I still do them, and there are times when I really enjoy writing a note (particularly when I have received something unexpected, or from someone far away) but I often feel like after a shower for a person, she is left with a pile of notes that have to get written to thank someone she was actually able to hug and gush over a gift with in person.


And since my wedding, I learned something pretty interesting about Thank You Note etiquette...

"The rule of thumb is that you should send a written note any time you receive a gift (even a ‘thank you’ gift) and the giver wasn’t there to thank in person." - Emily Post

That's what her book said when I got married.  But I wanted to double check again in case something had changed, so I went to none other than EmilyPost.com to find the answer.  And I did come across something interesting that I thought I'd share with regards to note writing.


And here's what Emily herself says about it:

It’s never wrong to send a written thank-you—and—people always appreciate getting “thanks” in writing. Why? Handwritten notes are warmer and more special than other forms of thank-yous. The rule of thumb is that you should send a written note any time you receive a gift (even a ‘thank you’ gift) and the giver wasn’t there to thank in person. But notes are not always necessary. If, for example, the gift is from a close friend or relative (and it’s not a wedding gift) you can email or call instead if you prefer. Below are some other note-writing guidelines:

Shower gifts:  Even though the gift giver attended the shower in your honor and you had a chance to say thanks for her gift, you should still send a written note.


Wedding gifts:  Each wedding gift should be acknowledged with a written note within three months of receipt of the gift. It’s best to write the notes as soon as possible after gifts arrive, however. Write a note even if you have thanked the giver in person.

Congratulatory gifts or cards:  Anyone who sends a present, or a card with a personally written message, should receive a note in return.


Gifts received when sick:  Thank-you notes should be written as soon as the patient feels well enough—or a friend or relative can write the notes. It’s okay to call close friends rather than write.

Condolence notes or gifts:  Everyone who has sent a personal note, flowers or a donation should get a written thank-you. A close friend or relative can write the notes on the recipient’s behalf.
So to my friend the baby shower was for... Turns out that I was wrong.  It appears that mannerly speaking, for a shower gift, you still have to write a note even though you thanked us all and hugged us all last night.  I will say however, DO NOT write one to me...still.  I know you liked the gift.
So according to Ms. Post, I'm not sure that there is an occasion to not write a note after all.  Dinner invitation maybe?  But I have a list of rules that I'll share with you for dealing with me.
If I give you a gift and you open it in front of me, give me a hug and thank me then.  Instead of writing me a note later, just do something nice for yourself...like take a bath, or have a glass of wine!
If I bring a gift to your wedding, I do want a note...not so much that you can gush over the thing that I picked out for you that wasn't on your registry, but mostly so that I can know you got it and it wasn't broken.  Same things goes for if I mail you something.  And, for me, you can call me, or shoot me an email to let me know.  Mostly, I want something letting me know that you actually received what I took the time to get for you.
But I will say this... despite all the rules and etiquette surrounding Thank You notes, there really is something to be said for leafing through bills and magazines by the mailbox and seeing an envelope with a handwritten name on it that is shaped like a piece of stationary.  It's a good feeling.  And in an age where everything is geared towards electronics, and being quick and efficient, pretty much anyone I know gets a warm fuzzy feeling when reading a handwritten note.  I'll say though that my favorite ones are unexpected...the ones just to say "thanks for being a friend", "hope your week gets better," "I'm praying for you just because I love you," or "just thinking of you."
So if I've ever forgotten to write you a note, then I'm sorry.  If you've ever forgotten to write me one, no sweat.  It seems to me that ol' Emily defined what's truly mannerly though when she said:
"Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."

And I'm thinking that if THAT statement is your rule of thumb... to write or not to write will be less of a question.






PS. For Thank You notes from kids, HERE are some good ideas on how to get those done. (This is also something that with me personally...you don't have to do!)

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