Do or Don’t: Mailing Thank You Notes

Do or Don't: Thank You Notes

I’m a big etiquette nerd and love all things politesse, like making eye contact while toasting and tilting your soup spoon away. But I have to say, I’m not feeling thank you cards anymore.

Last weekend, I went to a dinner party at my friend Abbey‘s apartment. She and her husband made pasta and chicken cutlets and arugula salad with mustard vinaigrette. Wine was flowing, and for dessert, they busted out this chocolate pear tart. Everyone laughed and talked about books and movies and travel and gossip, and it was one of those perfect evenings that make you feel glow-y the whole next day.

On the cab ride home, I texted Abbey and raved about her hosting prowess. The next day, we emailed more about the night. She sent me the tart recipe. And, then, the following day… I wrote a thank you card.

But was it needed? It felt weirdly redundant after our many texts and emails.

For the host’s opinion, I asked Abbey and she said, “I loved your handwritten note, but loved even more getting a text or email the next day. Immediacy is wonderful.” Right?

Thoughts? Do you still love writing thank you cards? Getting them? Or can we all agree to skip them?

P.S. Funny NYC etiquette, and how to introduce people.

(Photo of letterpress cards by James Ransom/Food52.)

  1. HM says...

    Someone once told me “people overestimate the effort that goes into a handwritten note and underestimate how appreciated it will be.” Ever since, I’ve started writing thank you cards, birthday cards, hi how are you cards for everything under the sun! I think it’s a nice gesture, whether or not it’s “required!”

  2. Julie Alderson says...

    I’m glad someone broached this subject. I don’t think “thank you” cards are always necessary, but I do think that any thoughtful gesture like a thank you card should always be well received. That is not the case. I gave a thank you card to my office manager with a Giant Eagle gift card in return for him helping me with a car insurance claim one time. Even though my office manager despises me for reasons unknown, I thought it was a nice gesture. He MAIMED me for it. About halfway through the day, the cold as ice Russian man pulled me into an empty room and told me how embarrassing it was to receive a gift from me and how inappropriate it was that I would give him one. He asked if I wanted it back, but I thought that would be even more degrading. What was that? I read about Russian culture, and although they think thank you cards are “impractical,” in no way would they be expected to elicit the response that I received. There are some middle eastern cultures that consider it “embarrassing” to receive a gift from anyone other than a good friend, but I couldn’t find anything like that in Russian culture. Why did he react like that?

  3. noryie says...

    my culture is different. we never give out thank you cards or expect them. when we give, we don’t expect anything in return, and when we receive, we thank the person face to face with a smile and a hug and kiss. I would never think of writing my sister or mother a thank you note for a gift, so in many ways, our culture sees friends much like family. we are tight and give freely and thank freely without expectation. when someone thanks the other person, they say, it was a pleasure. no trees harmed in the process. but I do have to say this, giving out cards is a lovely gesture, it truly is, but I think once you get offended from not receiving one kind of misses the point of kindness. give without expectation. if you receive a card, be surprised and thankful, but if you don’t get anything, don’t assume the worst of the other person. these rules of etiquette can become so legalistic that it makes us forget to stay humble and grateful.

  4. Caring says...

    It doesn’t take that much time to send a written note. You can never go wrong sending a written note to express gratitude, kindness, best wishes, happy birthday, get well, sympathy, thinking of you, or encouragement/inspiration at a time when needed. Technology has it’s place, but texting and email are not “special”. I hope we never stop caring enough to take a little time to do something special, because that kindness usually comes back two-fold.

  5. I went to my niece’s baby shower, and it’s been a few months, and no thank you note! I had spent many hours knitting a sweater set, and baby afghan for the new baby. I also had other items in the gift bag. I understand that it is my expectations that have not been met, not my niece’s. I guess I am just old school, or maybe just old, but I still think a handwritten note is valued by all.

  6. People don’t have to do nice things for us – like wedding gifts, shower gifts, graduation gifts. So when someone does invest their time and money in doing something nice…….then surely the receiver can take a moment and write a sincere thank you, and mail it to them.

  7. Candice says...

    Thank you for starting this conversation! In December I was offered a new job and wanted to send thank you cards to the two references I knew had spoken highly of me to the HR rep from my new company. When I asked for their addresses they both seemed very confused and one even said “If you’re sending me a thank you card, it’s not necessary.” I felt so silly! I still sent the cards because I truly appreciate a hand-written note, but it made me question whether I’d gone too far.

  8. Suzie says...

    I don’t know how I missed this post until today. YES, thank you cards are SO important and are so awesome to receive, ESPECIALLY when mailed! Even if you live in the same city! I love choosing interesting stamps and making the envelope pretty. It really only takes a few minutes to write a thank you, compared to the time spent by whoever you’re thanking for whatever they did. I don’t think people do it enough. I especially think for birthday, wedding, and baby gifts they are a must. But these days I’ll take anything – as far too many people these days don’t even say thank you in any form.

  9. Talor says...

    My mother always raised me to send thank you notes when I was given a gift and I still make a point to do that (even if it takes a some time for me to send it – like after the two baby showers I had recently, one before my son was born and one after). I don’t usually send thank you notes after being invited over for dinner, but I would instead bring something as a host/hostess gift (bottle of wine, dessert). I would follow up with a text message either that night or the next day however.

  10. Maybe it is a cultural thing (I live in the Rocky Mountains) but I’ve never heard of someone sending a thank you card for having you over for dinner, or even for parties such as retirement parties or baby shower. People do say thank you and might text or chat about it, and people definitely send thank you cards for gifts. Then again, it is not a very formal culture; outside of weddings, I can’t think of a whole lot of more formal events that are very common around these parts. Even a funeral has people in jeans….

    That said, I think everyone enjoys getting handwritten mail. I like the suggestion one commentator had about maybe sending a “thinking of you card” instead a week later.

  11. I love buying and receiving handwritten cards, but that said, my mind goes blank when I’m about to write the card, so yes to immediate text and perhaps send a ‘hello, I’m thinking of you’ card one week later :)

  12. Keiry says...

    I think ‘thank you’ emails are adequate for casual occasions, but I do prefer thank you cards for more formal events. I wouldn’t know what to do with the thank you cards I’d receive every time I spend time with friends. Plus, one can be pretty creative w/ emails and attach pictures to share!

  13. I think it’s a nice touch but since thank you notes take a few days to arrive, I try to call the next day also. Regarding thank you notes, I absolutely love getting them in the mail, hiding between bills and random flyers. It’s a nice surprise and always makes me happy!


  14. Ann says...

    I love sending them and I love getting them via snail mail preferred. I make my kids write them too because it feels good to get a hand written note.

  15. I heart thank you notes… even though they may not be totally necessary, there’s something sweet and polite about them. I would hate for the tradition to be lost due to technology. <3

  16. Ser says...

    Thank you notes are not even a thing in Australia. Never even seen one or heard of them! Verbal thank yous seem perfectly adequate to me!

  17. I do both. I like the quick feedback for the hosts, but I also think that a note that arrives a few days later shows how much you really enjoyed it – enough to get out the beautiful card/stationery and sometimes even a fountain pen. And be sure to use different words than you texted – otherwise, it does come across as redundant and insincere.

  18. Maggie says...

    I often take a thank you card with me to the dinners I’m invited to. At some point throughout the evening, I have found a private moment to write a thank you, and I leave it somewhere they’ll find it. I know this is a little unconventional, but I especially do it when I’m a +1 and I know I may never see them again or get their address. I think it’s the best of both worlds: immediacy, surprise, and traditional hand-written.

    • JoLynn says...

      4 years later I see this article! I love your idea and I am totally stealing it!
      What a wonderful, creative and thoughtful gesture. So glad I ran across your comment today!

  19. I send a lot of cards/notes and won’t stop doing it. I think mail is important. :)

  20. Benay says...

    Thank you texts/emails to/from good friends is always appropriate, but I send thank you notes whenever someone hosts a formal meal or it’s a coworker/boss. Super essential.

  21. I reserve thank you notes for special occassions – weddings, bridal/baby showers, etc. In other instances I send a text or sometimes I use an app to send a postcard because I can add a picture from the event. The postcard is more about sending the photo as a momento of our time together than I feel the need to send thanks.

  22. Silvie says...

    It’s so interesting to read all the comments! Where I live, we don’t send thank you cards, except for weddings (and even then it can take months until you get yours – the longest I had to wait was 9 months! Although I have to admit that I was a bit offended, because the couple sent out the first thank you cards 2,5 months after their wedding; it shouldn’t take them this long to send them all.). I would find it very weird if a friend would send me a thank you note, but it’s so interesting to see how important they are in the US! Always learn something new… :)

  23. I love giving and receiving handwritten notes for any occasion, and I hope we’ll never stop doing that! Love opening the mailbox to find a handwritten note among a stack of bills bills and bills. Cheers me up instantly! :)

  24. berta says...

    I love sending thank you cards but I don’t usually do it for dinners at a friend’s house. I usually send a text for that.

  25. Sharon Davis says...

    Yes, I love sending thank you notes! I’ll also confess to saving thank you notes that my students and their families have written to me over the years; they mean a lot to me even years after I’ve received them.

  26. I love letters, especially the snail-mail kind. There’s no better feeling (for me!) than sifting through the mail and discovering a letter from a friend or family member. To know she took time out of her busy day to sit down, find stationery, and pen me a note tickles me.

  27. Jeanette says...

    I know it may seem old-fashioned, but I enjoy sending and receiving thank you notes. Saying “thank you” has become more of a reflex, and texting is the norm. Taking a moment to write a note of thanks should never be out dated.

  28. Leanne says...

    Firm believer in the art of thank you notes. I call it an art because I feel like in this age of go, go, go and immediacy there is something to be said about finding that amazing piece of stationery and taking the time to sit and write something to someone who extended you some kindness or thoughtfulness. And who doesn’t love getting mail that is not a bill or junk. With gifts, my mother always said if I couldn’t take the time to write the gift-giver a thank you, she was sending the gift back. Their thoughtfulness was worth my showing of appreciation. Now it is something I enjoy doing on the regular. And, man, there is some amazing stationery out there!

    • So very well put.

  29. Suse says...

    …but don’t you love getting them; or even any handwritten note?

  30. It’s funny, because I never would have thought of sending an actual thank you card for a dinner party – unless perhaps I didn’t know them very well? If it was really fancy I would try to bring a small hostess gift, like a jar of homemade caramel. I was raised to write thank you cards after every gift though, and although I’ve really fallen off the bandwagon after having kids, it’s something I’d like to keep up. We lived in a very international community (in Dubai) and there were often baby or wedding showers…I had both during our time there, and another American woman talked for years afterward about how I gave her the only thank you card she ever received out of all the showers she had attended. It meant a lot to her, so it showed me how important it can be and also how cultural it is to us in the US – perhaps no one else would have thought of it.
    But for a fun event or dinner, text or email for sure!

  31. Yes! YES! Yes! I think a thank you note is always appropriate for gifts. And I it sounds like this dinner was the best kind of gift: a wonderful experience shared with friends. As someone who hosts dinner parties often, the amount of work involved, planning, shopping, cleaning, cooking, cleaning again is surly worthy of more than a text. I think its a nice nod to the effort—you cooked a delicious meal, I can take the time to pen my gratitude.

  32. Oh dear. I am part ashamed and part shaking my head right now. I have never ever sent a thank you note to anyone for having us over for dinner.

    Really? You guys do that? I mean, I’m not American and so I never grew up doing this or being taught to do it other than for big occasions like my wedding, so I suppose it’s yet another cultural thing I don’t understand, but holy moly! If I thought I had to write a thank you note and send it every time I had dinner with someone I would decline all dinner invitations!

    I say thank you when I leave and I would think the host knows by then that I am grateful? Also these are my friends we’re talking about and it seems silly to write formal cards for things I would just say the next time I meet them anyway?

    Go ahead and skip the cards, that’s my vote! But don’t forget to have a great time and say thank you when you leave and remind them you had a great time the next time you see them!

    • Ser says...


  33. Rachel says...

    I (was raised to) love sending thank-you cards, but am not very consistent with things like dinners. It’s something I ALWAYS do for gifts, holiday parties, that kind of thing. One thing I really love to do in situations like these is sent a postcard from an app called Postagram. For $1 USD you can send a picture you took of the night (or a cute photo of your dog or kids, no judgement here) and a little note saying thanks. It takes literally a minute to do from your phone but the end result is super thoughtful! (Pro tip- this app is also GREAT for vacations- you can send a batch to your parents/aunts/grannies. Its way more personal and fun than a typical tourist postcard. We did it throughout our honeymoon in Italy and it was really great.)

    • Megan says...

      This is great – thanks!

    • Jael says...

      Oh my gosh, this is awesome, and I consider myself a bit of a mail nerd. Thank you for the tip!

  34. Oh a card is super nice! But I think any “thank you” that comes from the heart will feel genuine. I got the cutest going-away thank-you card the other day… she made these ticket-coupons for “visit to LA… free airport pickup…”, it just made me tear up!

    Love that you are so personal to give a thank you card after a dinner party!

  35. Charlotte says...

    EVERYONE sends texts and emails all the time. Why not send a hand written note and be better than EVERYONE :)

  36. There are few things I recall from my Grandmother but Thank You notes is one of them.

    The rule I was taught, and while it’s hard to keep up with I try my best, but she would always say: “anyone who takes 15 minutes or more of their time to do something for you, deserves a thank you note. then end”.

    Other lessons from my Great Aunt Iva, who chained smokes ciggs out of a cigarette holder:
    1. Always cross your legs at the hell, not the knee
    2. Do not smoke in public, not even in Europe.
    3. Do not leave the house without lipstick on. “Forget the other mess, but never forget the lipstick”
    4. Never wear more than 13 accessories, “you don’t want people thinking you are tacky”. This would mean, a set of earrings counts as one, each ring, necklace, braclet, etc each count as one.
    5. A true gentleman “who was brought up right” will never extend his hand out to reach yours. That is a big no no, she would tell me. “That boy has no right coming into your personal space, uninvited. Should you wish to make contact, you extend your arm for a hand shake, hug, thus telling him it’s ok to enter your personal space.

    Oh what a magical error our Grandparents and Great relatives lived in! As silly as it sounds, I send thank you notes on the reg, I count my jewelry before I leave the house, and I totes notice when I meet a male how the treat my personal space, You would be surprised ( ha or maybe not) how many men automatically extend their arms for a handshake or hug without the proper “invitation”

    • Erica Scott says...

      Love these tips!

  37. I think for a regular dinner or something like that, a text is sufficient. However for an event such as a wedding, birthday, christening etc I think it is important to send a thank you card!

  38. Jo says...

    Paperless Post. It’s quick and easy and can be personalised too. I use it all the time and it’s a half way house between a formal thank you note and a text.

  39. Lauren says...

    I feel oh so very split on thank you notes. If a close friend sends them I actually think “what?! I’m her BFF she doesn’t need to send me a thank you note!” But I love a thank you text from a BFF after a fun night that I hosted or planned. I definitely don’t need them after kids bday parties. I do send thank you notes when it’s someone that I’m not so close to that did something really nice for me or my family. I recently sent a thank you note to a friend of my grandmothers who has continued to go above and beyond for her and I heard back through a family member that she was so pleased and touched that I sent it so that definitely made me happy and realize thank you notes can still be very important.

  40. Alice says...

    I think thank you notes are essential after events such as a wedding or baby naming- from the bride & groom or parents, that is! I went to a wedding last July, where the bride & groom asked for money instead of gifts, and never got a “thank you” note. I was more than a little put out, I’m not going to lie…!

    When I attend things, however, I always just send a follow up text to say thanks- or rather, say “thank you” by ARRIVING with a gift. The note is kind of superfluous, if you ask me…

  41. Cindi says...

    Honestly I choose to go green and save tree. I think a text or phone call is appropriate in most instances. If a thank you note is necessary it should be meaningful enough to not end up in the trash bin.

  42. Meggles says...

    No. Thank you notes are important, and they always will be. Always.

  43. I definitely like getting thank you texts or emails, but there is no need for a thank you note. Thinking about it now, I realize I have never gotten a thank you note after hosting, and I host a lot!
    I have never been expecting it neither.

  44. Lee says...

    I don’t think you can ever go wrong by sending a thank you note. It’s a display of gratitude that demonstrates effort. Personally, I think a text is too informal. One way to make them a greater demonstration of that gratitude is to hand make them. When you feel inspired create a few and keep them on file for when you need them. People will be touched that you took the time, which is what thank you’s are all about. A text simply does not show the same effort and sincerity.

  45. Sharon Gillespie says...

    Yes! It’s value may not be appreciated now but rather for some unknown time in the future when you’re going through your stuff to come across a hand-written letter, re-read it and remember a glorious evening. Perhaps time has yellowed the envelope but the handwriting itself is distinct and lends itself to something personal.
    There is nothing like touching something authentic from the past, which explains the popularity of “retro” and the value of antiques. If your friend is young there may be less experience with hand-written letters in which case she’s unaware of the future value it could hold.
    That doesn’t mean to send a card or letter every time but it at least gives the receiver the choice to hold on to a moment when they experienced something very special.

    • Simone says...

      I agree Sharon.

  46. Megan says...

    My new favorite way to have the kids say thank you for gifts is to text a short video of the kids wearing/using/holding the gift and saying thank you to the giver. I debate a bit in my head whether this is as good a lesson for them as making them write hand written notes (which we do still do sometimes, like to the coach after a flag football season and teachers at the end of the year). But times they are a changing, and everyone loves seeing and hearing them in the video with the gift! So I think it is a modern take on gratitude:)

  47. Yes, I totally agree! I think a nice text or email the day after shows that you’re still thinking about the event and felt the instant need to reach out and thank the hostess. I am still a sucker for a handwritten note but maybe it should be reserved for letters and catch ups between friends and family. Thank you texts sound good to me!

    Thanks for sharing!


  48. Karen says...

    I’m a firm believer in thank you notes for gifts. My boys have always written thank you notes to grandparents and aunts and uncles when they receive gifts. ( Yes I do have to remind them). Also, yes to thank you notes expressing condolences. I still have the many notes I received when my mom passed away. They were an unexpected source of comfort to me. I love getting notes in the mail and don’t intend to stop writing them. Plus there’s just so much cool stationery!

  49. Haley says...

    We had friends over for dinner last week and loved the wine-fueled text message they sent us as soon as they got home. There is a sense of spontaneity and fun with a clever thank you text that plays on some of the evening’s humour. This said, Grandparents need thank you notes!

  50. It depends on the situation and the people in that situation, doesn’t it?
    I personally love the opportunity to write a note by hand. But for the most part will settle for typing a privately messaged thank you.
    It is a generational thing in what medium that thank you is represented. At the end of the day, if we are gracious and appreciative it shouldn’t matter how that thank you is delivered.

  51. I don’t think it’s needed for everything, and agree that an immediate thank you is necessary–but I don’t think they can hurt! Who doesn’t love getting a piece of mail that isn’t junk?!

  52. Elizabeth says...

    I cannot imagine a world without thank you notes, and for someone to go to the trouble of not formally responding in writing to an unexpected gift, a wedding or graduation gift is horrifying to me. To not acknowledge the trouble someone has gone to for someone is dismissing them, and this rejection is hurtful.

    For events like confirmations or first communions, I always give nice notecards or paper to children to give them and their parents a hint: this is what we do in polite society, and welcome to it!

    For dinner parties or social events, I’ll accept an email or text, but a card is nice. I’ll cut mothers of newborns a lot of slack, and I wouldn’t expect a note or card but if they just said “thank you” I’d be OK. For job interviews I think an email is sufficient, particularly because of its immediacy.

    • Angel says...

      I love all of this.

    • Lindsey says...


  53. Ashley says...

    It will be a sad day when people think there is no need to properly say thank you. Having people over is a LOT of work and I cannot imagine not writing a note. It’s just as fast as an email to write and far more meaningful to receive. In today’s pathetic world it is a very easy way to distinguish yourself as well raised and appreciative. Plus, who doesn’t love amazing stationary or a funny irreverent card? Save the handwritten note!

  54. Oh! I love sending thank you notes (I probably over-do it in fact!).

    Mail is the worst these days (ugh, catalog and bill and spam city), so I like knowing someone will smile when they see a real card among the annoying letters. I don’t expect them, though. A text or email totally does the trick, too. I just know how much joy I get out of notes and want to pass that smile along to my friends. I also have a lot of fun picking up quirky and fun thank you notes and then finding the perfect excuse to use them.

    Although, I agree with a lot of the people here–when I bring new parents dinner I explicitly tell them I don’t want a note (or sick friends, or anyone with a lot on their plate). It seems kind of beside the point when you’re trying to help someone out to expect them to send a formal thank you for it.

  55. i’m not sure if it’s just people my ages (young 20’s) but handwritten letters just aren’t as common these days. throughout college, my friend and i would write letters to each other at our respective schools, but that was really it. we are taught that handwritten letters are even not the norm after job interviews, because people want “thank yous” to be ASAP (aka via email). i’m curious to hear peoples’ opinions on that as well!

  56. Amber says...

    My grandmother and my father stopped having contact with me for years over not sending them thank you notes when I was a kid. To them, my seeming ingratitude was unconscionable. Some people take it very seriously! These days, I do take the time to send thank yous to my parents and people of their generation.

    • Ser says...

      :( that sounds way harsh.

  57. Claire says...

    After my son was born, people were so generous and we were lucky enough to receive gifts from relatives & friends near and far. However, the gift I might have felt most grateful to receive was a delicious home-cooked meal from a friend with children of her own, followed by the directive of “DO NOT send me a thank you note,” — freedom from the TY note exercise was explicitly stated as part of the gift. As a new mom, seemingly unable to get anything accomplished with my completely unpredictable daily schedule, this gesture felt like knowing, sweet relief from someone who had “been there.”

    Since then, I’ve done my best to pass on the favor, telling friends “moms don’t write thank you notes to other moms.” It’s a nod to the fact that we enjoy buying fun gifts for each others’ sweet babies but the intention is not to foist an obligation on a new mom.

  58. Amanda says...

    I am a big fan of handwritten thank-you notes to acknowledge gratitude for gifts received, especially if they came via mail or were not given in person, including helping my kids to write thank-you notes to friends & relatives for their birthday gifts. But if I attended a dinner party or something similar, I’d send a thoughtful email the next day in lieu of a handwritten note. (And I love getting those emails from friends who have come to parties at my house!) What I have trouble with, however, is when I’ve sent a gift to someone in the mail, and I don’t receive ANY acknowledgement– not a thank-you note, an email, or even a text! (This happens often with certain family members.) Then the anxious part of me wonders… did he or she not get the gift? Was it lost in the mail? Did I write the wrong address on it? And then… what if he or she thinks I forgot his or her birthday?! Ugh. Then there’s the awkward debate– do I ask if they received it? I don’t want it to seem like I’m expecting a thank-you, but yet I want to make the gift actually got delivered to them! I haven’t read through all the comments, but I’m wondering if anyone has experienced this situation. How do you handle it?

    • This is my experience exactly… I was brought up to write thank you notes and I love receiving them. Like you, I now email after dinners or parties but for gifts I think a note is the thing to do. Also like you, I find it so awkward (and incredibly rude, if I’m honest) if there’s no mention AT ALL regarding gifts. How hard is it to simply email or even text a little something? I have family members who fall into this category and I now simply ask at some point if they received it and leave it at that. I go into it with no expectations and that makes it easier!

  59. Meems says...

    I agree with Kristina B’s comments. For the love of God. Why is this even being discussed? I attended a girls night out on Valentine’s Day. None of us had significant ofhers. The hostess gave us a pack of blank notecards to pay it forward. I took the challenge and sent a special note “just because” to those who have encouraged me on throughout this thing called life. I was overjoyed to learn the post office had quite the selection of stamps! That was my only challenge. What stamp to put on a handwritten note!

  60. michaela says...

    I still send thank-you cards to the older folks in my life — when my Grandma sends me birthday money, for instance. Otherwise, I only mark special occasions with a written thank-you note. I wouldn’t send a card to thank a friend for a wonderful dinner party, but I certainly sent one to my bridesmaids after my wedding. I like to use these kinds of thank-you cards as opportunities to express how much I appreciate someone, and for them to have a tangible reminder of that.

    I once made the mistake of listening to some outdated advice and sent a handwritten thank-you card after a job interview…better to be timely and stay in touch in a relevant way by sending an email!

  61. I think it depends on the person and the situation. Older people should always receive a thank you note. Gifts from from formal people or at weddings or showers always get a thank you note. Dinner invitations don’t generally require a thank you note just a thank you, especially when it’s someone you know well. It’s tedious but in your case, it doesn’t sound like it skipping would’ve been a breach of etiquette. Etiquette has to evolve with the times a bit because if I sent my best friend a thank you note for a small gift or my mother in law they’d feel weird about it but my Mom loves it. Know your audience is I guess what I’m saying.

  62. Nina says...

    Oh my gracious, who the heck gets insulted by being thanked? Most of my family lives far away so as often as they send a gift, I send a thank you (well I might miss a few but I try my hardest not to). I also have my son do that. He picks out the cards and he first wrote his name, now he writes the whole card. the only time I don’t do thank you cards anymore, interviews. not that I ever did cards but even a letter…I figured ugh…who has time and do they really seem to matter? not for any job I’ve gotten. I love getting real mail not just bills or ads so any hand written things, the more the better! I don’t think I would give a thank you card for a dinner I went to when I texted thanks for a great time AND sent an email. but maybe I’d do a thank you card just because I appreciate having someone as a friend in my life. my neighbor watches my son everyday and we give gifts and we give thank you cards. I think its a lovely thing to express your appreciation, for the person – the gift – the food, more than just saying it.

  63. Thank you notes are not a “thing” where I come from, but I always send a text to the friends who hosted the night, the following day, or even to my guests the day after I hosted. :)
    It’s sweet and i think it goes a long way, because just feeling like you had a good time is not enough to encourage and make the host feel what you feel! :)

  64. Anaclara says...

    I’d like to add another twist to this conversation. Has anyone else noticed that women seem to write waaaay more thank-you notes than men? At my workplace, it’s always a women who volunteers to organize a birthday card or a sympathy card, too. What’s up with that??

    • Rita says...

      Yes! That’s one reason my friends skip thank you cards, and ask for ‘no gifts please’, we want to enjoy the free headspace that our men take for granted!

  65. justine says...

    I am a firm believer that a new mother should not have to write thank you notes. But I still did – if anyone or any circumstance should have a free pass, that is it! Otherwise, I love getting hand-written notes but hate writing them.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      agreed! :)

  66. Amy says...

    There is nothing that can replace the thoughtfulness and kind gesture of a handwritten thank-you note. Sending a text or email is certainly easier, but I can’t imagine anyone being unappreciative of a handwritten note. If someone took the time to buy a gift for me or host me, the least I can do is take the time to write a proper note. I was raised in the South where sending thank-you notes is gospel! I send them all of the time, and the recipients never fail to comment on how much they appreciate the fact that I took the time to write a note. Let’s continue to embrace this old-fashioned nicety!

  67. Karrie says...

    My personal philosophy is “when in doubt – send a thank you card!”. I’ve never once felt “slighted” by being on the receiving end of one, but I’ve noticed when I haven’t received one (though I certainly don’t expect my new mama friends to send me a TY card after dropping off dinner). I keep a big box of Target thank you cards in my desk and try my best to get them out ASAP. I think it’s a nice gesture that takes less that 5 minutes and the cost of a stamp. Yes, to thank you texts and emails…but there’s something so nice about a handwritten note!

  68. Asia says...

    I read somewhere that thank-you notes are necessary when an in-person thank-you isn’t possible. So a thank-you for a present sent in the mail, for instance. Anyway, that’s the rule I follow with my kids (except for birthday parties–they always send thank-you notes for those) and myself.

  69. Michal says...

    I definitely agree that thank you notes are for showers, meals after baby, extra help etc. I don’t even expect them after a gift– it feels very formal. But if a new mom writes a quick “Thanks, this was so yummy!” on a pretty postcard and gives it to me with my clean dishes, it feels special. But I also agree with several people who said snail mail in general is just so affirming if you’re a words person. I’d rather get one spontaneous note thank one hundred thank you cards. Those are the ones I keep.

  70. As another representative of the paper-pushing movement (owner of a stationery store and overall paper enthusiast) I was at first HORRIFIED by the notion of stopping the sent thank you. I read or skimmed EVERY comment, responded to a few (sorry Joanna!) and am ready with my own opinion. I totally agree that gift not given in person deserves a note. Dinner parties where you are close with the host, no note. If I was new to a circle of friends though, I’d send a note (“Thanks for including me! I had such a nice time with everyone!”)
    Weddings and showers are tradition. Yes to notes. But probably not birthdays. No notes necessary after the loss of a loved one. No, no, no. Sweet when I got my first one ever, but I half-expected the ink to be smudged with tears or something. It was borderline awkward.
    And finally, for those who think a note is a bit insulting when you feel the person is family, (“Why WOULDN’T I have done that?”) like in the case of the homemade granola (told you I read them all) these days there are less genuine kindnesses and kind people. Not as much reflex toward love or care. I mean isn’t that evidenced here? The debate over the deliberate kill of a thing that exists only to relay thanks and make someone smile?Sometimes a thing or service you think is no big deal, is a very big deal to someone else, and you might not know why. So don’t be insulted. Receive the note with grace.
    And people, keep on sending. National Letter Writing Month begins Friday!

  71. This is one of my favourite topics, Joanna.

    I think the main thing is to say thank you so if nothing’s going to happen, then I want a thank you at least. BUT I do love giving and receiving thank-you notes. Definitely for gifts given, sometimes for efforts (thank you for being such a good friend to me while I went through such a hard time with my job/ whatever), but I do think a thank-you note after a supper (dinner) might just be overkill :)

    Do you know what your love language is? Mine is words of affirmation and I treasure those cards. I have a friend with the same love language and she says if a card has someone’s handwriting, it is never leaving :)

  72. i’m terrible at thank you cards, and feel a text or email is definitely fine! or even preferred.

    i love when people text immediately after a party or dinner to say they enjoyed their time. it feels genuine and helps me to gauge the how the event went.

    • I totally agree. I’ve never liked writing thank you notes. It feels forced, like I’m only doing it because I think I have to. But a quick text or email soon after definitely feels more genuine. The immediacy is nice.

  73. Ana says...

    I am going against the flow, here: I’d much rather get or send a nice e-mail or a nice text message the day after I go/host a party, than a written thank-you note.
    I’m also a bit of a nerd amateur reporter/photographer, so I really enjoy taking my time the next day to make sure I write a personal e-mail with some nice photos attached. Everybody really seems to appreciate this.

  74. Inbal says...

    I think that thank you cards are less personal then a text message.. I’ll send a thank you card to people that I’m not very close to and don’t feel comfortable to simply text.
    Also, it’s an American tradition. In so many places in the world it’s not a custom.
    I’m from Israel and I think that Israeli people can even find it a bit offensive. it’s like you don’t feel comfortable enough to say “thank you” in person.

    • Rita says...

      I’m from New Zealand and things are very informal among my friends. A thank you card after a dinner party would be seen as quaint, but then we seldom have dinner parties where the hosts do all the work, more likely we’ll have pot luck dinners or picnics organised on the spur of the moment.
      Most of us have young children and we wouldn’t get to see each other if we hosted ‘proper’ dinner parties and then expected thank you cards.
      For the children’s birthdays, most of us ask for ‘no presents thanks, we’d just love to see you’. We don’t want more stuff, we don’t want to oblige our friends to buy us stuff, we just want to be together and have fun.
      Having said that, I do enjoy receiving Christmas newsletters from some of my older relatives.

  75. Dawn says...

    Handwritten notes, for any occasion – sympathy, birthday, birth of a baby, thinking of you, and thank you’s – are a small sign of civility in a world that is increasingly rushed, rude, and, in my opinion, too casual.

  76. Patti T. says...

    A classic thank you card is never out of style, just as one can rarely be overdressed. I think cards are necessary for teaching young children the art of thankfulness. Hopefully they will carry it on into adulthood in all the appropriate situations. For gifts, parties thrown in one’s honor, or special occasions a thank you card is appropriate. As a guest at a lovely dinner, a text or email is great. I agree…the immediacy of a text or email is wonderful!
    Thank you…for this lovely article!

  77. Yes & no on thank you cards. Yes for wedding, baby and shower gifts or if someone hosts an event in your honor (gift & a card for that). For holidays, birthdays, etc., I feel an email, phone call or text is fine. My family was always about the phone call & we never did thank you cards, but my husband’s family is very big on them. The catch? I am the one expected to send the card! And not just for big events, every single gift received by any member of our family must have a long, thoughtful message written in return. I’ve taken to using the phone or email to put an end to it, but I know they dislike it. Oh well, they are wonderful people & we all have our “things”.

  78. ACK! Please don’t discourage thank you notes all together! Though I would agree that for a casual dinner party among good friends like the one you attended, emails and texts are probably appropriate. I like the etiquette post!

  79. I like writing thank you notes for gifts…or an especially touching exchange, but for a lovely dinner, seems silly. Saying thanks should be thanks enough.

  80. Daynya says...

    As someone who works in the personal stationery business, I absolutely feel that thank you notes are important and that the custom should be maintained. The time it takes to craft a note to someone, to tell them how much you appreciate what they did for you, is a gift. It means so much to me when I receive a special note from a friend, to know that they took the time to think of me, and reach out to me (even if they already told me in person). It is not replaceable by text or by email. Emails and texts are easy to send, which makes actual hand written notes on nice stationery even more meaningful and special to my heart.

  81. Sarah K. says...

    As a 28 -year-old born, raised, and still living in the south, I have the “thank you card” curse. Everyone gets a thank you card! For everything! Recently though I have come to follow the rule that a handwritten note is necessary for gifts and if the dinner/shower/party was thrown in your honor. However, if you simply attended the event (like the dinner party you speak of), then expressing your gratitude through email or a text message is just fine. Love this topic! More etiquette do’s and don’ts please- it’s fun to see what people think is out-dated versus polite and sweet these days!

  82. I still write them for gifts, but honestly, it’s just because I know I’m expected to. I don’t necessarily love receiving them–they go into a pile which I will eventually have to sort through and figure out whether or not to throw out–so I’d just as soon get a thank you text. Less clutter, far better for the environment, and easier for everyone around. Don’t we all have better things to do with our time?

  83. britt stone says...

    I agree with Nina. Friendship is an understood exchange of resources to those you love.

    A stranger or acquaintance inviting you over for dinner is a very different scenario—there is redundancy and then there is the written words for something that really impacts you and want to give it some weight.

    And “just because” notes are really great in that way.

  84. despina says...

    Thanking the host is what should count, not the way you do it.
    In the Mediterranean, writing thank you cards would look strange and uptight, but a message or better yet, a phone call to let your friend know you had a great time and to ask for that special recipe is normally the way to go.
    The act of communicating one’s appreciation is what’s important, not the mode of delivering it, at least on my side of the pond :)

  85. Carol says...

    I think an email/text is fine for a for a dinner…however…if you know someone really worked hard to make it special…I would write a note…it is special to receive snail mail nowadays….Thank you notes for gifts are important…

  86. Christina says...

    I love handwritten thank you notes for gifts or for staying in someone’s home, but I think a text is fine for dinner dates.

  87. yael steren says...

    This post is so timely. My friend Amanda was over yesterday helping me adjust the furniture layout in my apt and as we were moving items she started laughing when she saw my supply of washi tape (and other crafts). I actually bought the washi tape to use for gifts but also to decorate home made cards. I think it’s great to write a physical thank you card. I’m all about modern technology, but when it comes to “cards” I always think handwritten is better than sending an email or “internet greeting card”. xx yael

  88. I always try to write a thank-you card in exchange for a gift or a favor. For example, my former boss’ wife offered to drive to a Gloria Steinem talk we were both planning to attend – I have a reminder in my phone to write her a thank-you card tonight! After job interviews, I send a thank-you email; I think notes can take a little too long to arrive. And when it comes to dinners with close friends, a text, email, or Facebook message is usually my go-to.

    • Agreed! I’ve sent a few handwritten letters to people I have interviewed with and I got the job, but the letter came to my interviewer (who I sat right next to!) when I was already working there! That actually happened twice, so I’m definitely for the emailed thank you for business situations.

  89. Interesting. This might be more American style than Scandinavian. I have not experienced anyone using thank you cards after dinners. Nice thought indeed, but nowadays I think there are more instant channels, as you also mentioned, which feel more up-to-date. So yes! to your question; these can be skipped! :)

    Love your blog and varying topics!

  90. Julie says...

    I’ve been struggling with this same question lately. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s- Yes, for a gift. No, for events.

    • Yes! That’s what I do.
      Recently I made some reusable nursing pads for a friend of a friend. I so appreciated her heartfelt thank you card and felt like I know her a little now.

  91. MARIA says...

    I sent a beautiful personalized wedding gift to my cousin in Spain and his wife last May and have not heard a peep as to whether they liked it or even received it, much less a thank you. Maybe its not a custom in Spain? Who knows, but I have to say I find it tacky either way! (Thanks for this post, it feels good to finally vent, haha!)

    • bisbee says...

      Sorry – I agree, it’s tacky not to send a thank you for a gift. I was horrified to find out, several years ago, that my younger son and his wife never sent thank you cards after their wedding, which is now over 11 years ago! Even if I had found out earlier, the only thing I could have done is harp on it to them, which may or may not have been fruitful. To tell you the truth, whenever I think of it, I’m still embarrassed! My husband and I got married 4 months after they did, and you can be sure that everyone who gave a gift (although we requested that they skip it) received a timely, personal thank you!

  92. jb says...

    This winter I threw a really nice baby shower for a friend (more like a close acquaintance) two months before her due date. Although I enjoyed preparing for it, it was hugely time-consuming and expensive. The mother-to-be walked out of my house and never acknowledged it in ANY WAY – no texts, no call, no note. Not only did this feel kind of rude to me, it made me feel completely paranoid that she didn’t have a good time, or somehow she was disappointed in what I did for her. After putting that much time and effort in what I hoped was a special event for her, it was really hurtful that I never heard anything.

  93. Constance says...

    I love stationery. Also, although I have e-mail and I text, there are still people who do not, and in recognition of that fact alone, and that it is probably good for one to actually think about spelling and punctuation occassionally…..I will still enjoy the satisfaction of a nice pen and some lovely paper.

  94. Trina says...

    I like to send thank-you cards for holiday gifts and stays at someone’s house and informational interviews. :) For something like a nice dinner at a good friend’s house I probably wouldn’t bother. But some kind of acknowledgment, whether by text or by letter, is always in order!

  95. I sell custom stationery and in the ten years since I’ve been doing it I saw a dip when I first started but now, in the past two years, people have been flocking back picking stationery that they think really speaks to them. It makes me so happy, not necessarily just from a business standpoint, but because I’ve always loved a hand-written note and a note of thanks is one of the best reasons to write. The other reason is for no reason at all! With all the email and texting, I think that people are really craving a more human touch. Plus, I was just reading an article that talked about how writing changes your brain in amazing, positive ways. So all in all, I say Yes! to the thank you note. Use any old card or get something fabulous that makes you want to write all the time. I think it’s like a great bag or pair of shoes: if you love it you’ll want to use it all the time!

    Your topics are always thought provoking. I love that about the site.

  96. One of the main reasons (beside my obsession for all things paper) that I started my stationery shop was to keep the handwritten note alive. I still believe it’s important to send a thank you acknowledging gifts and generosity. My mother is the queen of thank you notes. She will send a thank you after each time she visits me and my husband… thanking us for the meals, the hospitality, the rides to/from the airport, etc. (As for your dinner, a thank you note was probably not necessary after the emails and texts.)

  97. A.Zarraga says...

    LOVE them–but only for gifts or monumental favors.

    My family is all about cards and we use them in funny ways. It’s a special kind of fun picking out the funniest, most inappropriate or ironic cards.

  98. I don’t think handwritten thank you notes are necessary for things like a dinner party. But I think they should still be written for gifts or if someone does you a favor like being a reference. These days mail is mainly junk or bills so I think it’s always well received to get a handwritten note.

  99. mosey says...

    I think immediacy is key. A next-day text feels more sincere. While a thank you note is a nice thought – it still feels slightly forced and in a way… less personal.

    • Emily says...

      I agree! I always have the urge to tell people, “don’t worry about sending a thank you note!” when I’m at a shower or even in a wedding gift card. It bothers me a bit to receive a thank you that says “thank your for the bowl and cutting board. We will use them both often.” I would much rather receive a text the first time they use it saying, “thinking of you as we host our first dinner party using your gift! Thank you!”

  100. Yes, yes and yes! Texts and emails have their place, but here’s to the written word and the medium of Snail Mail!

    • Talia says...

      Agree! Also, always, always after an interview!

  101. I am a big fan of thank you cards for gifts. It allows you to give something physical in return and let the other person know how you’re using and enjoying their gift.

    But for things like events, I never send them. Thank you texts or emails seem to do a good job of covering bases and then there isn’t the wait afterward like there is with mailing a card.

    My favorite is sending “thinking of you” cards more regularly and general thank you cards less often. That way you can really discuss what’s going on for you and the recipient instead of having it feel so dutiful.

  102. While I adore handwritten notes, it is never a culture to write thank you notes in our society (I’m from Malaysia). A heartfelt thank you – verbal or text – suffices most of the time, and we often return a kind gesture with another gesture, e.g. fruits for the next-door neighbour who gave us home-made cake.

    I believe our willingness to say thank you often goes back to how much we appreciate people around us. Having said this, I have to admit that my personal pet peeve is people who do not care to show their gratitude… Kind of makes me feel I am being taken for granted.

  103. Trish says...

    Yes, yes and yes! Write them, mail them. The small time it takes makes all the difference! Especially in today’s rush, text, email cold, robotic life!

    I can assure you, it really does STILL matter!

  104. Tracy says...

    This may be because of our age difference but personally I wouldn’t text someone thank you on my way home. I would have thanked them in person when I was leaving their home and then I’d let them have the time immediately following to reconnect/commeserate with their spouse/partner and I’d be doing the same. I think the redundancy was in the text. As far as thank you notes, it is a thoughtful gesture and never unwelcome.

  105. I’m a big fan of familial agreements. My mom and I have a “no thank you needed!” policy, which makes the gift giving that much sweeter, because it’s gift giving without obligation.

    Of course, the reason that policy exists is because when we were children the importance of Thank You cards was emphatically drilled into us. Haha!

  106. monkeynuts says...

    Actually, if you’ve thanked someone in person then there is no etiquette requirement to send them a note as well. For a dinner, a thank you in person and a text is enough. For a gift (that you didn’t receive in person, so count weddings and births in with that as even if they were given in person they are usually in a big group so don’t get the individual attention required) a thank you note is a must. Having said this, I think it’s a good rule of thumb to send them to people older than you. I don’t tend to send them to friends as much but I do send them to friends on behalf of my toddler son, and all older family members get them.

  107. Libbynan says...

    I will send thank you notes for an exceptionally lovely event or thoughtful gesture, but thank you notes are non-negotiable. My husband’s nephew and his new wife have not yet sent us a thank you note for a gift sent nearly a year ago. No way of knowing if they even got it, although the store says it was delivered. Up until this non-event, I quite liked the young lady. Now I have little use for either of them and no further gifts will be forthcoming. If someone puts in the time, thought, and effort to send a gift; the least a recipient can do is send a note to acknowledge that it has been received. Common courtesy is called common courtesy for a reason.

    • Felicity says...

      If it’s your husband’s nephew, he [the nephew] is the one you should be disappointed in – not his new wife. The responsibility isn’t hers alone to thank people! They may very well have agreed to each thank their own sides of the family in which case your nephew is the one to be disappointed with.

  108. I run my own handmade stationery card line so I truly believe that the art of the handwritten note is important. Nothing beats getting a piece of mail addressed to you tucked in between bills and junk mail. Of course an immediate text or email is fine for casual get-togethers but a handwritten note for special occasions and professional endeavors is thoughtful and memorable. I don’t think the handwritten note will never die. It’s like vinyl records, you don’t need them but you still want them.

  109. Jessica says...

    Keep handwritten thank you’s! Definitely for gifts.

  110. A couple of months ago a friend gave me a lovely, personal, gift. I thanked her in the moment and then again with a Thank You note. Just last week I was visiting her and I saw my note pinned to her refrigerator. She said the note really touched her as it reflected the beauty of our friendships. I was blown away that my note would mean that much to her. Thank You notes definitely have their place, as do text and email Thank Yous, and I hope they continue to be used regularly.

  111. As I taught my two boys growing up; “Thank-you notes are not negotiable
    and always a good idea.

    • Coco says...

      Love this!