The Thank-You Note: Is It Still Needed?

6 years ago

The thank-you note -- is it an artifact or can it find its place in the contemporary universe? Back "in the day" thank-you notes were sent fairly often after a gift was given. Even if it felt like a chore to the sender to find a way to write an appropriate thank-you, it could feel lovely for the recipient to know that their gift was appreciated, and that the giftee had taken the time to write a note. It never had to be a letter -- just a note would suffice.

It strikes me that a thank-you note is a spiritual act -- it says "I am not living as though I was owed this gift. I appreciate that you went to an effort for my sake."

Kate Spade Thank You NotesWriting thank-yous also puts us in the position of having an extended moment of gratitude. OK, the Mom who bought your kid a big plastic helicopter may not have spent hours looking for just the right gift. But she did do something, and she spent something. It took time, buying, wrapping, giving. And Jimmy or Sally can learn much from you as you show them how to write a thank-you to that Mommy's child.

Susan at Momlife Today when asked why children should be taught to write thank you notes says:

It is a character trait. Thank you notes teach us to honor and appreciate others. They serve to keep us from taking others for granted. They help to protect our kids from an ever encroaching sense of entitlement...Yes your kids will complain. That’s their job! But do it anyway. You are training them in thoughtfulness and respect-2 crucial character traits they will need for life.

Of course thank-yous are not all hand-written today. The burgeoning social media provides any number of options and any number of e-cards that can be personalized. I even subscribe to a few of them, my favorite these days being

But there are many more to which one may subscribe -- which has a nice, soft, more serious look, and the all-purpose cards at, or the site for dog and/or cat lovers, Sloppy Kiss Cards. But there are also a plethora of free cards that can be emailed -- at,for example.

The medium may not be as important as the message when it comes to thanks, but as I read blog after blog about sending thank-you cards, here is what I found out:

1. Even though so much has changed in the world of communications, the hand written thank-you still has its fans.

Dumbwit Telher has a very intelligent thing to say about her feelings regarding thank-you notes:

My real sadness lies in the declining health, if not demise, of said thank you note. The good old-fashioned, pen to paper, cursive letters with their loops and flow; f’s and g’s from you to me and so on. A thank you is a written representation of a person taking time out of their day to put thoughts onto paper expressing their gratitude. It is knowing that the composer had to slow-down long enough to think about your generosity, large or small, and articulate appreciation.

Marie in her blog, Improving on the Silence discusses a friend who writes frequent lovely thank-you notes and how she was inspired by her to start writing them herself. She says, by way of encouragement to her readership:

It doesn’t have to be long or fancy or just needs to come from your heart. Oh, and it needs to be written–on paper–with a pen, or a crayon or a marker–but written, put in an envelope, addressed and delivered. Whether you choose to mail it, deliver it by courier or send it via carrier pigeon, it matters not. E-mail, fax or text message just doesn’t cut it for this. It really needs to be tangible, put your hands on it, notepaper and pen to be a real thank-you note.

Miss Communications (gotta love that handle) at her blog of the same name, gives a full run through of the etiquette of the thank you note and concludes:

In the long run, the issue of whether to hand-write or type a thank you note is much less important than the questions of whether to send them, and when. And the answers are please do, and today would be a great day to begin.

Long or short, fancy or plain, typed or hand-written – a heartfelt, genuine thank you note is a rare treat these days.

And when’s the last time you felt that way about an e-mail or a text?

2. Writer after writer spoke about making the thank-you note a habit.

Shelly at This Eclectic Life refers to the book by John Kralik, 365 Thank Yous in which he describes how writing a thank-you note a day changed his life in dramatic ways. She is also a fan of the practice.

To make myself write thank you notes, I require that I must send the thank you before I can use the item. That’s not much incentive if you got a “white elephant,” but it works most of the time. And, about those white elephants … even if it’s a gift you don’t really want, you should thank for it. I have to write notes for everything, because otherwise my Momma would roll over in her grave at my lack of manners.

3. Writing a Thank you note can be part of creating a complete attitude of gratitude.

I was delighted by Leah Dietrich's blog, THX THX THX which is a study in thank you notes to everything, written in her handwriting on what looks like post-it notes! Here is one of my favorites:

Dear Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Clove,
Thank you for smelling like the holidays and for sounding like some cartoon clan of strippers.
Thanks again,

Why not thank the universe in whatever way available, whenever possible? Meister Eckhart said "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is 'thank you', it will be enough."

We may have all had the experience of stopping so a car could merge in front of us. How many of us wait a second for the driver to wave a quick "thanks", and are a bit disappointed when he/she does not? How many of us have sent a gift that we really stretched to send to someone, only to not get a thank-you? It is a simple social courtesy, that waved hand, that quick note. It makes us feel valued by the recipient. We are acknowledged, as the circle of giving completes its natural reflex in a thank-you.

In the act of honoring the giver, we handcraft a moment of kindness, of gentle happiness. We send that energy onward to them, in that instant of thoughtful exchange. We tell them that they are worth this moment of gratitude. We acknowledge that they were never obligated to be at all generous, and we send them a blessing for the fact that they were.

I just ordered some lovely thank you notes online on sale. I want to keep them handy so I can send one on the spur of the moment.

I have decided to take a hint from Leah (mentioned above). For a month I am going to blog a thank you message for something on my blog daily. I think it would be grand if you would join me. A month of thank yous -- join me and let's check back in a month from now. C'mon, it would be fun! Let's together get in the habit of gratitude, even if it is for the sweet silly things in life. Just post a comment below that links to your blog so we can all share the thanks!

And.........of course you have my thank you to you for reading my posts out here!

Thanks again...Love, Mata

~~ Contributing Editor, Mata H. is busy writing thank yous for the next 30 days at Time's Fool

Photo Credit: ralphandjenny.

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