Modern Etiquette: Thank You Dos and Dont’s + 10 Cute Thank You Cards

by Grace Bonney

Illustration by Anna Emilia

Last weekend I found myself collecting beautiful thank you cards at Greenwich Letterpress in Manhattan. I needed a few specific thank you cards, but I also wanted to collect some blank cards I could use for general thank yous and the sorts of cards I try to send as often as I can to remind friends and family what they mean to me. While I was sorting through them this morning, it got me thinking about the importance and significance of saying THANK YOU. These days thank yous are sent in the form of texts, emails, social media messages and the rare written note or phone call. While traditional etiquette would demand something written or done in person (which is of course, lovely), I think modern times call for a modern set of guidelines. Much like the discussion we had about communicating after the loss of a loved one, I think the way you communicate to someone has a lot to do with the circumstance at hand. So today I thought it would be nice to brush up on Thank You tips before we dive into a season full of events, occasions and surprises that will most likely be the perfect excuse to flex your gratitude muscles. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic and any lessons/tips you’ve learned or appreciated in your experience. xo, grace

*I’ve also included 10 cute Thank You cards to get your started if you want to say ‘thank you’ in written form. The sources continue below, along with additional cards. If you prefer to DIY your own, here are three ideas: Flower dyed thank yous, Stitched cardboard thank yous and Embroidered thank yous

Thank you cards above, clockwise from top left: Flower card $19.95 for set of 8, Neon pink card $18.50 for 8, Chalkboard thank you $12.50 for 10, Faux leather striped cards $22.50 for 8, Chevron gold foil cards $24.95 for 6

The Big Picture: I think, at its core, giving thanks for something you’ve received, whether it’s an object, an experience or something intangible like forgiveness or support, is something that just needs to be done, period. The form, timing and details are rarely as important as the simple act of saying thank you. I’ve found I most often get tripped up on trying to make things perfect, when I should just stick to the simple “Thank You” and get the message out. So when in doubt, a simple thank you in any form is the best thing you can do to show your appreciation. My notes below are about finding creative, timely or most effective ways to say thanks, but the bottom line is this: Just say thank you. The person receiving the thanks will just be happy to hear it, the mode and message are rarely as important as the simple act of acknowledging someone’s kindness.

Tips to Remember:

1. Timing: I think the most important thing about saying thank you is doing it in a timely manner. Of course a thank you at any time is better than none at all, but I find I’m more likely to give thanks if I do it quickly and succinctly. No matter the size of the gift/support, a simple thank you sent within a few days of the event or gift you’ve received is always best. The one exception seems to be weddings, in which case it’s generally accepted that if you send the thank yous within a few months of the wedding date, you’re ok. But I think for everyday thank yous, a few days later (not counting mail delivery, of course) is ideal. It lets someone know you took the time to sit down and acknowledge their kindness and that their efforts weren’t forgotten right away.

2. Message: I think a lot of the time, people get hung up on WHAT to say in a thank you and end up not sending one. But honestly, something simple is always best. Yes, it’s lovely to get something long and details and meaningful, but a simple thank you that mentions the thing you’re thankful for is always enough. For example, if someone gave you a bouquet of flowers:

Dear Carol,

Thank you so much for the beautiful bouquet of roses. They were so thoughtful and look gorgeous on our dining room table. We hope to see you again soon!


Or if someone gives gave you some support when you most needed it:

Dear Henry,

Thank you so much for your help last week. It meant so much to have your support during this tough time.


You don’t need to pour your heart out if the words are thoughtful and to the point. People will appreciate that you took the moment to appreciate their efforts, period.

3. Type of Message: Here’s the rub– people often feel that a BIG gift demands a BIG thank you. I don’t agree. I think it’s more important to simply say thank you in a timely manner than to make a big showy display of thanks. That said, I think there are some things to consider, depending on the gift type and the timing.

Text messages: I think a text message is a nice, informal way to thank someone for something slightly less specific or more about a general thank you for overall support. For example:

Hi Jenny- Thanks so much for having me over for dinner. It was great to catch up over pizza and relax. See you next week, Grace.


Hi Jenny- I was just thinking about you and wanted to say thanks for always being such a great friend. I’m so lucky to have you in my life. xo, Grace

Emails: I think emails are similar to text messages, but are a great place to go into a bit more detail. If you want to call out the specifics of a gift or event, this is a nice way to do that. It’s also a nice way to say thank you for a slightly younger generation that is more used to using email for everything than say, your grandparents. Though if your grandparents are using email on a regular basis you might want to send them a virtual high-five for being so connected and awesome. I think it’s good to note that emails are a nice way to say thank you to someone you don’t know well enough to ask for an address or contact info. For example, if you love an article you read in your local paper, writing them an email to say thank you or ‘good job’ might make more sense than emailing them to get an address and THEN sending a note.

Hand-written notes: I think of these as the most formal way to say thank you. Not because writing is necessarily formal, but it feels like the most traditional way to be appreciative and acknowledge something. Notes are my go-to for financial gifts, holiday or birthday gifts and anything related to work and family. Though they clearly work for anyone in your life, I think notes tend to imply you know someone well enough to have their address and say thank you. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If your hand-writing isn’t legible (so many of us suffer from this thanks to years of typing over hand-writing), perhaps consider a different method of thank you.
  • If the gift was meant for multiple people, it’s lovely to write the note from several people and have them all sign it. Coming from one person can often seem like they are the only ones who remembered to say thank you.
  • Consider the recipient: If you’re thanking your new in-laws and only have a sarcastic or funny card better suited for close friends left over, try using a blank card instead.
  • Make sure you spell everyone’s names correctly
  • Include the entire family in the thank you if it’s a gift from everyone. Even if you know the gift shopping was done by say, your Dad, if the gift was from your entire family on the card, thank everyone.

4. Extras to Include (Ways to Bump Your Thank You Up A Notch): I love getting a thank you that feels personalized, decorated or like it has a little something special. Here are ways to bump up your thank you a bit:

  • Decorate the envelope or package with hand-drawings, stamps or appropriate details for the recipient. We use everything from washi tape and neon packing tape to old magazine clippings and fabrics to decorate thank yous at the office.
  • Include a picture of the gift being used. If someone sent your new puppy a sweater, including a photo of the item in use is always a crowd-pleaser.
  • If a thank you note isn’t enough, consider sending flowers, a baked good or an appropriate extra gift. But be sure to note the pitfalls of gift-giving below if you’re sending someone another gift to follow their gift.

5. Things to Remember and Avoid:

  • Spell-check. Make sure you spell everyone’s name correctly.
  • Rudeness: You’d think it goes without saying, but sometimes people can use thank yous as a way to be passive aggressive about not liking a gift. If you don’t like it, leave that thought to yourself- notes are about thanking the gesture, not the specifics. (Unless it’s an offensive gift, etc.) If someone sent you a green sweater and you’d prefer pink, this is not the time to say “Thanks so much for the sweater. I haven’t worn green since I was little, but thanks anyway”. I’ve seen that done before, so it’s worth nothing that that’s not the best way to truly thank someone.
  • Don’t OVER thank: If someone treats you to coffee, sending them a few dozen roses to say thank you might be overkill. And it can potentially make them feel uncomfortable or feel like they now need to thank you and start the vicious cycle of “Thank you”, “No, thank YOU” that can happen. Keep the level of the thank you near the level of kindness you received. It’s about making the recipient feel appreciated, but not like they now owe you something in return.
  • Thank you gifts should be appropriate and not about promoting. I’ve found that if someone is a maker or has done something (like written a book or a magazine, etc.) they often send out their leftover stock as a thank you. Not that receiving someone’s handmade work isn’t nice, but if what you produce has nothing to do with them or isn’t appropriate for them, perhaps think of just sending a note or something more neutral like flowers, baked goods, or a product that means something to them (or that you’ve heard them mention that they like). Someone once sent a friend of mine a baby onesie they make and sell as a thank you, even though she didn’t have children. When it came up later on, she told the friend, “Well, I figured you’d know someone you could give it to.” Thank you gifts should be something the intended recipient can enjoy.

The bottom line is this: Saying thank you in any form is better than saying nothing at all. While the world won’t end if you DON’T say thank you, the best way to keep and maintain friendships and good work relationships is to acknowledge the kindness someone has shown you. xo, grace

**Have you ever gotten a thank you that truly meant SO much to you? Have you ever received a major fail of a thank you? Please share your stories below, they’ll help the rest of us avoid mistakes and find the best ways to thank the people we love in our lives**

Gold dots card, $16.50 for 10

Geometric thank you card $4

Merci Beaucoup card $4

Many thanks card, 6 for $14

Honey card $5.95

Suggested For You


  • I often receive gift cards left on my desk at work for different occasions. I always send a written thank you within a day or so. My question is this: should I also call the person right away and acknowledge that I’ve received it and thank them?

  • We had an anniversary celebration. Some people gave gifts. Not all the gift came with a card and some cards got mixed up. I want to send thank you cards to everyone. I would like to acknowledge the gift if there was one in the card, but I do not know, what to say in the card if I do not know if they gave a gift. I was think, “Thank you for your gift of love and support.”

    • Jane

      I don’t think so- if you don’t have access to their mail or address. But handing it to them directly or putting it in their mailbox might be nicer :)


  • My daughter received a graduation card that had $20 written in the corner but there was no money inside. How do you send a thank you card for that. Thank them for money you never received? Maybe the card was meant for another graduate that they gave money to and they were mixed up? I don’t want to ask them where the money is, and if we don’t send a thank you and were expecting one I would feel bad? Awkward situation.

    • Patti

      I would give them a call and explain the situation- they probably just forgot to add it. I wouldn’t assume the worst, just give them a ring and explain the situation. If they can’t add the money, that’s their choice, but it sounds like an accident.


  • My husband is absolutely not going to write notes for several bottles of wine and various gifts from fruit, to gift baskets and a very fine written pen.

    Can I make a collage of the photos from his party– and write type them with a script font and then just let him sign them?

    He’s a doctor– not dumb, but wasn’t raised with birthday parties, much less thank-you notes. Help!

  • If you are thanking someone for an internship, is it tacky to include your email/ contact info at the end of the note?

  • I have a ton of beautiful wedding thank you cards leftover from the wedding. Can I use them for an anniversary gift thank you? The person did not attend the wedding.

  • I received a thank you for a wedding gift (selected from her registry) weeks before the wedding, sent by the bride who I didn’t know, and written in a very perfunctory manner. The message was clear: “one less thing off my to-do list”. This to me is WORSE than not sending a thank you.

  • I received a very nice Thank You card by mail from my boss. I was surprised that she took the time to look up my address and mail the card. I’m wondering why should did not sign her name on the card? Why would she not sign her name?

  • At my baby shower, a friend mentioned in the card that my gift will be arriving at my house. That was 2 weeks ago. Do I let her know I still haven’t received it? I wouldn’t want to seem ungrateful by not sending out a thank you card but I also don’t want to seem greedy by expecting a gift because she said it was on its way.

  • My baby shower is approaching and some guests have had their gifts delivered directly to our home. I intend to send everyone a written thank you, post shower, but would also like to acknowledge those delivered gifts when I am opening gifts at the shower. What is the best, tasteful way to do this?

    • Kelly

      I think you can have them out for display if you feel strongly about it, but thanking them with a note or call is a great way to make sure they feel thanked and recognized. You could also reference their gifts in conversation if having them out feels odd. For example, if “Mary” gets you an infant tub and sends it in the mail, but then “Liz” brings you one of those adorable baby bath towel/robes in person, you could say, “This is so cute! Thank you, Liz. This will be perfect for using after [baby’s name] gets out of the infant tub that Mary got us!”

      Grace :)

  • I have paid school and university fees for a foreign boy who is like a son to me. Five weeks ago he went home to marry, and I sent many gifts I thought would make his bride happy (including my mother’s diamond and wedding rings). The wedding took place four days ago, and I have still to have a single word of thanks from the bride (whom I do know), although she has had time to post endless pictures of herself (and not him) and silly hehehe comments to other friends on Facebook. I am really very very hurt. He has thanked me, but that is not relevant; the things were given to her, not him.

    • Nancy

      Etiquette wise, couples theoretically three months to write thank yous. So I would wait a while. If you’re still upset and hear nothing, I would reach out to her directly to ask about the gifts. Normally I would say to let this go, but you did give away your mother’s rings, so I think that’s definitely worth connecting about.


  • I received a gift of money from my cousin signed by just himself. Do I address the thank you card to just him, or should I also address his wife?

  • My husband and I have been married for 16 years and we have a beautiful blended family of 5 children and 6 grandchildren! All of them are spread out across the USA, but 3 of the grandchildren live in the same state as we do ranging from 4 to 6 hours away! This is a second marriage for both of us, but when we send a check together, the “thank you” notes are only written and/or addressed to him! My question is would this be considered proper etiquette? It really hurts when I am the one that makes sure the checks get out on time, and I am completely left out of the thank you note!

  • I don’t think anything other than a hand written note is acceptable for a wedding or shower.
    To me sending an e-mail is impersonal and tackey.
    E-mail notes for other things is a personal choice, some like to make others feel their efforts or gifts are special and worthy others don’t care. At the end of the day I have always thought the way a bride makes her family and guests feel is a lasting memory connected to her so make the effort and do it right.

  • I received a thank you from my friends sister ( first time I met her) for an event she attended. I want to send her some nice post cards from the event, but I don’t want her to feel she needs to write another thank you for them.
    Is there a polite way of saying she needn’t bother sending a thank you. I don’t have an email or text info.

    thanks, syl

  • Hi,
    I have a friend I’ve given gifts to. She will email and says she loves it, but has never said the magic words, “thank you.” I’m going to cease sending things because I was raised that gratitude is expressed with those words or something like that. Am I being too picky?


    • LJ

      Short answer: Yes. Gifts should never be given with the string attached that they have to be responded to in a certain way, or else. It sounds like she’s doing the work to acknowledge the gift and let you know how much she loves what you bought- which is a lot more than most people do. I agree that “thank you” should be words included in that. But to withhold gifts because she isn’t expressing gratitude in the same way you were raised feels misguided. We were all raised differently, so if she’s acknowledging the gifts, I think that counts for something.


  • I received a thank you card from my employer (for a job well done), along with a substantial gift card. Should I send a thank you card back to thank them for the gift card, or does it seem like we’d just be going around in circles?
    Thanks, Jan

  • Help! My husbands business partner and his wife and two girls keeo buying our new baby girl presents! I sent a very personalized thank you card that i went out and picked personally for them vs. a generic. Well they keep buying her things and I mean expensive things! What do I do? Keep sending a thank you card? Bake cookies? When does this end!? Lol! Please help!

    P.s. so sorry for the typos. I am typing on the run.

    • Stephanie

      I understand where you’re coming from, but I think the best thing here is to keep sending cards and I’m sure eventually the stream of presents (what a great problem to have though, right?) will subside. I’m so happy your new baby girl has such enthusiastic family friends :)


  • I have a strange question. I am one of those people that really prefer not to receive a thank you note. I normally just write on the card… “No thank you note needed or required” but I would like to have a card printed up that is a bit more eloquent. Any suggestions on wording?

  • I would love your opinion on this.. I recently had my baby shower and the invites were made only to my female family and friends. Some signed cards with their spouse’s name, so I’ve written thank you cards with both of their names. However, my cousin’s gift did not include a card; she is married so I’m just not sure. Also, my aunt made a beautiful quilt for my baby and the card was just signed by her, so I only made the thank you card out to her and did not include my uncle. I’m just not entirely sure what proper etiquette is in this situation. Thank you!

  • I am looking for a new job, networking and reaching out to various people in my industry. I had a meeting with the owner of a company to pitch some of my ideas. Although this was not technically an interview I sent a follow up email as I would after an interview. I would like to also send a hand writen than you. Would that be too much? Or maybe keep it short since my email was thorough?

  • Hi. I received a thank you that had a general thank you preprinted on all the cards to save time and no personal note. I don’t feel that this was the proper thing to acknowledge someone. What are your thoughts?

    • Rosalba

      I understand it may not be ideal, but was this something like a wedding where someone may have needed to send a large number of thank yous? I agree a personal note is always great, but to me, a thank you is better than no thank you.


  • I received a thank you note and flowers from a student who I helped earlier this week. (I’m a school counselor. ) I thanked her and hugged her when she gave them to me, but should I also write a thank you note for the flowers? I was so impressed that someone her age would give a handwritten thank you note!

    • Laurie

      I don’t think you need to follow up with another thank you. I think her thank you and your hug is the best conclusion to that (very kind) interaction :)


  • I recently went to a football game. A friend’s parents got me a ticket to the game and would not accept any compensation for the ticket (about $100 value).

    I have their address and was planning to hand write a thank you note. My question is: would it appear more thoughtful if I included a gift card with the note? If so, are there any do’s and dont’s as far as the monetary value and the type of card? (e.g. I’m guessing a plain old $50 Visa card would not look as thoughtful as a $50 Ruth’s Chris gift certificate)


    • David

      If they insisted on not letting you pay, I think just a thank you note is plenty. It’s clear this was a gift they wanted to give you, so a thank you note is the perfect way to say, well, thank you ;)


  • I forgot to thank a friend for a sweet gift she sent me; it arrived 4 days ago and today she text me to see if I had received it (which I had.) I meant to send her a text message but just totally forgot. I text her back apologetically and tried to call her but she is traveling and could not speak on the phone. She text me back saying it was ok, but I still feel like I should do something else to apologize. Should I send her a small gift or a handwritten card?

  • We sent my daughter a birthday card and $200.00 for her birthday.
    It was October 29 and she turned 31. Her and her husband bought
    a home in Wichita Kansas in May. We haven’t heard from her since
    April. I have called her and left messages. No call back. She finally
    gave me, her sister, her grandfather her address in October so we
    could send her cards and gifts. So it not just me her sister told me.
    How long should I wait for a thank you.


  • I got married last month and I just sent my thank you cards to our guests. The cards are very personal with wedding pics on them. Do I need to send one to those who sent us gifts but did not attend the wedding? I did call them to thank them personally which is why I’m a bit confused on what should I do?

  • My sister sent flowers to our cousins funeral and she signed the card with her name first, me second and my wife third. I was the only one of us three who attended the funeral. My wife and I received a thank you card but my sister didn’t. I showed my sister our thank you card and the names in order were mine, my wife and my sister. My sister made a comment about her name being last and it should have been first because she is older than me. Is there a proper form of etiquete for the arrangement of names to be followed?

    • Francis

      My two cents? After the death of a family member, it feels like it’s not worth anyone’s time to argue about the listing of names on a thank you card. If you received a thank you and everyone’s name was on it, it’s time to let it go and focus on supporting the family members who lost someone.


  • I need some advice! I just purchased a car from a dealership for the first time and had a really great experience! My car salesperson was excellent and very helpful. Is it too weird or inappropriate to send a thank you card? Should I also send a small gift (like a gift card or baked goods) or is sending a gift too over the top?

  • I have an publisher friend across the country who regularly sends me bundles of books.. I just received the fourth package in two years & I am running out of things to say in the thank you notes. I am extremely grateful & let him know this every time we talk, but I’m wondering: should I continue to send a thank you note each time if they are going to start sounding repetitive? “Dear friend, thank you for the books, they are a joy to read, etc…” Or is keeping it short just as rude? “Dear friend, thank you for the books, gratefully yours, k.” Help!

  • I had a baby in September and one of my neighbors (whom I’ve never met because we haven’t lived here that long) made a beautiful blanket for my son and left it at our door. This was such a thoughtful and generous gift. I plan to send a handwritten Thank You card. Will that be enough for a gift that they clearly spent a lot of time on? Or should I do more than that?

  • I could really use some guidance. We moved into our new home one year ago and have become friendly with all of our immediate neighbors. They’re wonderful and we love that. We’ve had a couple of social get-togethers since then but are not super close. One couple left us a $50 gift card on our porch as a Christmas gift. We haven’t exchanged gifts before and though truly nice, that’s just way too generous from my perspective. I’ve prepared little bags of cookies for everyone, which seems about right. How do I genuinely thank them for such a sweet gift while not sounding ungrateful, but also resetting the gift giving expectations going forward? Thanks!


    • Jules

      The tricky thing with gifts is that everyone has different budgets. I think you should stick with yours and accept that theirs is within their budget and they wouldn’t give it if they didn’t feel comfortable with that. Unless they start gifting you big-screen TVs, I’d just chalk it up to different budgets, write them a thank you and send/make the gift for them that YOU feel most comfortable with.


  • I would like to know if it is ever acceptable to 3rd party thank you? As in “tell you mom I liked the gift”.

  • My father-in-law has repeatedly given me bad gifts at Christmas. I’ve been married for 15 years and I think I’ve gotten 1 or 2 that I liked. Advice in the form of books, that I don’t need or want – jackets, lots of jackets or fleeces that are typically the female version of what he gives my husband…though one year I just got a mens plaid shirt…golf lessons (even though I don’t golf). This year I got a piece of clothing that I won’t wear. I have tried thinking of these gifts in terms of a donation so someone else can use them. What is the best way of thanking someone for a repeated bad gift?

    • Theresa

      I feel you. The simplest answer is: thank them as you would for any other gift and donate it to someone who could use it. If you think there’s another message behind these gifts that aren’t very “you”, then you can discuss that directly with him, but otherwise I would just trust your instinct to donate them to someone in need :)


  • I just bought a couple a weekend getaway in the mountains and they texted me to thank me.
    My friends are retired pastors and are very kind people. But whenever I give her (of course I am closer to her) then I get a text message “Thank you.”
    I think this is tacky and hurtful. They are in their 70’s so I am sure they trained all their kids to write thank you cards. But now they thank me via text.
    Also, I bought their daughter (my age) a 2 day retreat and her favorite retreat center and she also texted me to thank me.
    I don’t know if I should say anything or just stop giving them gifts as I have told them (the couple) before that it offends me to get text thank yous.

    • Terrie

      I agree that a written thank you would be lovely, but the purpose of gift giving is to give someone something nice out of the kindness of your heart- not with a string attached that a thank you has to come in a certain form.

      If you’re giving these generous gifts with the stipulation of requiring a written thank you, it may be time to rethink the gifts and why you’re giving them.


  • About the getting gifts from your father in law that you don’t like, just be polite and thank him.
    Nobody is entitled to a gift. A gift is because the person cares enough about you to think to buy you something. It would be great to like every gift we get but that isn’t really realistic. Nor relevant.
    Whether or not you like what you get you should be thankful that someone bothered.
    Also, I am sure he doesn’t head to the store and purposely tries to get you the worst gift possible. I am assuming he thinks you are going to like it.
    If you don’t like it,,like someone said, donate it.

  • I recently sent my Mom, who lives out of state, a bouquet of flowers just because. While she did thank me by “Text”, I feel hurt that she did not call me. I know that texting has become the new way of communicating, but I just can’t get past not receiving a personal call. Is it just me?

    • Melissa

      No, it’s not just you. Many people feel slighted when they have a specific form of recognition in mind. There’s nothing wrong with hoping for a particular type of communication, but it does set you up for disappointment. And it sets up your recipient for failure if you don’t make it clear what you’re expecting in return. But that gets to the core of the problem: you’re expecting something specific in return for your gift, which isn’t the best idea. Gifts are a good idea when they’re given without any expectation in mind. When they’re given with string attached, it is like giving the recipient a test they don’t know they’re signing up for.

      If you have a specific form of “thanks” in mind, I would suggest putting more time into the reason behind the gift. If it’s being done in order to get a “thank you”, perhaps find a different way to express your love/care for that person in a way that already is in your chosen format.

      So, for example, if you wanted to essentially tell your mom you loved her “just because”, perhaps try giving her a call to tell her that you love her and enjoy a conversation together. She gets the same gift of love and your time and you get the personal response format you prefer.


  • I sent Christmas gifts to my sister and 27 year old niece. I received a thank you note from my sister thanking me for the gift I gave her and her daughter. Seems a 27 year old is capable of sending her own note.

    What is your opinion?

    Thank you.

  • I have two different co-workers who welcomed a new baby into their family in 2016. While I was not, and did not feel obligated to give a gift to either- I actually hand- crafted unique baby gifts for each of them as well as giving a store bought gift. The gifts were delivered in person and opened in front of me. I was thanked verbally and it was made aware to me that the gift was very much appreciated and like by the first recipient. A week or so later I received a hand written thank you note as well for the gift. This made me feel like the recipient truly liked the gift. The second, however, barely made time to open the gift let alone pay attention to what the package contained. I received at best, a brief acknowledgement via a picture posted of part of the gift by a third party on a social media page,(I had the bear/blankie monogrammed and the person who did the work posted a picture of it on her social media page) and when I went so far as to actually ask if the gift – a baby bear/blankie- was being useful or if the child liked playing with it– I was literally told- “oh, we haven’t given it to her yet, it’s still in the box on the kitchen counter…” this was about 2 months ago and I still have not received so much as a proper thank you not to mention a card or note. And I was even asked by a fellow co-worker’s spouse if I had gotten a note since seemingly they were in the same situation and feeling the same way I was. Just my opinion– but I have always sent thank you notes, taught my children (who are now adults and are teaching their children) to send thank you notes and yes– there are times that I do resort to emails and texts because I consider myself very tech-savvy, but I still feel like, at times, there is no substitution for the hand written note…

    • Ann

      I feel differently about hand written notes, but we’re on the same page: this second family could have been more caring in their response about your gift. Whether it was hand made or store bought, when you asked about the gift, saying they hadn’t opened it or thought about it isn’t polite. I’m sorry that happened. If they have a new baby they’re probably tired and stressed and adjusting in so many ways that they just don’t (understandably) have those sort of etiquette or gift concerns as top priority. So in the big picture, I think this is probably one to let go and move on from, assuming this behavior isn’t typical for them.


  • Hi, my cousin sent a thank you note for my attendance at her wedding shower, that did not acknowledge a (somewhat expensive and large) gift my mother and I gave her, off the registry. We both signed a card, which I beleve was taped to the gift. I was so surprised & kinda offended, but since I received the card first, I thought she somehow didn’t realize the gift was from both of us. I hope it wasn’t too rude but I messaged her and her fiancé (they have dated about ten years, so I know him well too!) and said I just wanted to make sure you knew gift X was from my mom and me, not just from my mom. Then several weeks later my mom received a thank you note that ALSO did not acknowledge the gift!! I find it very weird and somewhat passive aggressive. Thoughts?!

  • A family friend gave a gift to my mother-in-law for my child but with the intent to keep it at her house. Since it is for my child’s use, should I send a thank you to the gift giver? What is the proper etiquette when the gift is for you (your child) but not given to you (your child)?

    • Nancy

      I don’t think I quite follow- they gave it to your child but don’t want the child to take it back to your house? That seems odd- could you explain further? How is it a gift for your child if it’s not given to your child?


      • Sorry-it’s a blanket/pillow thing personalized with my child’s name but they gave it to my mother-in-law to have at her house…does that make sense? So it’s a gift for my child to use but it stays at Grandmas house…

          • Umm, I don’t know…they gave it to my MIL and said this is for “baby girl” to use at Grandma’s house…so I didn’t ask to take it to our house because my MIL never offered it to us…she just kept it at her house. I think she would be offended if I asked, and feel like “why can’t I keep this here for “baby girl”? So I’m not sure how to proceed.

  • Hi – I recently gave a birthday gift to someone I work with (though in different offices). Her birthday was a few days ago, but I gave the gift 2 weeks ago knowing I wouldn’t see her before her actual birthday. This was a personalized gift with her name on it, from a company I know she absolutely loves. I was hoping she would open it in front of me when I gave it to her, but she just took the gift and moved on in the conversation. So I figured she might have been saving it for her actual birthday, which was a few days ago. The day of her birthday, I sent her a Happy Birthday email, to which she did not respond. The next day, I sent an email asking if she had opened the gift, because I was dying to know what she thought. Still no reply. Is it just me, or is it rude to not even acknowledge receiving such a personal, thought-out gift? I feel really hurt by this, but I don’t know how to tell her. I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, but it’s getting harder with each passing day. She’s sending out other business-related emails, so I know she’s in the office and on email. I’m not sure what to think.

    • Kate

      That does sound odd, but I wonder if something else is going on? I would give her a few days and then text/email her and be direct. I’d say something like, “Hi [Name], I hope you had a wonderful birthday. I just wanted to check in because I’ve been trying to contact you and haven’t heard anything back. Is everything ok?”

      There could be something else going on in her personal life that has nothing to do with you, so I wouldn’t lead in with “where’s my thank you note?”.

      If she says something like “everything’s fine” and nothing else, I would ask her directly if she liked her gift. If she says yes and thank you, it’s probably best to let it go. Not everyone handles thank yous the same way and perhaps she was planning on writing a letter or email of thanks in a few weeks? Either way, I’d start by checking in and making sure everything is ok with her.


  • Dear Grace,
    We helped a couple who were stranded get home (not that far) and they gave us a bottle of wine (totally unnecessary). Now do I send a thank you for a thank you?
    Thanks, Linda

  • Grace, I am so glad I ran into your article because I’ve been struggling with something, and it’s possible you hit on it in one of your tips, but I want to double check. And if you did, possibly see if there’s anything I can do to soften the effect, although I suspect you’ll tell me to leave it alone.

    I have a feeling I may have “over thanked” on two occasions. The first is when the neighbor next door helped me put up my hurricane shutters. My husband happened to be at work for an extended shift and wasn’t going to be home in time. The shutters are kind of a pain to put up, it took about an hour or more. And when it was all over he was kind enough to come over and ask me if I needed help taking them down. About a week later we gave him a $40 Gift Card to a local restaurant and a thank you expressing how thankful we were for the peace of mind, etc.

    The other, we had an out of town funeral to attend and we happen to know someone with some connections who was able to allow us some flight changes last minute at no extra charge and didn’t charge us for our bags. This was incredibly helpful to us because since it was an unexpected funeral we really didn’t know when it was going to take place. Plus the flight was expensive so being able to save on the bags was a huge help. We sent him a $50 Gift Card to a restaurant, also with a thank you note saying how much we appreciated the help, peace of mind, etc.

    It felt right at the time because I was feeling so grateful but for some reason now looking back I fear we may have made these people feel uncomfortable as in thank you, here’s a gift card, now we’re even. And what I fear even more is that since I’m not so generous with my time and may not be as kind as these people were that maybe that was partly what was driving the gesture. :/ Maybe I didn’t want to feel indebted. :/It’s dawning on me that when people are genuinely nice to receive money for time they gave or something they did may feel awkward. :( I thought of a gift card only because we don’t know either of these people that well to have given something a little more personalized, or like something like a little box of chocolates or something. But with gift cards unless you know someone’s a coffee drinker and can do something small like that a $10 card to anything else just feels funny. I’m also thinking that perhaps NEXT time something happens and we need help they may feel awkward thinking that we might do something like that again and feel funny about it. Or worse might feel a little obligated in a sense.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    And if it was indeed an over thank in both instances, is there anything we can do to fix it? And how do you know when something like a gift card or an actual gift is OK to do?

    Thank you so much. I’m really feeling awkward about all this now.


    • Hi Gina

      I think the short answer is this: as long as these people don’t contact you to say they’re uncomfortable or act any differently, I’d let this go. I think you gave them a generous thank you gift and that’s just a nice surprise. :)


      • OK Grace thank you. I’m glad you thought this was a generous thank you rather than an over thank you. That’s comforting.

        I can’t say either has been acting differently because I don’t see them that often, they are both very casual relationships.

        But I’m still curious – if you care to address it – what would you if they did indeed, act any differently? (or they actually expressed feeling uncomfortable.) I’d love to know because I’d love to know how to handle it and because I’m sure it may come up again at some point (plus I’d just find it interesting, I’ve always loved reading about manners.)

        Anyway, thanks again, it’s good to hear the gifts weren’t over the top.


  • Hi Gracee, I have read through many times of your comments. I read what you said about the boss and the student with flowers. I am a teacher and with school ending, with have received several gift cards as thank you for the school year and teaching me,etc. Oh course I expect expressed a verbal thank you. Some gifts were not handed to me but delivered to my box. Should I send thank you notes home to each of them? Or just be happy I was thanked for the work I did all year.

  • Hi sorry for the typos above. I am not sure how those happened. See correction below.

    I read through many of your comments.

    I am a teacher with school ending and have received many gift cards as a thank you…

    I expressed a verbal thanks.

    Thank you

  • Grace, I have a question as to how to handle a gift my son received. His friend asked him to a concert which was very expensive, like around $300 a seat. The boy’s sister was unable to attend. We offered to pay for the seat but the Mom said there was no need. My son will write a Thank you card, but Im wondering if I should try to pay something for the seat or perhaps a gift card along with the Thank you card? Not sure how to handle this.

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