The Art of the Thank-You Note

This holiday season and beyond, revive the art of the handwritten thank-you note with these tips from etiquette instructor Bethany Friske.
The Art of the Thank-You Note
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If you’ve noticed that thank-you notes have gone the way of the dinosaurs, you’re not alone. But it’s a lost art worth bringing back, as physical, handwritten thank-you notes not only make a gift-giver feel more appreciated, but also foster community. “You connect differently when you receive a note of gratitude from someone,” said Bethany Friske, etiquette instructor and founder of Doors of Success School of Etiquette. To jump-start that gratitude connection, Ms. Friske offers the following thank-you note refresher tips.

Voice Your Appreciation

Upon receiving a gift at a party, it’s good to verbally express gratitude immediately. Gifts received via mail should receive a verbal thank you via phone or text within 24 hours, to put the giver’s mind at ease that the gift arrived.

Put It on Paper

After verbal acknowledgment, follow up with a handwritten thank-you note, Ms. Friske advises, and seek to ensure that the gift-giver receives the note within a week. “It has such an impact when you show gratitude in the written form.”

Express Yourself

Two-sentence thank-you notes are not sufficient, Ms. Friske instructs; instead, they should contain “four lines or more.” For an easy guide, she suggests making the first, second, and last lines about the gift, and the third about something else, such as how much you appreciate the giver’s friendship.

Avoid the Cookie-Cutter Option

Preprinted notes—such as a wedding photo with a generic message—should be avoided, Ms. Friske advises. You can, however, write handwritten notes that have similar messages, but they should each have a personal touch.

Teach the Next Generation

Writing thank-you notes is a gesture to start at a young age, Ms. Friske says. To pass on this practice to the next generation, and instill the value of gratitude early on, she suggests having children too young to write instead draw a picture of the gift, and dictate a message to an adult.

The Exception

There are very few instances in which a thank-you note is unnecessary, but one is the hostess gift. “The hostess gift is the thank you from [a guest] for hosting,” Ms. Friske explained, and as such, the hostess isn’t obligated to write a note.
This article was originally published in American Essence magazine.
Annie Holmquist is a cultural commentator hailing from America's heartland who loves classic books, architecture, music, and values. Her writings can be found at Annie's Attic on Substack.
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