Thank You Cards

May 22, 2012

This post is sponsored by Skype. It’s time to say more and stay human. It’s time for Skype.

Tell me, friends, what’s your take on handwritten notes? Have you completely abandoned the practice? Can you remember the last time you gave or received one? As for me, I LOVE getting any sort of handwritten note in the mail — it feels like such a luxury, doesn’t it? And while I’ve never been amazing at sending birthday cards, I do keep a stash of gorgeous thank you cards on hand — either to drop off with a small gift, or to send in the mail.

This topic is on my mind as I try and figure out how to help my kids create deep personal connections with the people in their life — and do it in the age of texting and tweeting. When I was at Mom 2.0, I was given a book that recommended mothers should get rid of the tradition of their kids sending thank you notes after a birthday party. The idea is that it’s turned into a guilt thing for Moms, and the kids aren’t really learning anything from it. I was a little shocked! But then I remembered I’ve totally skipped the after-party-kid-thank-yous on at least a couple of birthdays — especially for my teens. It can definitely feel a bit old-fashioned. What about you? Do you still have your kids send handwritten thank yous? Should that practice be retired? And the real question: if we don’t send thank you cards any more, what should we do instead?

What I’d like to do is figure out a few traditions that will make sure my kids are still learning how to communicate well with others. For example, my sister Jordan uses Postagram. With a click of a button the service turns her instagram images into real live postcards and mails them to our Grandmothers. I love that! At our house, I’m thinking about instituting a Sunday once a month where each child writes and sends a hand written note or letter — not necessarily as an etiquette exercise, but more as a personal communication exercise.

If you’ve abandoned things like after-birthday-thank-you cards, are you doing anything to replace them? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Cards pictured: one, two, three, four, five, six. And if you forget a thank you card for too long, try number seven. It made me laugh.

P.S. — The National Stationery Show is happening right this minute. When I lived in New York it was one of my favorite weeks of the year. Have you ever been?

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{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

1 annabelvita May 22, 2012 at 7:06 am

I send postcards to friends all the time! I think it’s such a nice way to stay in touch, and it can be quicker than a text or a phone call if you make sure you always have cards, stamps and addresses all in one place. They don’t have to say much, just a pretty hello is nice!
My new desk is just for letter writing really (I use my laptop all over the place for everything else). The best thing about sending postcards regularly is that you get them back – – all the postcards on the right hand side of the desk are recent ones from friends.


2 Design Mom May 22, 2012 at 7:59 am

Yum! I love the idea a desk dedicated to letter writing.


3 Amy May 22, 2012 at 7:07 am

I guess I am old fashioned! But I think it is very important to send thank-you notes after receiving a gift. And I’m not alone – most, perhaps 80%?, of the families that my kids associate with also send thank-you notes.

My kids are in junior high and high school now, so they don’t get gifts from friends during parties anymore. But they do get gifts and checks from aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Because we live a few states away from our extended families, it is vital to send a thank you note not only to express appreciation, but also to let the giver know their gift was (gratefully) received.

This is also generational – I know the grandparents would not appreciate receiving anything electronic, no matter how well designed or pretty. I have to admit, I, too, think electronic communication is not as thoughtful or meaningful as a handwritten note.

I am interested in hearing what others have to say on this topic!


4 Cathy May 22, 2012 at 7:08 am

My comment is a sidebar to birthday thank you notes. It seems that thank you notes have gone out of fashion for wedding and baby gifts. I don’t even remember the last time we received a thank you note for such gifts. Guess I’m old fashioned because I think thank you notes are a common courtesy.
Two of our adult grandchildren send thank yous (I’m sure at their mother’s reminder). Nonetheless, they are greatly appreciated.


5 dAwn May 22, 2012 at 7:29 pm

dear cathy, yes! i think a thank-you note is a terrific expression of genuine gratitude. i even appreciate it when folks say they like the card/note/letter i sent! it takes a moment…but some folks are uncomfortable, and don’t know what to say. even a smilie face with a big, “thank you very much!” is the perfect thing to say. it feels like you are giving love back to the one who gave to you in the first place. write on! :) dAwn


6 Zoe - SlowMama May 22, 2012 at 7:18 am

Call me old-fashioned, or just plain old :-) but I think thank you notes are important on many levels — they demonstrate gratitude, they’re personal, they bring joy to the recipient (in a way an email or electronic thank you doesn’t), and they demand something of the sender, which builds character and even creativity.

Perhaps we don’t need to send thank you’s for everything we used to send them for, but it’s still a fabulous practice. I love the idea of hand made notes — even made on the computer — but made all the same. And I love your idea of taking one Sunday a month for hand written notes. That kind of habit might make it less stressful for parents. And maybe something as simple asking kids how *they* would like to thank someone, might spark some creative ideas.


7 juliagblair May 22, 2012 at 7:22 am

I think it’s extremely important that we and our children learn to not
ignore people in our lives: kind deeds, gifts, accomplishments, sorrows, etc. It’s just good to know that others care. Anything is better than nothing!
You’re wonderful, Design Mom!!


8 mrpsresidio May 22, 2012 at 7:25 am

Also strongly for thank you notes for kids and others. Especially when it’s a gift sent from a registry – how else do you know they even got it???

My compromise for our kids: I take a group photo at the party and put it on the top of a letter. The post-birthday child sits with me and tell me what they like about the gift and having that person at their party — I type. We print the letter and the birthday child writes out “Dear [name]” and “Thank you again, [sender name]” to open and close the letter. Proper thank you and not too much stress for anyone.


9 Design Mom May 22, 2012 at 8:04 am

You bring up a good point! Sending a thank you is more than just gratitude, it’s a way of acknowledging the gift arrived.

I wonder if registry gifts are in their own category? For something like a birthday gift from a cousin, my kids are very likely to video chat, facebook, or text with the cousin a dozen time before a thank you note would arrive in the mail, so the gift is usually acknowledged immediately — but not via paper.

Hmmmm. I love this topic!


10 Barefoot Hippie Girl May 22, 2012 at 7:25 am

I agree with all the above comments-thank your are essential. I home school, and I have my boys write a letter to someone every Monday. If there has been gifts or services in the recent past, they write a thank you note. I used to write a lot of letters, but it seems like they have been replaced with both emails and my blog. Both are a way to keep in touch. It was one of my New Year’s resolutions to write a letter once a week. It has probably been a whole lot more like once a month.=) But it is in the back of my mind to do it.=) But, how exciting when you go to your mail box and pull out junk, and bills, and nestled in there is a letter. It is so uncommon, and so wonderful. It makes your day. So, I say, keep teaching the letter writing.


11 aimee @ smilingmama May 22, 2012 at 7:27 am

One of my New Year’s resolutions was so mail birthday cards. I admit that it’s been a little hit or miss but those I’ve sent have been VERY appreciated. One friend told me it was the only actual card she received for her birthday.


12 Jane May 22, 2012 at 7:37 am

I don’t know why they say there isn’t any purpose! I was taught to always send a thank you card for gifts and I still do now as a grown up (and if I delay I remember how we were taught as a kid, so the lesson stuck with me).
Like the other posters said, it’s how people know you got their gift!


13 Design Mom May 22, 2012 at 8:07 am

I hear you, Jane. Do thank yous count if they come via email or facebook? When I send gifts these days, I’m typically thanked in digital form.


14 Jillian In Italy May 22, 2012 at 7:39 am

I’ve just set up my kids with some penpals. I think the back and forth communication and the anticipation of receiving letters by snail mail is very motivating to keep them writing.

And I have very fond memories of my penpals as a kid!


15 Marcia (123 blog) May 22, 2012 at 7:42 am

I LOVE thank you cards. Well, any cards really. I make a point as a personal thing to send about 4 bits of “real” mail every month. So if I took a nice pic of someone’s kid, I’ll send it to them with a card, sometimes a “just thinking of you” card, and definitely thank-you cards for presents, kind gestures, etc.

I feel like it is seen as old-fashioned here (in South Africa) because I’m in the very tiny minority but thankfully I have a friend (ONE!) like me and so we satisfy each other’s need for real mail :) besides email and text.

I actually get very cross if people don’t say thank-you properly. This business of texting a quick blanket “thank you to all my friends for coming to my party and for the lovely present” is just pure laziness in my view. I really hate it and work hard with my own kids to say thank you both genuinely in person and with a note afterwards.


16 Design Mom May 22, 2012 at 8:08 am

I love that you have a buddy to exchange real email with. : )


17 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay May 22, 2012 at 7:44 am

Just yesterday I presented 11 ideas for summer entertaining to a group of 120 women aged 25-90. One of my co-presenters was Erin, the founder of Red Stamp. Red Stamp makes beautiful cards AND has an amazing app for sending the most gorgeous E-cards. They got started in my neighborhood. Interesting that a seemingly anonymous e-company is actually a delightful small (locally owned…for me) mom and pop shop to support. Erin’s whole philosophy is that the communication is the most important. Our other co-presenter is someone who is a consultant for green entertaining. She strongly advocates for using the internet (with beautiful products and the very best manners) to reduce waste in communicating. It was very interesting to see the reaction from the different generations in the room. Aside from the older ladies not knowing what an app is they seemed open to the idea of not receiving paper invitations, thank you’s etc. Quite an interesting social experiment! As for me? I still love getting actual Christmas cards, invitations, thank you’s in the mail. But I am a highly visual, tactile person. In the end, maybe my children and me finding a way to say thank you someone is the most important thing. That part we will never skip.
Check out Red Stamp Gabrielle and let us know what you think. You can get it on iTunes for free (upgrades cost a little). Is this what you see in our future?


18 Rebecca T. May 22, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I can pretty much guarantee that thank-you notes are not crowding our landfills! Compared to handouts in school, papers sent home from the dentist’s office and doctor’s office, and craft projects completed in everything from Sunday School to summer day camps, thank-you’s are in the minority in my recycling bin. Reducing our eco footprint is a wonderful idea and certainly we can use less paper, but I’m pretty sure that’s only a major concern in the corporate world. Letters to grandma? Not so much.


19 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay May 23, 2012 at 7:15 am

I agree with you Rebecca. It was just interesting for me that the day before Gabrielle posted this that this very thing was discussed at an event I was a part of. My co-presenter Erin from Red Stamp has an app as a part of her product line because people are starting to use that form of communication and she is attempting to meet the need and still offer a beautiful way to do it since her first love is lovely stationary and cards. It was food for thought for our entire audience. I personally always do written thank you’s and so do my kids. It is what I believe in.

As an aside:
The event was about entertaining and our green consultant had the best ideas for reducing waste. Her point was that it is the little things we do that add up to making a difference. She heads up an effort for a no-waste neighborhood party for 4000 people each year. They fill 1/2 of a kitchen-sized garbage bag from the party each year. The rest is sorted (by hand by volunteers) into compost and recycling. Pretty impressive.


20 Mary May 22, 2012 at 7:44 am

I’m so surprised about the idea that thank-you notes are somehow old-fashioned and not necessary any more! Perhaps I would need to understand the replacement idea. I still do thank-you notes, and my kids do too. It expresses gratitude, it lets the giver know that their gift was received, and as a side benefit, it’s also a good way for kids to keep in touch with long-distance family and friends.


21 Design Mom May 22, 2012 at 8:11 am

I don’t think I was very clear in my post, Mary. It’s not that people don’t express gratitude for kindnesses, it’s that they’ve replaced the paper thank you card with a verbal thank you, or an email, or some other type of message.

My mom was great about having us write letters to relatives when I was a kid. But these days, I keep track of relatives via facebook. It’s such a different world!


22 Mary May 23, 2012 at 9:02 am

Gotcha. Yes, I do agree that the approach can change depending on the event/gift/recipient. For example, a grandmother that sends a birthday gift should get a note in the mail. However, I also think it’s fine to send an email or Facebook message if it’s a gift from a friend you see often. As a giver of gifts, I don’t care if I get an online message of thanks (which is almost always the case these days), as long as I know the gift was received. I guess I still feel that it’s important for kids to go through the act of writing the notes, though, for a few reasons.


23 hoang-q May 22, 2012 at 7:45 am

When I was growing up, my Mom had us write letters to our relatives in Vietnam throughout the year. Since we had not met these relatives, it was her way of trying to create a connection for us – and it definitely worked. Our young boys have not met their great-grandmother in New Zealand, so we’ll start this letter-writing tradition soon. Borrowing from your idea, we may even just start out with postcards once a month!


24 Cathy May 22, 2012 at 7:57 am

Our family spent 5 years in the 70s living in Germany while my husband served in the USAir Force. The children were 1,3 and 5 when we went overseas. Of course this was before the internet and during that time we did not return home or use the phone, which was very expensive. Instead, we all wrote regularly of our daily life and many adventures. My mother saved all those letters and gave them to me when we returned and what a wonderful journal we have to read and relive those days and precious times that we would certainly have forgotten if not for those letters.


25 Design Mom May 22, 2012 at 8:11 am

What a treasure!


26 Laura May 22, 2012 at 8:04 am

I know I’m definitely in the minority, but I rarely do thank you notes, and won’t insist that my kids do them. I’ve only done them following the bigger gift events (wedding and baby showers), but not for the year to year things. When I get them, it’s a nice gesture, but I read it and then toss it into the recycling bin. I guess I just feel like with all of the things I try to cram into a day, writing thank you notes is not high on my priority list. Trust me, I’m raising my children to be grateful, empathetic and thoughtful people, but the thank you note thing is not a big part of this for us.


27 Design Mom May 22, 2012 at 8:12 am

I actually don’t think you ARE in the minority, Laura. I think many parents feel the same way.


28 susan May 22, 2012 at 8:07 am

I just wrote and mailed a thank you card to my daughter who lives 2 miles away. She made me a delicious dinner and gave me a beautiful scarf for Mother’s Day. Five minutes, 4 sentences….done. My 3 kids still at home, who all happen to have Down syndrome, wrote thank you cards to their aunt and uncle after visiting them at Easter. It takes only minutes and the receiver will love to find one in their mail box…………………….


29 Martha Frances May 22, 2012 at 8:14 am

Thanks for acknowledging thank you note guilt! Our daughter has a Google Talk video chat with her cross-country grandparents once a week for the last five years. She has to write a list of things she wants to tell them beforehand. I think it has really helped her learn what things are important to her and built confidence. More hand-written notes are certainly in order, though!


30 elz May 22, 2012 at 8:33 am

Oh no! We ALWAYS send handwritten thank you cards. My girls each have their own stationery, and we make some as well. I send handwritten notes all the time, as recently as this morning, in fact. There’s something to be said for receiving a lovely penned note.


31 Sara May 22, 2012 at 8:37 am

I’m shocked that someone advised to get rid of thank you notes. It seems to be yet another step toward a demise of common courtesy. As a far-away gift giver, a thank you note at least lets me know the gift got there.

And, as for writing, last summer I had my kids write a letter a week to someone just to keep up on the writing skills while school was out. There was a lot of complaining at first, but they were so happy when they received letters in return. And, I was really surprised when the kid that complained the most about it asked if we could do it again this summer.


32 sarah jane May 22, 2012 at 9:00 am

I love the idea of handwritten notes, but don’t hardly ever do it. I do wish we’d go back to it though. Everything has become so superficial it seems, but when you’re handwriting something, often your heart comes out. Not always, but definitely more than when writing an email or something. Anyway, LOVE the “peach” card! It’s awesome!


33 NolaLeBlanc May 22, 2012 at 9:30 am

I love handwritten notes as a sender and a receiver. My grammar school friend and I used to write letters during those long summer months when we did not see one another daily. I just wrote birthday thank you notes for my 5 year old and plan to have him “sign” them tonight. Not only do I write thank you notes, but I also send personal letters when I know someone is having a rough time whether it be a death, divorce, loss of a job, etc. I know how I feel when I receive personal correspondence and I can only hope my recipients feel the same.


34 bdaiss May 22, 2012 at 9:40 am

I’m still a stickler for thank you notes. My 5 year old loves that he can decorate the cards after he writes a short note. I make it pretty simple and have him at least write the “Dear so and so” and the “Thank you, Boy” then he dictates the middle to me.

I’m also big on postcards. I travel so much for work and to such cool places that I like to pick out fun postcards to send family and friends. Unfortunately we don’t get much written mail back these days…


35 Sarah May 22, 2012 at 9:43 am

Oh, I love handwriting and cards and letters! It makes me so sad that they are disappearing, and yet I am among those that hardly send anything handwritten any more. Post offices are closing because we send so little actual mail, and I recently watched a youth leader teach a bunch of teenagers how to address an envelope, because most of them didn’t know how to do it.
I wrote about this last year, partly inspired by a story you linked at Black Eiffel about a handwriting art project.
Thanks for the reminder. I’m adding letter writing to our summer to-do list.


36 Lisa in Montana May 22, 2012 at 9:50 am

I grew up writing thank you notes, and I have tried (with only moderate success) to instill the concept with my 10-year old son. Making the uphill battle even steeper is a sister-in-law who declares “Part of my gift is not having to write a thank you!” Which is all well and good when we are all together at Christmas or birthday parties, and the kids can thank her right then and there.

I think a concept that people might need to wrap their heads around is that the younger generation does not feel that an e-mail or text or Facebook message is superficial/artificial/weak or one of the other many words used above.

I equate it to something that really struck home once – in the days before digital cameras, for the average person (not professional photographers) – snapping random pictures was wasteful, expensive and time-consuming. But now, for someone with a camera in their cell phone – an image is not always meaningful and worth saving. They might simply snap a picture of an item at the store to remember the sale price. It will be deleted later.

The times, they are a changin’.


37 Gita May 22, 2012 at 9:56 am

Thank you for this question! I’ve noticed this trend and think it’s really sad. My husband, son (who’s almost 11), and I all write thank-you cards by hand. I even think of it as a treat for myself to buy nice stationery and give myself the time to write them! I write cards not only for gifts but anything I appreciate. Practically speaking, I often space them out over several days (or weeks, in the case of a wedding). You can help your children by taking dictation if they’re very young or struggling to write. One Christmas, when he was little, my son drew pictures of himself wearing or playing with the gifts he got (I’ve also taken photos of him doing these things); there are lots of options.

When I visited my in-laws recently, I was moved to see one of my thank-you notes in pride of place on the mantel. For me, the practice of writing thank0you cards is a kind of meditation on gratefulness and kindness, and I hope it is, or will be, for my son, too.


38 Connie May 22, 2012 at 10:04 am

While my parents always taught us to write thank you notes when we received gifts, it wasn’t until I was in college that I developed a bit of a heart for the note of gratitude. One weekend I went home and brought a trio of friends with me to stay, and one of those friends sent my parents a handwritten thank you for hosting her after the fact. I was so struck by how exquisitely polite that was, that from then on, I knew I wanted to be that kind of adult. So, I really love nice stationary and writing notes to people showing gratitude for kind things/gifts/thoughtfulnesses, etc.
In a world where 90% of the things that tumble out of the mailbox are spam and bills, is there no more exciting feeling than when a beautiful envelope falls out with a letter in it? I love that feeling SO much, that I love giving that feeling to others.


39 Meaghan May 22, 2012 at 10:05 am

I love sending cards to my two young cousins who live on the other side of the country from me! (I’m in OR, they are in NY) I send them cards for birthdays, holidays and just ‘because’ if it seems like it’s been too long since the last one! I never expected anything in return, it was just a note to tell them I was thinking of them and missing them, but last week I got a hand written note from my 8-year-old cousin Sophia! It was adorable, with all the spelling mistakes that come from being 8!

I love writing cards and letters! I would love to be a pen pal for your kids or any of your reader’s kids who need some practice with their handwriting!


40 Sharon @ Discovering Blog May 22, 2012 at 10:17 am

100% I think our kids should make thank you notes! I know there is labor involved, and mine are not always as speedy as I would like, but they are sent.

I do get a bit miffed when I get a photo card with a pic of the married couple/birthday kid, that is preprinted with a generic “Thanks for coming!”
I remember clearly my late grandma telling me that she didn’t rec’v a thank you card from me for some gift when I was little, and she will not bother getting me any more gifts if I can’t take the time to write a note. It was the best advice she’d ever given me.

The way I explain it to my kids is like this – no one owes you a gift. If someone took the time to go to the store and spend their money for you, you can write a note of thanks. There are no excuses.


41 R O X Y M A R J May 22, 2012 at 10:34 am


I too love writing letters. I am obsessed at sending them…for selfish reasons, so I can get a handwritten letter back! :[) I have always loved having pen pals and just last year I became friends with my friend Vivi [] through my blog [she is from switzerland and studying in London] and we write letters/send packages to each other all the time. And the best thing about it is that almost always when one of receives a letter from the other, there is something in that letter that we needed to hear that day that just absolutely lifts our spirits! Inspired timely writing for sure. :)

p.s. I too love and miss the stationary show…as well as ICFF… I got to go to both for free from school…they were always so inspiring!

<3 :)


42 Sara May 22, 2012 at 10:47 am

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I have a 9 month old daughter and was remembering what fun things I did as a little girl and I remembered that when my very best friend moved across town (yes, only across town) we became pen pals. We went to different schools when she moved, so while we did still see each other it wasn’t every day like it had been for years. I remembered we’d write back and forth and just tell each other about our day, sometimes sending small gifts as well. It made me start to wonder about pen pals. Do kids still have pen pals? I think that would be so fun to do with Alice. Find her a pen pal once she is old enough. Anyhow, I’m a huge fan of the traditional hand written correspondence, whether it be for a special reason or just because. I hope that the postal service never goes away.


43 Candice May 22, 2012 at 10:48 am

My mom was always on me growing up to write thank you cards but I never really got into the spirit (oddly, my mother does not send them herself). Now that I’m adult I try very hard to send thank you cards for nearly anything. We had a lot of people come to our wedding who didn’t bring us a gift, but it didn’t matter. We were thankful that they came. I was a maid-of-honor for a friend’s wedding last year and while I did not get the couple a gift, I did pay nearly $1500 between travel, lodging, food, car rental and bridesmaid dress, not to mention the unpaid time I had to take off of work. I was never thanked for it and it was a bit of a disappointment to know that in some minds, only a present it worth thanking.

The only time I find writing thank you cards awkward is when the gift is monetary. “Thank you so much for the cash/check you sent.” It feels tacky to say that. I usually refer to it as a “generous gift” but if anyone has a better suggestion, I am open to it!


44 mary May 22, 2012 at 11:02 am

Always, always, always send a thank you card.


45 Amanda P May 22, 2012 at 11:10 am

I am writing thank you cards today for baby shower gifts. They have taken me way too long to get to, but I do think it is important to send a personal note recognizing a gift. I feel like no one owes me gifts, yet they have taken the time and effort to make or purchase something and the least I can do is take a few minutes to write that I am grateful, or sometimes make a phonecall. Email and facebook just don’t seem personal enough. I think “old fashioned” manners like this are getting lost as long distance communication gets easier and so much of daily life seems to be more informal.


46 Nora May 22, 2012 at 11:13 am

Whoa! Why would you not extend a thank-you to someone who took the time to find a gift, wrap it, bring it to you or mail it? I live far from friends and family so I constantly mail gifts or rely on online shopping delivery. If I don’t hear from someone, I really don’t know if they ever got their gifts, without asking (which is yucky), let alone if it was something they enjoyed. I get a little mad, to be honest. Next year a few of my nephews are getting goats…and I mean it. As to form, to me anything goes – call, email or written note, it’s all good. Obviously an older person who is not computer savvy would get a call or note. Also there are some pretty online thank-you cards out there. NO EXCUSES!


47 Sonja May 22, 2012 at 11:29 am

I was raised to write thank you notes and my children will be raised to write them as well. I am so glad to see that the majority of your readers seem to write them as well and have left excellent comments. It’s not only sad to hear that people think this practice is going by the wayside, (to me) it’s rude and lazy. I can’t stand it when I hear “people just don’t RSVP anymore!” To not give your host the opportunity to plan for food and seating accordingly is terrible. In this day and age of computers and cell phones it is ridiculous that people can not take the time to RSVP. I’ve gotten off topic, but handwritten thank you notes not only lets the gift giver know that you have received the gift if you don’t open it in front of them, but I also think it helps you remember who gave you what . Baby showers, birthday parties, etc. can be so overwhelming. I’m always glad I have a list of what everyone gave me to write my thank you notes, but also to look back years later and tell my children, “did you know Donna Lewis gave you that blanket?” I was just telling my 5 yo that his 14 mo brother was wearing an outfit that had been his and because I still have those lists I was able to remember and tell him “that your godmother gave you”. I’ve also heard that children these days are having real difficulty reading cursive. With all the typing they do, what better way to practice their handwriting skills? Of course, I guess some will say that should go by the wayside too. Despite the rumor that thank you notes are going by the wayside, this year I was thrilled to receive handwritten thank you cards from my sales person at Nordstrom and my waiter at Del Frisco’s Steak House. I spent less than $100 at Nordstrom but this act of customer service will definitely send me back to spend more and it’s nice to know that there are companies who recognize that this is appreciated. My husband also attended a one week executive management course this year at UNC Chapel Hill where they had many examples of successful (very busy) leaders who were known for their handwritten notes. When I told my mother she immediately produced a stationary catalog and asked him to pick out a set and she would have it personalized. We were all raised in the South and she was thrilled to help in any way she could to make sure that this is not a dying art form. Which reminds me of a neighbor who actually slightly offended me. She gave me a baby gift, I wrote her a thank you note, and the next time I saw her she all but laughed in my face saying, “You really are Southern! Who writes thank you notes anymore?” Well I do and my kids will and I’m so glad you wrote about this topic. Obviously, based on the length of my comment, I had a lot of pent up emotions. :-)


48 Lindsay - ShopEllaLou May 22, 2012 at 12:11 pm

As much as I love receiving something hand-written, I am awful about sending hand-written notes (which is why it was so wonderful to have the Hallmark suite at Mom Summit 2 – no excuse not to send cards when they make it so easy!). The reality of the situation is that many of my friends and family are so busy, I do not expect a hand-written note. I appreciate a text, email, or even Paperless Post thank you.

That said, since our daughter was born, I have been trying to be better about sending Christmas cards, Valentine’s cards, and other special occasion cards to friends and family. As many of our friends and family live in France, it is important that we make a concerted effort to stay in regular contact. Frequently that means an email, quick picture text, or Skype chat. However, for the older generation it is important that we try to use “old-fashioned” forms of communication because many French adults of my parents’ generation are not technologically savvy.

I guess it is all about balance – I try not to let the need (or guilt) of feeling like I need to send a hand-written note keep me from sending an email/text if that is all I can manage at a given moment.


49 Sarah May 22, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I was not taught to write thank you notes as a child but picked up the habit from a wonderful mentor of the ways of Washington when I moved there in my 20s. She was a gem. My family totally came to expect them even though they rarely sent any themselves and hadn’t taught me how to do it. Ha.
Anyway, my boy is just about to turn 4 and we absolutely send thank you notes on his behalf. We take time to have him help us so he learns how.
I think it’s a cop-out to say mother’s shouldn’t have thier kids send thank you notes because it makes mothers feel guilty. Who else is going to teach their children how to be thoughtful people?
As for method of delivery, I prefer old fashioned mail delivery. Every person I know likes getting something personal in the mail box.


50 Audrey May 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I can’t even imagine receiving a gift and NOT sending a handwritten Thank You. That would be like forgetting my clothes when I go out in the morning. Someone spent their time, money, thought and effort in choosing a gift ~ it’s the least I can do in return. I already drive that into my children and I don’t really care whether it’s old fashioned or not. And you best believe that I always remember when we give a gift and don’t receive a Thank You ~ I guess I have a mental list. It makes me sad to think it’s considered old fashioned. Receiving a handwritten card/note in the mail feels so special. I love the thought of making someone else feel that way. And when does making someone feel special go out of style???


51 The Emily May 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I never sent out my thank yous after I got married and 11 years later I still feel sick about it. I will never stop sending out and written thank yous as a form of atonement for that.


52 Lisa May 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm

My mom always made sure we sent thank you cards. It does mean so much to receive a handwritten letter. If you don’t start young, it’ll be hard to get children to write one when they’re older. I’m so glad that my mom had me write all sorts of letters as a child and I’m grateful to her. It’s a wonderful habit that everyone should have a minute to do.


53 Barb May 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm

awesome, I just signed up for postagram


54 mindy t May 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I Still feel it is very important to send handwritten thank you cards. My kids will continue on with this tradition.


55 Birgitte May 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm

You are so right. Handwritten cars/letters/postcards/post-its etc. are so wonderful. Almost a bit retro :-)

That said I must admit I’m really bad at putting my words into practice. I still use the computer for almost everything…

PS: Loved your presentation at The Hive. Very inspiring, funny and useful. Thank you!


56 Lauren May 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Wow this seems to be a hot topic! I am an avid thank you note writer, and am, in fact, working through a stack today for the birthday gifts I received last week. It means so much to me to recieve thank you notes that I always try to send them. I certainly don’t think that a handwritten note is the only way to show gratitude, but some other forms of communication seem almost too… easy? Or casual, maybe? I want to show the person I am thanking that I put a little effort into it.


57 Miss Frazzled May 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Hand-written thank-you notes are always good manners. My daughter sent her own after her 9th birthday. My son, who turned 7 in February, still hasn’t finished his. But we will, if I have to do them myself.


58 Stephanie May 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm

As much as I enjoy writing thank you notes, I love receiving them too. Who doesn’t, right?

An added bonus, in Hollywood where executives get tons of mail and submissions, it is standard practice for the assistants to put all handwritten notes on top of the executive’s mail stack. A way to significantly increase the odds that your note will be read, rather than sorted and potentially discarded, is to take the time and care to write it out by hand.


59 Carlota Zambrano May 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Hi Gabrielle! I love this topic because I am from Venezuela, where the postal service is not reliable. So we don’t have the firm tradition of the thank you note or the christmas cards. But I am a stationery fan, and a hand written word too so now that I live in the US i’ve been trying to adopt those traditions and do it with my kids. I know now digital greetings are more common and easy, buy maybe setting which special occasion deserves the hand written word! so it doesn’t die…
I agree with you that receiving a hand written letter, post card or note brights up one’s day!


60 Jerith @ Bailey Fox Interiors May 22, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I read a sentence in a book by Linda Howard once that has really stuck with me — “A lady addresses all her invitation by hand”. The sentiment was that, despite the ease of typing and internet invitations, sending invitations by hand shows your guests that you care about their presence and comfort. While I don’t always send hand written notes, and I’ve been known to use evite, I do try to write and send cards on a regular basis. The other portion of the story that I remember was the heroine in the novel was sitting at a desk that had been in her family for years addressing all of the envelopes for a 250 person party. She was complaining to herself about how much time it took and how it made her back ache, but at the same time she was appreciating the connection the act gave her — sitting in the same spot as her mother and grandmother had, doing the same task they did made her feel connected to her heritage and ancestors. I like that sentiment and think its important to keep up some of those traditions, especially around personal communication.


61 Mimi May 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I think thank you notes are so important. My niece is six and for the past 2-3 years, every time I gave her a present or gift, I would get a thank you in the mail. What I loved most were the drawings she would adorn them with. Sometimes she’d try to draw the gift, or me, or me and the gift!

I think the really important part of a thank you card isn’t the actual act of saying “thanks”. It is the act of taking a moment to reflect and think about another person, with affection and gratitude. That can be in a card, in a drawing, in a cookie or any other way a person would like to spend that reflection time.

Frankly, I think handwritten “thank you’s” or thank you cookies or thank you emails should be done more often. Who wouldn’t want a half-dozen “thank you for giving me a ride cookies?” to take the edge off a Monday :)


62 Linnea May 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I always write thank-you notes! It’s one thing to verbally express thanks, but to have written a note of thanks means 1. I thought about you again, 2. I’m still thankful for what you did for me, 3. I’m enjoying the gift/remembering the experience, 4. you mean enough to me that I took some extra time to hand write a personal note. It’s a practice of cultivating a grateful life, not taking anything for granted, and recognizing the blessings we’re given! I think it’s appropriate to ask children of all ages to write thank-yous, as well as for adults to continue the practice. An email will never feel the same!


63 Gabriel Lopez May 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I also think it’s important to send hand written post cards or letters! In my wife’s country, email is illegal so her family still sends her hand written letters.


64 Beth B. May 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I recently had this discussion with some friends and I was the lone thank-you note sender. I once worked customer service for a large retailer in NYC and had a customer call in wanting to know if her gift (sent via online registry) had been delievered since she hadn’t received a thank you or any acknowledgement of receipt.

My two cents are these:
1)If you teach your children to write thank-you’s for birthday parties you are teaching them the importance of doing it for the bigger things in life: weddings; small tokens of kindness; etc. If they don’t learn it for the little things, they won’t even THINK to do it when it really matters. You teach them to make the bed each morning in the hope that they will do it as they get older…don’t you do the same for manners?

2) People spend time and money (neither of which most people have to spare) choosing, then going out to buy a gift, it is the least you as the recipient can do to thank them for the effort (equally worthy of thanks are those who provide service to us for no reason other than that they love us).


65 Beth B. May 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm

After reading some of the other comments, I just wanted to post my thoughts about digital thank you notes vs. hand written: There is something about a hand written note that makes it personal. Digital…while the sentiment may be the same just doesn’t seem as heartfelt (which is not to say that it wasn’t, it just has a different vibe). Maybe because writing it out yourself, then mailing it requires some effort FROM you, so that makes it more meaningful.

What ultimately this comes back to is the argument that “Isn’t it enough that you said thank you at the party? Why should you have to say thank you in a note?” For me personally, it is not the same at all.

Also a major pet peeve are generic thank you notes–if you can’t be bothered to personalize it at all, don’t bother.


66 Kathleen May 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Wow – I’m really surprised to hear it’s out of vogue to send thanks you’s! I’ve definitely forgotten to send a thank you card here and there, but we’ve always sent and received them for wedding gifts, showers, kid’s parties etc. In fact, one of my husband’s cousins didn’t send them last year for her wedding shower and it was highly commented on (negatively) by our relatives. Maybe we hang out with an old-fashioned crowd? That said, handwritten letters do seem rare these days and I wish I was better about sending them.


67 Jessica May 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Yes to thank you cards. Personal snail mail seems like such a novelty, so I think it really makes an impact nowadays.


68 Ann May 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm

I still make my kids write thank you notes. Sometimes if they have a lot to do, I’ll have them write a generic thank you then I’ll scan it and place it and print it out/the ‘ole hand feed routine through printer…so all they have to do is write the name and then their name. It’s important to me that they write the persons name and write their own name.


69 Mrs. May 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm

In the summer, I insist that my daughters write three letters a week. They can choose who the letters go to, except for one. That one I choose, usually to an elderly family member. Over the years, they now appreciate the connection letters give and my oldest (son to be 15) is in a pen pal club.


70 kate May 22, 2012 at 7:56 pm

i am a firm believer in the tradition of sending thank you cards. i feel that if someone has given something of themselves, be it time, a thought, money, energy, it deserves to be recognized by the recipient. i am trying to cultivate gratitude in my children, 10 & 4, and do ask that they send (& usually make) thank you cards. to me, the dying act of expressing gratitude on this manageable scale is too bad.


71 Rebecca Grace May 22, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Thank you notes are HUGE. I don’t care if I’m the last one on Earth who thinks so — but the thing is, I’m not. They aren’t just for gifts, either. The piano teacher who rearranged her schedule so my child could get the extra help he needed before his recital. The teacher who came in early one day to help my child with the Spanish grammar he wasn’t quite getting. Thank you notes tell people in a very special way that we notice and appreciate what they’ve done for us, that they make a difference, and that we care. Email can never convey that as powerfully as a handwritten note, and children who grow up with the habit and skill of writing thank you notes will have an advantage over those who do not.

How to keep it from being drudgery? Special stationary, whether custom printed or handmade. Special pens. Fountain pens! Sit down together and you write some letters alongside your child. Light a scented candle, make some hot chocolate or tea, and teach your child to enjoy the relaxing ritual of correspondence. And try to have your child write just a few at a time, so he can choose his words thoughtfully instead of feeling pressured to rush through.


72 Laura May 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I was at a funeral last fall of a very dear friend of the family. She was 86 years young when she died. While at the funeral, I remembered a thank yhou note that she had sent to me about six years prior, and I leaned over to my Mom and whispered that I really wish I knew where that note was. My Mom asked what was in it. I replied, Louise Thanked me for a lovely dinner and told me how wonderful the kids were. My mom smiled, sounds like her, she whispered back. That simple note was so needed by a new mother that wasn’t sure about what she was doing. It made me feel that maybe I was doing things okay. To make a long story short, I’m not kidding, when I came home from the funeral I opened up my bible, and out it floated to the ground. I was so happy. So, yes a simple thank you can be so precious. I try to send them out regularly, but not as often as I should. There is book out there about a man who sent a thank you note out everyday of the year. I’ve not read it, but I’m sure it’s special. Thanks for listening to my rambling.


73 Sarita Rajiv May 23, 2012 at 12:57 am

I love handwritten notes and use them often. We’ve just moved from India to Denmark and my husband’s colleague had sent us some home made rice dumplings. When I sent her tin back with something I had made, I attached a smal handwritten note thanking her and telling her how delicious the dumplings were:-)

There’s always a handwritten note with every gift I give too…it adds a personal touch.


74 Heather May 23, 2012 at 6:54 am

I think it’s always good to show gratitude.
Sending thank you cards makes your child stop and think about showing gratitude—even if you have to remind them/coerce them to do it.

Gratitude is such a powerful but often underestimated value.


75 heather May 23, 2012 at 5:53 pm

I didn’t grow up writing any thank you notes at all, and at 25, I am an avid thank you note writer. Friends of mine who don’t write notes (or know how to address an envelope) keep my thank yous and place them on the refrigerator because they are so touched, despite seeing me often. It is thrilling to write thank you notes for people who did not give me anything tangible–the candid professor in my graduate program, the local police officer who directed traffic around my car when I got my first flat tire. Thank you baskets (with dollar store notecards!) for the people who served as references for my graduate program and for jobs. I love knowing that the notes are unexpected–and if they AREN’T appreciated? Oh well! I’ll never know. But when I receive a heartfelt email, thanking me for my thank you…it is so worth it.

That said, not receiving thank yous does bum me out a little bit. I don’t know whether the gift was received. I am detail oriented and I want to know that my loved one knows that energy and love was put into their gift. I didn’t feel this way until I started to write thank you notes. I love beautiful paper products and post mail, so that is my preference. For close friends, a text is fine. My older sister, a mother of 3, recently sent me a beautiful thank you email for a birthday gift I sent her. It made me cry and was a gift in and of itself. But a facebook message? No way. I am an avid user of facebook, and while it keeps you in touch, it is still impersonal. If you care enough to send a thank you, care enough to find the person’s address. This is what relationships are about: effort & caring. Not getting any sort of acknowledgement sends me the message that the receiver is lazy and doesn’t care.

Tips: Specify what the gift was & how you expect to enjoy it, “Thank you so much for Tina Fey’s book! I can’t wait to read it.” If it is money, I go with, “Thank you so much for the generous gift! It will be so nice to treat myself to [something generic or specific.]” I always thank the giver for thinking of me.


76 engquist May 24, 2012 at 2:50 am

I am very much so PRO thank you cards, birthday cards, handwritten letters, and/or mailed doodles. Since I’ve moved abroad, these little sentiments have grown even more in their worth to me. There is something about sending or receiving a piece of mail now that shows the affection of the sender and receiver a bit more than a text or email. Plus, for me, it’s something tangible I can keep with me of the sender. Plus, it shows an extra measure of gratitude to take the time to write a note. I’m now designing stationery to keep the tradition alive and well.


77 mom in mendon May 24, 2012 at 8:10 am

More than a question of Mail vs. E-Mail, it’s a question of GRATITUDE. Ironic that in our day of PLENTY, expressing thanks would be burdensome.

Although I taught my children to write notes to show appreciation, it’s 100% OK with me if my grandchildren email us or call in their thanks.

I’m sorry to add to dear Emily’s guilt (#51), but Wedding Gift Thank You’s are a NECESSITY. If one can go to the trouble and expense of sending lavish invitations, thus obligating friends to send gifts, one can take the time to thank. Stamps for those notes should be planned in the wedding budget. As a PRACTICAL matter, those friends who give gifts–even non-registry guests–need to know their gift was received.

I’m in agreement 100% with juliagblair: “Anything is better than nothing.”


78 Jordan (tinystyled) May 24, 2012 at 9:48 am

As an adult, I’ve only sent thank you notes for my college graduation and wedding gifts and job interviews. I would really love to get back in the habit of writing more notes, but I always find something else to occupy my time when I’m home from work.


79 Jean Sarli June 6, 2012 at 8:58 am

I am a grandmother of four grandchildren. My daughter recently moved 10 hours away so I do not get to see them. I always see things I know the kids would like, and I buy those things with my limited money and mail them to them (with the expense of the post office these days!!!). The twins are 10 and one is 9 and I have tried to instill in them the need for being grateful and showing appreciation and returning love. I am now at the point of stopping all “doing” because I feel unloved and un-apppreciated. Courtesy is one thing. Appreciation and giving as well as receiving is yet another. Who cares whether it is written, said on the phone, over email or on facebook….it is the principle of the thing for God’s sake.


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