Thank you Notes: When To Send a Handwritten One, When It’s OK to Email or Text & When One’s Not Required


By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor

Sending a thank-you note by text, or sending a thank-you note by email use to be considered incorrect. But etiquette evolves to keep pace with the way we communicate, and now both are sometimes the best way to express your thanks, especially for small gifts and acts of kindness. 

Today, it’s about the art of knowing what kind of thank-you to extend for different occasions and situations.

When do you owe someone a handwritten thank-you note?
When will an emailed note or a text fill the bill?
When is your verbal thank-you plenty?

Thank-You Notes: When to Write, When to Email, and When One Isn’t Necessary



Dear Maralee,

I have a pretty basic question. I heard once that if a gift is opened in the presence of the gift giver, a handwritten thank-you note is unnecessary because a verbal thank-you was offered. Is this true? If so, is it true in all circumstances? Thank you for your valuable blog!


The short answer is: it depends.

With that said, please don’t ever fear that writing a thank-you note and popping it in the mail is incorrect.  

Sometimes, I receive emails from people wondering if they should write a thank-you note becasue they fear by doing so they might be viewed as overly formal. The thing is, there isn’t anything formal about a handwritten thank-you note. It’s just that it acts as a permanent reminder of your gratitude. 

I doubt anyone who receives one thinks this about the author: “Wow, what a time waster. Didn’t he know this wasn’t necessary?” Instead, it’s more likely the recipient reads it and glows: “Wow, he really noticed and appreciated my efforts.”

And besides, if someont thinks it’s lavish of us, that’s a good thing! Let’s always be lavish in extending gratitude. It encourages the giver and reminds us of our blessings.

While a handwritten note is never incorrect, the answer to your question could fill a chapter in a book. That’s because there are so many different reasons we might want to write, text, or email or thanks. 

For now, here’s a tip sheet for helping you decide.

You might want to print it out to keep for reference. One interesting fact: five years ago an email or text thank-you note was considered poor form. Our sensibilities evolve, and with them, etiquette.

Times When a Handwritten Thank-You Note Is Best:

-Children’s birthday party gifts
-Adult birthday party gifts
-Bridal or baby shower gifts
-Anniversary party gifts
-Graduation party gifts
-Housewarming event
-Any gifts received in the mail
-Gifts not opened in front of the giver
-Any kindness or gift extended during or after an illness, a hospitalization, or a funeral (food, flowers, assistance)
-A meal you’ve been treated to in a home or restaurant, socially or for business
-Anything that has been specially designed or handmade for you (craft, woodwork, needlework, quilt, baby items, monogram, etc.)

Times When a Verbal Thank-You Is Sufficient:

-Gifts given as a thank-you gesture (hostess gifts, bridal-attendant gifts)
-Holiday gifts opened in front of the giver 
-Thinking-of-You items (small plants, home-baked goodies, candles, etc.)
-Gifts given by family members and closest friends and opened in front of them
-One parent thanking another for a child’s play-date, party, occasional car ride home for the child, etc.

Times When an Email or Text Thank-You Is Sufficient:

-When an email or text is the next contact you’ll have with the other person. This most often happens in work situations. An example: when you email promised documents just hours after having lunch with vendor(s), coworkers, or clients, you’ll want to thank them for lunch.
-In situations where you don’t have a physical address, only an email address. (This happened to me the other day.) Always mention the fact that you don’t have their physical address and that you wanted to thank them with a handwritten note.
-Any small kindness (act or gift) that you want to acknowledge (neighbor picking up your newspapers for two days while you’re away, someone copying a recipe for you, a coworker doing something for you that’s not part of their job description, a church member helping you organize a small event, etc.)

Remember, when in doubt, do more than you think you should! It’s hard to be criticized for being overly gracious!

I’ve written more about thank-you notes in the following posts; they provide information you might be looking for or you’d just enjoy knowing:

The Simple 5-Step Formula for Writing Treasured Thank-You Notes


 7 Savvy Manners for Writing Thank-You Notes After Saying Thanks


The Three Persons You Really Should Write an After-Christmas Thank-You Note To. (Even though this post mentions Christmas, you can substitute any event in its place. The etiquette is the same no matter the occasion. I just happened to write this during the holidays.) 

Please Share, Like, Pin, Tweet, or email this post to your friends, family, and those in your social media circles! The Manners Mentor Movement is growing! Thank you so very much for your kindness in helping to spread the word!!!

Until next time, keep doing what you were born to do! Be you…at your authentic best!

Hugs and blessings,


Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best-friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! To learn more about Maralee click on the "Meet Maralee" or "New? Start Here" links at the top of this page.

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