When I started working here at Polka Dot Design, I became a stationery freak overnight. I wasn’t raised to send thank you notes. It was something I’d seen throughout my life for my sister’s graduations and wedding. And nothing else.

But on my first day here, I received personalized flat notes and I was hooked. Thankfully, I did have the foresight to send a thank you note when applying at a stationery company (and needless to say, got the job).

The problem then was, of course, that I had no idea when it was appropriate to send a thank you note. So when I was browsing through a Barnes & Noble bargain section and found Connie Leas’ The Art of Thank You, it was as if the stars aligned.

I learned that it is almost always appropriate to send a thank you note, but more often it is rude not to send one. So for all those gratitude greenhorns like me, here’s a brief rundown of when you must and should send a note of thanks:

Must:

  • Wedding gifts (even those opened in front of the giver)
  • Other-occasion gift (unless a “thank you” phone call would delight the giver more than a note)
  • Overnight stay as a guest in someone’s home
  • Parties and dinners for which you are the guest of honor
  • Funeral flowers and condolence letters
  • Anyone who may have helped with a funeral
  • Job interview (It works!)

Should:

  • Wedding attendants and all others who helped
  • Parties and dinners you attend (though a must if you’re the guest of honor)
  • Acts of kindness
  • Good service and helpfulness (Leas writes that this is not only to make the person feel good, but to encourage good service in the future)
  • “Job well done”
  • Business referral

Nice to send one, but not necessarily rude not to

  • Child’s birthday party gift (the experts’ opinions vary on this, some say it’s a must. Many say it’s good training for the future. Some say the gratitude seems insincere, which you don’t want to teach your children)
  • Sympathy cards
  • Gifts opened in front of the receiver (but not if it’s in a long line of gifts for which “thank yous” are perfunctory)

Leas notes that a card is better than a phone call, a phone call is better than an email, an email is better than a text message, a fax should almost never be used (though this is a little antiquated) and any of the above is better than nothing. Also, better late than never, so start writing them now!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to write a note for the maintenance worker who fixed my washing machine yesterday.