While many rules of etiquette have been thrown out in recent years, one convention still holds for the well-mannered: the thank you card. A card or note is still expected when a person receives a gift or other consideration that may be somewhat out of the ordinary.
The thank you card or note is considered obligatory for couples acknowledging wedding gifts, and for graduates who need to say thanks for all the money they receive after graduation. It lets the giver know the gift was received and appreciated. Ideally, it should be written for birthday and Christmas gifts from relatives other than parents. Whether the gift is a material item or cash, a card should be sent promptly after receipt of the gift.
It is also appropriate to send one when someone has done a kindness that may be out of the ordinary, such as when a relative offers his or her home for an overnight stay. Job applicants should also send a thank you card after they have been interviewed by a prospective employer.
A thank you card or note does not need to be elaborate. A person can send one bought as a greeting card in the supermarket, on note stationery, or on a blank card. The gratitude expressed is what is important.
Some people hesitate to write a thank you note because they "don't know what to say." This is easily overcome — one simply thanks the giver for the gift and expresses appreciation for it.
An appropriate message may go along these lines: "Dear Grandmother. Thank you so much for giving me the scarf and hat for Christmas. They will help keep me warm this winter. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. Love, Johnny."
For a check, the receiver could write something like "Dear Aunt Tillie. Thank you so much for the $20 check at my graduation. It will help me toward my down payment for my car at college. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. Thank you again. Love, John."
The writer should always express thanks, tell the giver how the gift will be used, and how much it is appreciated. A hand-made gift should always be particularly acknowledged in the thank you card. "Knowing you made my scarf and hat makes them very special," is just one example.
Gratitude is perhaps not as commonly expressed as it used to be, so a sincere thank you, even a brief one, will be appreciated. It is a rule of etiquette that deserves to be perpetuated.