Thank you card how-to

I hope that this blog doesn’t become a mommy blog. While the following post was inspired by receiving baby gifts, it really is multipurpose. Thank you cards are expected after many large events that are tied in with gift-giving.

I just finished writing the second wave of thank you cards for gifts we’ve gotten from our baby registry. While I felt weird about making the registry in the first place, I also knew there were members of my family and my family friends who would be upset that there WASN’T a registry in place. So, Shufs and I made a registry and send out the link to both our mothers and let them do the rest.

Of course, the day came when my mom asked when the thank you cards were going out. I dropped the ball pretty hard on wedding thank you cards, so I didn’t want this to be a repeat of that. While I’m not particularly hung up on the convention of thank you cards, I do think it can be a nice way to make a connection with people. If you’re the kind of person who, like most people, feels like they have to do them but HATES doing them, I’ve come up with some quick tips on it. You can still be sincere with your gratitude without spending hours on crafting the perfect thank you.

1. Thank You cards are too intimidating to start.

They kind of are intimidating. What do you say? How much to you write? What if you barely know this person who is a co-worker of your aunt that you met that one time? They don’t have to be a manifesto, though. I find that, on the whole, four to five sentences is plenty. All a basic thank you note really needs is:

-A direct acknowledgment of gratitude and thanks.

-Mention a specific gift or something specific about the gift the person sent you.

-Acknowledging the kindness involved.

-Including something fairly personal.

This is how I write a typical thank you card:

Dear [blank],

Thank you so much for the [insert gift name here]. It should be a really useful/helpful/adorable/etc addition to our/my home. It was really kind of you to think of us/me. We’re/I’m really fortunate to have someone like you in our/my lives/life. We/I cannot wait to get started on using this! Can’t wait to see you when you’re next in town!

[closing],

[name]

Really simple. So, when not filled with blanks and slashes, a thank you can look like this (none of these names are actual people I know):

Dear Katrina,

Thank you so much for the portable swing. We were so excited to get it in the mail because I’ve been really looking forward to having it available for Damon. It’s so adorable! We are so fortunate to have you in our lives. We’ll make sure to send you some pictures of Damon swinging in it.

Love,

Henrietta and Kristin

Seriously. It’s super simple. Once you get the basic idea down, you can switch up structure so not every single card sounds the same. That is pretty helpful when you are sending cards to members of the same family.

2. But what if I don’t know the person that well?

The above still applies, pretty much. As long as you say thank you and acknowledge what the person got, you’re set.

3. Uhm… I kind of… forgot what someone got me…

It happens. The best thing to do once you start a gift registry/start getting gifts from people is to find the best way for you to keep track of gifts. Some people really thrive off of spreadsheets. Some can just keep a checklist. I am really bad and keep track of spreadsheets, so we just held onto receipts or packing slips in a binder clip. That worked for me. I don’t know why. If you forgot or lost that information, no worries. Just don’t include the specific gift in the letter. Essentially, you can say:

Dear Uncle Kendrick,

Thank you so much for sending me a graduation present. It came in the mail a few days ago and I was so happy to open it. You are really kind to think of me. I’m so glad to have such generous family members. I hope I’ll get to see you at the barbeque before I head off for the Peace Corps.

Love,

Gordy

Just emphasize your gratitude. Truthfully, be as sincere with the things you can be honest about and the note will write itself. If it’s a person you know well, fill the space with things about their life. If it’s someone you don’t know well, be very very grateful.

4. Do I really have to write a thank you note to my family member/friend/co-worker that I see every single day?

No. You don’t HAVE to do anything. But, if you’re wanting to avoid inadvertent hurt feelings then, yes, you should. It actually depends on the person. If they are the kind of person who is fine with a face to face thank you, then great. If they are fine with a phone call or email, great! I figure that as long you express the gratitude and acknowledge the effort someone put into giving you a gift, you’re pretty golden. Some people, though, will expect a thank you in the mail or hand delivered. If it is someone you see everyday, you should know if they’re going to care or not. A week after I got married, a co-worker actually emailed me to see if I had gotten their gift they brought to the wedding because they hadn’t received a thank you card. So, yeah. People get really worked up about these things.

5. I actually don’t like the person who sent me a gift/don’t like the gift they sent. Can’t I just ignore them?

If you are sending thank you cards to people, you should probably include this person. Make the note as basic as you can just so you can move on. You might not like your dad’s friend from college, but they went to the effort. Do it for the sake of not having to think about it again hopefully ever.

As for gifts you don’t like, it’s basically the same premise. When I graduated high school, I got a lot of religious themed things. Still sent out thank you cards to the people who got them for me. Still never used them. It’s okay.

6. Thank you cards are so stiff and formal. Do I have to be so formulaic in what I write?

Of course not! The more personal the note, the better.

7. I hate writing. I hate typing. Can I do something else in the place of a thank you card?

Sure! One thing I’d like to do after holidays and birthdays is to send pictures to people of the baby with the item that the person gave them. Maybe you really love collaging or doing tiny watercolors. In the end, a thank you note is more about acknowledging the person. For me, I’d still feel the need to write “thank you” on there somewhere because I’d be worried people wouldn’t get that it was in reference to the gift they sent.

8. I just got a gift from my brother. I know he’s the one who chose it and bought it. Do I need to include his partner and children in the thank you card?

I usually do, just because it’s pretty standard that most gifts from a family are technically from everyone in that family. My sister-in-law bought us a boppy pillow because she used hers a ton and knew it’d get used. Shufs and I both knew his brother had NOTHING to do with getting the gift. Neither did their 16 month old son. I still acknowledged them in the greeting. So, unless your brother buys you one gift and his partner buys you another, just put them both in the same thank you card.

9. My co-workers went in on one gift together. How do I address the note?

I just had to do this. My mom’s co-workers went in on a gift together. I just wrote one note. I put everyone’s name in the greeting(there were like… seven different people) and then mailed the note to my mom directly. She’s going to bring it to the office and it will make the rounds. If it’s a situation where you don’t know everyone’s name or who was directly involved, there’s nothing wrong with asking. Did Stephen from accounting contribute? What’s the name of that lady that only shows up on Fridays, because you were told she pitched in five dollars. You don’t have to write a thank you note for each separate person because that just gets a little redundant. If someone gets their feelings hurt, you can always talk to them separately or write a quick personal thank you to them. Or you can just let them stew. You already wrote one thank you that included them.

10. How soon after receiving the gift do I have to write the thank you card?

The sooner the better, especially if you don’t like writing them. Then you don’t have to worry about it. My dad and step-mom spent some of their wedding night writing the thank you cards and then put them in the mailbox as they were leaving for the airport to go on the honeymoon. That is a bit much for me. I’m pretty lazy. I would say the longest you should wait is 6 months, and that’s a pretty large window. You can always say in the note, “It’s been a busy six months and I’m so sorry these got out late”. If people are going to get insulted, they’re going to get insulted and there’s nothing you can really do about that. Think about it. They’re getting upset because you took to long to tell them thank you. Whatever.

11. How do I address the envelopes? I’ve gotten really formal thank you cards before. Is that the standard?

Addressing letters is a weird thing. The old school rules are centered around heteronormative, cisgendered, and patriarchal family systems. If you want to be SUPER traditional about addressing names with honorifics, then their name on the address should looking something like the following:

To a single person household:

M./Mx. Lee Dorian – From what I’ve read, M. or Mx. is the honorific you use for anyone who is gender neutral/genderqueer/genderquestioning. M. is also the honorific you use if you are unsure of the recipients sex and/or gender and you feel like a title is needed/expected. You would choose either M. or Mx., not do the M./Mx. thing above.

Miss Ayesha Nicholson – Miss, in the old school traditional way, is used for any woman who isn’t married. I think this is bullshit. These days, it’s typically used for young women under the age of 18.

Ms. Janice Franks – Ms. is an honorific that was made to be the female equivalent of Mr. It can be used for married or unmarried women of any age. It’s the honorific I prefer, although no one ever uses it for me. Typically, it’s used for unmarried woman over 18. I find it’s the best honorific if you don’t know if the woman prefers Miss, Ms., or Mrs. but it’s a situation where one should be/is expected to be used.

Mrs. Leona Watson OR Mrs. Bernard Watson – I HATE HATE HATE HATE the last one. I have gotten things addressed to me as Mrs. My Husband’s name. It is the super traditional way to address things to a married woman, especially one with which you only have a passing knowledge of. These days, most married women are acknowledged by their honorific and their preferred name. But, I have used the Mrs. Name of the Husband for older women of a certain generation and class. It is their preferred way of receiving mail and I do my best to respect that. Mrs. is used for widows, too, unless you know they prefer Ms.

Mr. Samuel Brown – Mr. is the only honorific used for men, married or unmarried.

To a dual-person household:

Mr. and Mrs. Kevin and Bea Darby OR Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Darby – Like the previous, the last one is the most old school traditional. I rarely use it unless I know or am pretty certain the people receiving it prefer to be acknowledged that way. I rarely even use Mr. and Mrs. Blank and Blank Blankerton. In a case of mixed sex/gender honorifics, you put the honorifics first and then the corresponding names.

With the Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Darby one, the reason why that exists at all is due to the outdated notion that the man is the primary head of the household in terms of money and power. This is outdated and absurd. Now that all types of families are being acknowledged, there are different ways to acknowledge them utilizing honorifics. And, once again, if you are set on using honorifics, I would think these are various ways to use them:

Mrs. Gina Hernandez and Mrs. Hope Douglas – If the people who are married kept their respective last names, I think you would need to acknowledge that. This means it could look like the following:

Dr. Debbie Dupre and M. Ian Green

Rev. Doug Larson and Mr. Paolo Villareal

Etc., Etc. You get the point, right? These would also work for non-married couple who are living together.

If the married couple has chosen to have the same last name/have a combined name, it could look like this:

Ms. and Ms. Victoria and Raquel Drake

Mr. and Mr. Frank and Jamal Preston-Aleksandrov. I think you can also do Mssrs if you are being super formal. Mssrs is the plural of Mr and is primarily used in business for “My sirs”.

M./Mx. and M./Mx. Parker and Kim Carlson-Jones – This is how I would address something to a dual-person genderqueer household using honorifics. Like in the previous section, choose either M. or Mx., not the slash-up I have above. Use whatever last name the family goes by.

The reason why I didn’t include a Mr. and Mr. Blank Blankerton version in these is because unless you know how the family chooses to acknowledge power distribution within their family, the best bet is to go with one of these. If you know, for a fact, that a couple would like to be acknowledged like “Mrs. and Mrs. Regina Wadsworth”, then do it.

To a multiple-person household:

If it’s a multiple-partner/polyarmorous household with more than two people, I would do some version of the dual-person household, acknowledging each person.

Mr., Mrs., and Mx. Will, Alexis and Arlin Carlson. While polyamorous marriage is not currently recognized, this example is working under the assumption that there was a legal name change or that this is a chosen name.

If it is a household with multiple partners and different last names and you still wanted to use honorifics, try something like:

Ms. Wilma Nelson, Ms. Aiko Warren, and Ms. Francesca Wilco.

Non-Honorifics

The Nguyen Family – This is how I usually address a dual AND multiple person household. This covers a multitude of family situations. Some people aren’t married. Some people can’t get married. Some people are polyamorous and have multiple partners. Some families have children or older relatives that live with them. It’s inclusive, covers a lot of bases, acknowledges them as a family. This might not really cover a family with different last names, so use your best judgement. You can also use “The Nguyens”.

If you have friends who are married or coupled, who do acknowledge first? Typically, I go with who I met first.

Trish and Sally Yeardly

Greg Oleander and Ashley Smith

If you met them at the same time… I don’t know? Go alphabetical? Go with what sounds the most musical to you? Pick one of them out of a hat and go with that name first?

Names in letter openings/greetings:

If you refer to the person by their first name in daily life, refer to them by their first name in the letter. If it’s someone you refer to by an honorific – like an older friend of a parent, teacher, boss, or superior officer – refer to them by that title.

Dear Quinn,

Dear Capt. Fujiwara,

Dear Mrs. Kurtz-Wilson,

Obviously, in a thank you card, you’re not going to do any “To Whom It May Concern” or other formal greetings. Dear is a fine precursor to a name. If it’s to someone you know really well, like a best friend, you could drop the dear and just do:

Jon-

Hey Padma!

Or whatever greeting you think is suitable. These are your friends and family. Trust that they’ll appreciate your sense of style.

In this day and age, most people dispense with formality. You can address a letter like “Josephine Masterson”. That’s totally fine. If someone gets insulted, once again… who is going to get insulted at a thank you except a person who is more concerned with appearances and tradition than the actual gratitude. In that situation, you’re really not going to make them happy and that’s kind of too bad. You did your best.

12. UGH, paper is so long. I can’t fill a whole sheet! Four lines just isn’t enough.

Don’t use letter paper! Cut that shit in half or in quarters. Or go by little thank you cards. They are small and four lines is more than enough. Or get a greeting card that’s a thank you card and let the little generic greeting on the inside take up the space for you. Thank you cards are made small. Don’t even fret.

13. UGH, thank you cards are so small! I can’t fit all my thoughts into that tiny space! Four lines just isn’t enough.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Seriously, just do the reverse of 12. Get some pretty stationary and write to your hearts content. If you are loquacious person, then you probably aren’t reading this for advice anyway.

And I think that’s it. Here’s the deal: if you spent all this time reading a random blog post about thank you etiquette, then you have the time to sit down and write some thank you cards. In fact, you’d be done by now.

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