The Modern Mom’s Guide to Writing a Proper Thank You Note

The Modern Mom’s Guide to Writing a Proper Thank You Note

We have the etiquette expert explain how to say thank you in the era of emails and texts.

By Heather Chaet

It’s the day after my birthday party. I just turned 8. I’m sitting at the long big table in the dining room. What am I doing? I’m not playing with my new toys. Nope. I’m writing thank you notes for all of those toys. My mom was a big stickler for thank you notes. They didn’t have to be long, they didn’t have to be elaborate, but they had to be done. Period.

Nowadays, we have more choices on how and when to express our gratitude. We all know how to dash off an email or punch a text with a smiley emoji to say “Thanks!” Yet, with ease of emails and text messages, the art of a handwritten thank you note is, well, withering a bit in the corner, hanging out with the dust bunnies due to lack of use.

What’s a modern mom to do if she wants to instill some good etiquette habits in her brood? No mom enjoys hearing the groans of her kiddos as she tells them they need to write out a few sentences of gratitude for their holiday gifts. But, knowing how and when to compose a handwritten note is something special, especially in the fast pace of life these days.

For that reason, we gathered some of etiquette expert and author Lisa Gaché’s tips for the modern mom on writing that modern thank you note!

Stock up on the essentials.

You don’t need much for a handwritten thank you note, but there are a few things that make the act of writing your thoughts that much easier. Be sure to have a stash of basic stationary you like. No need to order special monogrammed paper or folded notes unless you really want them. Any nice, small cards are fine. What else do you need? Just a pen or pencil and stamps round out the must-have supplies.

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Timing is everything.

If you need to get something off quickly, send an email or text. But for more heartfelt matters, when a handwritten note is the way to go, you need to get it in the mail as soon as you can. Having it arrive in the mail a few days after the event is what you are shooting for, but remember, a late-arriving thank you note is better than no thank you note at all.

Yes, the modern way is OK (sometimes).


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Rest assured, there are occasions when thanking someone via email or text is perfectly fine. “An email thank you is best for immediate shows of appreciation,” says Gaché. “It is also most appropriate for relationships where email is the primary source of communication, such as to thank an old classmate from college for treating you to lunch or to thank a co-worker for making a valuable contribution to a project deadline.”

When is a text message thank you OK? “Quick, casual responses, such as thanking your friend for the referral to her hairdresser or saying thanks to a mom who picked up your children from carpool at the last minute,” says Gaché.

Short + simple = ideal.

Whether writing an email or composing a handwritten note, brevity is always your BFF. You don’t need to detail everything you did that day or what the weather is like. Simply stick to the focus of the note, which is how much you enjoyed their gift or how much fun you had at the party. Anything more than that detracts from the purpose of your correspondence, no matter what method you are delivering it.

Personalize it.

What makes someone realize you truly are grateful for his or her thoughtfulness? Definitely not a generic “I love it!” Try to be as specific as possible when you express why a gift or gesture means so much. Adding a line about where in your home that birthday orchid will perch or the delicious aroma of the soup that was served at a party point to the fact that you remember the effort of the gift giver or hostess. Another nice touch? “I also like to include the date in the upper right hand corner,” suggests Gaché. “It adds a nostalgic element to thank you notes kept throughout the years.”

When was the last time you wrote a thank you note?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

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