Even if you say "thank you" by e-mail, it's best to follow up with a handwritten note, says etiquette expert Peggy Post.
For many, summer is a time of transition: weddings, graduations, job interviews. And that means it's also a season for thank-you notes.
In today's world, e-mail has replaced snail mail as the preferred mode for much communication. But etiquette expert Peggy Post and Judy Gilbert, Google's director of staffing programs, both agree that a handwritten note is still the best way to say "thank you." They talk to Michele Norris about what's proper and what's not — and offer advice on pitfalls to avoid.
Ten Dos and Don'ts of Thank-You Notes
Here is a checklist for the perfectly written expression of gratitude.
Tips for Writing Notes
Peggy Post is spokesperson and author for the Emily Post Institute, and great-granddaughter-in law of etiquette doyenne Emily Post.
Remember: Be sincere and write promptly.
Write from the heart.
Use expressions that are natural to you.
Keep it brief and to the point.
Don't forget to include the date.
Do your best to write legibly.
Include a "How are you?"
In thank-you notes, be appreciative and …
… say something specific about the gift.
Note life events with personal letters.
Above all, be gracious.
— From Peggy Post, Etiquette, 17th edition
Do personalize your notes and make reference to the person as well as the gift.
Do be enthusiastic, but you don't need to gush. Avoid saying that a gift is the most beautiful thing you've ever seen unless you mean it.
Don't send form letters or cards with printed messages and just your signature; don't use e-mail or post generic thank-you's on your Web site in lieu of personal notes.
Don't mention that you plan to return or exchange a gift or indicate dissatisfaction in any way.
Don't tailor notes to the perceived value of gifts. No one should receive a dashed-off, perfunctory note.
Do refer to the use you will make of money gifts. Mentioning the amount is optional.
Don't include photos or use photo cards if this will delay sending notes.
Do promptly acknowledge receipt of shipped gifts; either send your thank-you within a few days, or call or e-mail the sender -- following up with a written note soon.
Don't use lateness in writing as an excuse not to write. If you're still sending thank-you notes after your first wedding anniversary, keep writing.
Do remember that a gift should be acknowledged with the same courtesy and generous spirit in which it was given.