There’s a saying that a gift isn’t really yours until you’ve said ‘thank you’, which means that it shouldn’t be long until all those lovely cards are dropping through your letterbox. Only, the truth is, many people these days don’t even acknowledge the Christmas presents they receive, never mind post a handwritten ‘thank you’ card to the sender. Some people get quite annoyed by this, while others say it doesn’t really matter. We asked the experts at manners experts Debrett’s – the trusted source on British social skills, etiquette and style – to clarify exactly what good manners are when it comes to saying ‘thank you’. Here’s their key advice…
A PROPER LETTER IS IMPORTANT
‘Thank you’ letters should be sent for Christmas presents and hospitality. Any handwritten correspondence is always well received and will make the recipient feel special, as the care taken to write and post them communicates genuine gratitude. Still write even if someone gave you the gift in person It is still polite to write a ‘thank-you’ letter even if you have thanked the giver in person, but for small children this rule may be relaxed – it depends on the expectation of the person who gave the present.
Thank-you’ letters for both children and adults should refer to the present directly, explaining why it was a good choice and including some details to make the tone of the letter personal. You may also share some news or talk about plans for the New Year. Thanks can be reiterated before the sign-off.
AN EMAIL OR TEXT IS NOT ENOUGH
A letter takes more time and care to write and post than an email or text message and communicates sincere gratitude. If it is really not possible to write a letter – if you are travelling, for example – an email or text is better than nothing.
HANDWRITTEN IS BEST
However, if your handwriting is hard to read or you find it easier to type, it is fine to do so, provided the content of the letter is specific to the recipient. A handwritten greeting and sign-off may help to add that personal touch.
DON’T LEAVE IT TOO LATE
Ideally any ‘thank you’ letter should be sent within a week to ten days of receiving a present. But if this isn’t possible it is better to send one late than not at all.
PARENTS SHOULD WRITE ON BEHALF OF LITTLE ONES
However, as soon as a child is able, they should be encouraged to write their own.
GUIDELINES FOR GIVERS
The lack of a ‘thank you’ letter is best left unmentioned unless you feel you can negotiate the issue tactfully – for example in the case of a child whose parent is usually fastidious about ensuring they send ‘thank-you’ letters, or if you are concerned your present may have gone astray. Christmas presents should be given in good faith, so if you feel resentful that someone never thanks you, it may be best just to give them a card or a small token instead.
Featured notecard from Quill London