There are many ways to thank someone. Some are quicker than others. For example, a handwritten note might take 5 minutes, whereas an instant message can be written and sent in 10 seconds.
Note: The contents of this post have been adapted from the chapter “Q&A: What Is the Best Way To Deliver the Thank-You Note?” in my book, A Modern Guide to Writing Thank-You Notes.
I usually prefer a handwritten thank-you note for most situations. Other options include in-person, instant messaging, text messaging, email, social media, phone, in-person, and online services. All have their place.
Ultimately, you must decide which method works best for your situation, knowing that sometimes people will disagree with your choice.
Also, at times, more than one method can be used. For example, you can send a handwritten thank-you note immediately after you receive a gift. Then, follow up with another way with a picture of you using the gift.
1. The Handwritten Thank-You Note
Handwritten thank-you notes can have several advantages over other methods of saying thank you.
- Most people appreciate this effort and are also pleasantly surprised when they find anything handwritten in their mailbox. Do you remember the last time you received a handwritten letter or note?
- Handwriting the note also forces you to slow down and choose your words carefully. There is not a backspace key. Once the words are on paper, they are permanent.
- The recipient may also display the thank-you notecard on their desk or, perhaps, a bulletin board in their workplace. The notecard becomes a physical reminder of gratitude.
If you think no one writes thank-you notes anymore, there is plenty of evidence. Many card companies still sell thank-you note cards. Take a look the next time you are at a major retail store. Their card section very likely has boxes of thank-you note cards.
Note: If you have a condition (arthritis, disability, other hand issues, etc.) that leaves you unable to write, please use whatever method you can to thank someone. The encouragement to write handwritten notes is intended for those who can handwrite.
2. In Person
When someone hands you a gift or does something for you, you can tell them “thanks” on the spot. I often do this when someone helps me with a problem at the office.
The verbal thanks can feel very casual, however. Saying “thanks” or “thank you” has become automatic. If I am thanking someone in person, I try to personalize it just a bit more by saying how they specifically helped me. For example: “You saved me a lot of time.”
3. Instant Messaging
My office uses instant messaging software to communicate throughout the day. While receiving instant messages can often feel like an interruption, it’s nice when the message includes a thank you! Wait until the recipient’s status is “available” before sending the instant message.
Sending a full-length thank-you note in an instant message may feel awkward, so I recommend sending an email or handwriting a note if you have much to say. However, a quick “Thank you!” message will likely be appreciated immediately after someone does something for you.
4. Text Messaging
A thank you can be sent quickly with a text message if you know the person’s mobile phone number. You can also send a picture of the gift you received in action (when applicable). For example, if someone gave your child an outfit, you could send them a picture of the child wearing the outfit.
Also, a text message thank you is helpful for less formal gifts or occasions. Perhaps a friend decided to treat you to lunch. If it is a friend you see often, you could send a thank-you text. If someone gave you a gift card to a restaurant, you can send them a text with a picture of what you ordered.
If you do not know someone’s home (or office) address and do not feel comfortable asking for it, sending an email thank you is an option. Also, if email is your primary way of communicating with someone, thanking them via email can be a good choice. If you prefer to send a handwritten note and just in their address, read about my top tips for finding addresses.
Email works well in office settings where you prefer not to hand deliver a written thank-you card to them or if the person works in a different location. However, someone in a different office location may be impressed if you took the time to find their office address. It’s not good etiquette to ask for the home address of coworkers.
When I was Employee of the Month, I wanted to thank the vice president responsible for the monetary award that came with the title. She works from her home office in a different state. To surprise her, I got her address from her assistant. Her assistant later told me the vice president was impressed that I mailed a thank-you note. I have a feeling she doesn’t get very many thank-you notes from other Employee of the Month recipients.
Email can also be used when sending a thank-you note following a job interview. For some interviews, a handwritten thank-you note is going to be best. Please refer to the interview thank you email post for tips on when to mail vs. email the note.
5A. Automated Thank-You Emails
Businesses may send out automated emails after a visit or a purchase. For example, I receive an automated thank-you email from my veterinarian’s office after I take a cat in for a check. I suppose this is nice in a way, but after you get a few of them, they feel a bit meaningless. They look and feel automated.
Sure, getting an automated thank-you email is nice, but with people receiving more emails than ever, the thank-you note email may never be read. And it may not make the customers feel appreciated when it’s obviously automated. One way to make it feel less automated (while still using a form) is to include the person’s name, the pet’s name, what was purchased, etc.
6. Over the Phone
Calling someone on the phone and thanking them is another option. With email, text messaging, and social media, phone calls happen less and less. I do not recommend leaving your “thank you” in a voicemail/message if the person doesn’t answer. Request for them to call you back.
The reason for calling is to have a conversation. They will likely be delighted to receive a phone call that isn’t a survey, sales call, or someone wanting something!
7. Social Media
Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) when you want to thank someone publicly. This could be to thank a cookbook author for a great recipe or to acknowledge the person in some way that will help promote their service or product.
Social media is great for a quick thank you. You may also want to include a thank you meme. You can thank someone for dinner on Facebook and still follow up with a handwritten note.
When thanking on social media, the thank you may look like bragging, so choose your words carefully and determine if another method would be more appropriate. Don’t use the thank you as a way to show off!
8. Online Services
There are two types of online services for writing thank-you notes.
- There are sites like Postable.com where you can write the thank-you note while logged into their website. Then they print it and mail it for you. This type of service usually offers an online address book where you can store the names and addresses of your contacts for free. Another benefit is that it removes the hassle of buying stamps.
- If you still want a handwritten note but don’t want to write it yourself, there are services like Handwrytten. You provide them with the text, and they will handwrite the note for you or use a robot. This model may work best for businesses where the note can be from a team. Be aware: If the note is signed with your name, people may feel misled if they find out you didn’t write it yourself.
Thank You Gifts
You may also want to give someone a thank you gift. A gift is appropriate when they’ve gone above and beyond for you.
A thank-you gift does not need to be expensive to be meaningful. Here is a list of thank you gift ideas.
Please feel encouraged to thank someone today! If writing a handwritten note feels like too much effort, don’t let that be a barrier. Use one of the other methods, which will be a bit quicker. If you are not sure what to say in a thank-you note, browse the thank-you note topics to find examples for most situations.
“Meaning to send a thank-you note but then not doing it is exactly the same as never thinking to send one — that person is still receiving zero thank-you notes.” ― Kelly Williams Brown
Read Next: What To Say in a Thank You Card