The art of showing your appreciation with a handwritten note or gift.

Guests of weddings and big birthdays that end in a zero are the obvious candidates of a thank-you card. But you might also want to express gratitude after a friend hosts dinner, a colleague helps you through a big project or a neighbour collects your mail while you’re on holidays.

“Most people only receive bills by post, so the impact of a handwritten note or gift is increasingly powerful,” says etiquette expert Anna Musson from .

“While it’s perfectly acceptable to text a thank you for meeting up at the movies, if you need to show greater appreciation, a handwritten note is the best way to impress.”

So why bother putting pen to paper when your time is finite and you could quickly type a Facebook post and tag the relevant people?

Anna says: “As tempting as it may be, this is not seen as a sincere way to thank your guests.

“The rule of thumb is: what would have the biggest impact on the recipient? If you know they’re on social media all day and have never walked to an actual letterbox, receiving a handwritten note will either be an extraordinary experience or a bit of a flop when they find it was sent to their parents’ place while they were away travelling through the Northern Territory.”

Having said that, Anna says if sending a handwritten note is just beyond the realm of possibility for you, consider a personalised text message instead — within 24 hours.

“It’s not as impacting as a note, but better than no thanks at all,” she says.

Sometimes, you might need to go one step further and send a gift. “A gift basket with preserves and fine food or wine or boxed flowers are lovely gestures,” Anna recommends.

But don’t go too present crazy, she warns, especially when the event doesn’t call for it.

“Sending a gift for a simple event like your neighbour putting your bins out one night when you’re away certainly warrants a thank you, and maybe even a bottle of wine,” Anna explains.

“But going over the top can create tension (‘What happens if we need them to bring in our bins, will we have to send a hamper?’) The drama!”

Like all things, the timing of the thank you is important. If you wait too long, your recipient may have forgotten the very thing you’re
being grateful for.

“A thank you for attending an event should be sent within 24 hours, but for a wedding, the ideal time is when you return from your honeymoon within a maximum three-month period,” Anna says.

However, if you have been slow to act, still say thanks anyway. “While time can get away, it’s definitely better to send a thank you whenever you can, rather than not at all, particularly for weddings and special occasions where the gift has been of considerable value.”

PAPERLESS THANK YOUS

Of course, there are occasions when it’s okay to express your gratitude digitally. For example…

TEXT: The day after lunch with a friend, thanking them for the catch-up. Let them know how much you appreciate them.

EMAIL: Career experts consider it polite to send a short thank-you email after a job interview.

FACEBOOK: Once you’ve completed your fun run, shout out to all your friends and family who donated money to the cause you were raising funds for.