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CONTEMPORARY COURTESIES

Etiquette column: Thank-you notes sign of good manners

Friday, December 28, 2012 - 12:01 am

Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com.

Q. If my children say thank you, in person, to friends and relatives for their gifts, is it essential for them to write a thank-you note, too? What about a phone thank-you for out-of-town relatives?

A. Saying thank you in person for those holiday gifts is usually sufficient. However, sitting down and writing a thank-you note after the holidays or birthdays have come and gone can be great practice for the future. A handwritten thank-you note is still a hallmark for good manners, and everyone appreciates receiving them.

Often, those holiday gatherings and birthday celebrations are very busy with lots of people in attendance, and a proper verbal thank-you may be hard to get in. Writing a note after the event allows the children to go through the gifts, one by one, and be sure as to who gave them what gift. The note reinforces how appreciative the individual is for the giver's thoughtfulness in taking the time to remember them in such a special way. An additional line or two about the gift and mentioning how they will use it is sufficient.

Today, with Skype and FaceTime calls, a phone thank-you is on a more personal level. This too, is adequate, but again, writing a note in addition to a call adds an extra punch for those who sent a gift long distance, and it develops good habits in children (and adults.) The same would go for an email thank-you.

When your children do say thank you in person, make sure they show adequate appreciation for any gift, even one that they are not too thrilled about. Regardless of whether they have a duplicate or it isn't anything they would ever want, the point is that someone went out of his or her way to gift them. And that is the most important point of all.

If a gift comes via the mail or another delivery service and it goes unacknowledged, that could be reason enough for someone to take you or your children off his or her gift list. Don't let your children take for granted that they will be receiving gifts without a proper thank-you.

Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email clarson@news-sentinel.com, and we’ll forward it to her.