Growing up, your parents probably drilled in your mind that sending thank you notes was absolutely essential. You’d mail them after every birthday party or holiday gathering and write them to teachers at the end of every school year. And the thing is, these kind messages are valuable: They’re an easy way to express gratitude and offer your heartfelt thanks for gifts, parties, helpful advice, and more. But the idea that you have to send a thank you note for literally everything is enormously outdated.
Before you break out your best pen and fancy stationery, read on. Here, we polled etiquette experts for the key times you don’t need to send a thank you note. In some cases, one might be confusing, and in others, it’s just plain unwarranted. Either way, you’re sure to save some ink!
1. To respond to a get-well gift
Get-well gifts are often given when someone’s in the hospital or recovering from an illness, surgery, or having a baby. They can come in the form of trinkets like heating pads and coloring books or can be as personalized as a friend dropping off a favorite casserole. And according to Lisa Mirza Grotts, a certified etiquette expert, you don’t need to send a thank you note if you receive one.
Instead, focus your energy on getting better. You can thank the gift giver in person the next time you see them, or give them a call on the phone.
2. To respond to another card
While you should definitely send a thank you note if someone writes you an extremely thoughtful letter, you don’t need to send one every time you receive a piece of mail.
“When my dad died, my mother insisted on answering all 500 condolences cards—she never needed to do this,” says Margaret J. King, Ph.D., director of The Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis. “A card is a stand-alone message and does not require any further messaging.”
This is true for condolences, birthday cards, graduation cards, other thank you notes, and more. The one exception: If the card has cash or a gift attached, you’ll want to send a note.
3. After a potluck or reoccurring dinner
Casual gatherings typically don’t warrant thank you notes. Grotts specifically calls out potluck-style dinners where everyone pitches in and recurring dinners with friends where you each trade off on hosting. In both situations, the costs associated with party are split evenly, and a quick verbal “thank you for having us” as you head out the door should suffice.
Of course, if you feel your host went above and beyond, feel free to write them a note.
4. To respond to a thank-you gift
There’s no need to keep the thank you loop going on for an infinite amount of time.
“If somebody sends you a gift as a thank you for you having done something, you don’t need to send a thank you card because he is the one who is sending you the ‘thank you,'” says Adeodata Czink of Business of Manners.
5. To respond to a hostess gift
Similarly, you don’t need to send a thank you note if you receive a hostess gift.
“When I bring one to your home, that is my way of saying thank you for dinner,” says Grotts. “Therefore, no note is necessary.”
Again, you can tell the giver how much you loved the wine they brought or the dish towels they gave you, but you don’t need to sign and stamp an official note.