"Thank-you" - a simple phrase, yet one seldom said often enough. There are numerous opportunities to say thank-you on a daily basis - to co-workers, and even for the kindness of strangers - and often a verbal thank-you suffices. But there are those occasions or gestures that call for a more formal written thank-you.
A handwritten thank-you note always makes a special impression. It shows you really appreciate what someone has said or done, because you have taken the time to write and tell them so.
There really isn't an inappropriate reason to send a thank-you note. However, there are occasions it would be inappropriate not to send one.
All gifts should always be acknowledged with a thank-you note. Whether the gift was for a birthday, anniversary, wedding, new baby, Christmas, etc., a note should be sent that mentions what the gift was and how much you appreciate it. Specifically stating what the gift was tells the giver you know what they gave you. (Be sure to keep a list when opening many gifts, so you don't confuse who gave you what!) You don't have to say how much you liked the gift (especially if you didn't) but do relay that the gift was thoughtful and/or useful.
A dinner date at someone else's home definitely warrants a thank-you note. Be sure to tell them how much you enjoyed the meal and, if this was your first visit, how lovely their home is.
A pet-sitter who has lovingly taken care of your kitty or pooch (or ferret or cockatoo) deserves a written thank-you note. So does a housesitter, or anyone else that has done a special favor for you (whether you paid them or not).
Thank-you notes are useful in business, too. After a job interview, be sure to follow up with a note or a letter thanking for their time the person or persons with whom you interviewed. This not only conveys a professional courtesy and lets them know you're interested in the job, but keeps your name on their desks - and minds. Likewise, if you've just landed a key account, let your new client know how much you appreciate their business with a written thank-you note.
Of course, there's always an opportunity to say thank-you for no special reason at all. Your best friend, favorite aunt, or influential teacher would certainly enjoy receiving a thank-you note acknowledging their special support.
It's never too soon to start teaching the importance of thank-you notes to children. Young children should be encouraged to sign their own thank-you notes as soon as they can sign their own names!
It's also never too late to begin writing thank-you notes - even if you haven't made a practice of it in the past. Once you start, you'll be thankful you did!