It might be more convenient (and quicker!) than posting them, but is it actually polite to hand someone a thank-you?

By Maggie Burch
Hands Holding a Thank You Car
Credit: Kohei Hara/Getty Images

We Southerners are big proponents of the handwritten thank you note. Whether it's thanking someone for a wedding gift, for throwing a party on your or your child's behalf, or for receiving a kind welcome gift from new neighbors, writing a sweet note acknowledging that kindness is a tradition that will never go out of style. There are various etiquette guidelines that are generally accepted when it comes to what deserves a thank you note, the timing of the note, or its contents, but there's one aspect of thank you notes that has people somewhat divided: the delivery. Is it acceptable to hand-deliver thank you notes to the recipients instead of putting them in the mail?

A lot of the time, hand-delivering notes is not an option at all—either your family or friends live out of town, or you're sending notes to acquaintances you're not particularly close with and aren't likely to run into. But there are many times when you know you will see the folks you're writing thank-yous for, and the thought crosses your mind: Wouldn't it just be more convenient if I handed this to them in person?

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It certainly would save you the cost of the stamp (which as anyone who's hosted a wedding knows, can add up to a significant amount), and if the note is for a coworker you see everyday, or a family member you'll see at a weekly get-together, or even your next-door neighbor, it certainly is more convenient to hand-deliver the note and will also ensure a more timely delivery than posting it in the mail. But some would argue it's a little rude to hand someone a note in person. The gesture can put the recipient in a bit of an awkward position: Should they open the card and read it in front of you? Did the sentiment then need to be written down at all?

Without a doubt, mailing your note is a more formal and perhaps more polite method of delivery. And in 2018, who doesn't love opening their mailbox and seeing something personal that's not from your bank or electric company? In the same way handing out invitations in-person is a definite no-no, walking around your office, country club, or—heaven forbid—another party with a stack of thank you notes you're handing out like Valentines in a 2nd-grade classroom is definitely a tacky choice we wouldn't encourage. But if you're thanking a single coworker for an unexpected care package after a particularly rough week, we think slipping a note on their desk is more than okay. The bottom line is, a hand-delivered thank-you note is much better than no thank-you at all, but if you already have a stack of stamps for your other notes, why not make someone's day and send the note in the mail.