Are You Thankful? Put It In Writing

Modern Manners

After my last article, in which I discussed wedding gifts, I had a reader make a comment regarding the importance of thank you notes. The post made her think about an insincere sounding text she received after sending a check to a recent graduate. She recommended I share some thoughts about the art of thank you notes.

Here are a few general rules about extending proper thanks that, despite what you may think, still matter a lot.

1.There is no excuse for failing to write a thank you note for gifts and kind gestures. Noting your appreciation not only communicates your gratitude but confirms your gift arrived. I sent a wedding gift a couple of years ago via a couple’s bridal registry on the Bed Bath & Beyond site. I never received recognition so I have no idea if the down comforter, duvet and shams I sent ever found the newlyweds’ doorstep. That leaves me in the position of wondering if they think I stiffed them yet it’s completely inappropriate for me to ask them about it.

2. In our electronic world, human communication sans devices has become almost extinct. It’s certainly OK to send quick thank you texts for small, helpful gestures. If you have the flu and a fellow parent drives your child home from school for a couple of days, a short text to express your appreciation is fine. When you actually receive a gift – wedding, birthday, anniversary, etc. – a handwritten note is absolutely necessary.

3. When you’re expecting a baby, stock up on stationary. You will likely receive shower gifts and be gifted some new baby items after you deliver. If you’re about to be first time parents, you won’t fully understand this now, but your every waking moment (and that’s a lot of moments because ony the tiniest sliver of your life will be touched by sleep) will be devoted to a very small human leech (whom you will love more than anything).

When your baby is an infant, write short but sincere thanks. Anyone with kids understands you are in the baby cave and any time the adorable freeloader sleeps you usually reserve for teeth brushing and quick showers.

As your baby becomes a toddler, pre-schooler, kindergartener it’s still acceptable to write their notes but ask them to help by writing their name or adding drawings as they are able. Once they’re reading and writing, they should be forming their own notes with your guidance as necessary. Like anything, if your kids learn this good habit early, your need to nag them later will be minimized.

4. A Few Tips:

a) Although most etiquette books will say you have a whole year to send notes after your wedding, I think this advice is outdated and utter nonsense. Three months, maximum, is a more polite time-line. After an entire year, the sentiment feels like and afterthought and won’t be nearly as appreciated. We once received a note from a couple three-plus years after their wedding that included thanks for their wedding gift, baby shower gift and new baby gift all together which was so ridiculous it was hysterical. I guess they were going for the trifecta of thank you cards but it further cememted our opinion of them: They are completely disorganized, entitled, flakes.

b) As alluded to above, Be Prepared. Illustrating why you need proper stationery before you have a baby might be obvious but regular life gets busy too so stash a box of stationary in your desk at work and your desk at home. I used to bring stationary to my kids activities like ballet and soccer practice. Clearly I’m not one of those moms who had to see every single plie or drill so using that time for personal correspondence worked for me. Don’t forget to have stamps at home, at work and in your wallet.

c) While the sentiment is more important than the stationary or ink itself, the proper way to compose something handwritten is by using a thin, black, felt tip pen (aren’t you glad I didn’t say quill and bottle of ink?). Black ballpoint is also acceptable. Personally, I like a black Le Pen which is both smooth to write with and produces a very nice line. Find your favorite and have a few on hand. In terms of actual stationary, buy the best you can afford and a style you like. If you’re on a budget, there is nothing wrong with a simple, neutral card that can be picked up at grocery and drug stores.

c) Be genuine and give your correspondence a personal touch.

Don’t Do This:

Dear Grandpa, Thank you for the check for my graduation. Love, Ryan

-or-

Dear Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Hank, Thank you for attending our wedding last month and for the great wedding gift. We love it. Best, Brittany and Logan

Do This:

Dear Grandpa, Thank you for the check you sent for my high school graduation. I’m sorry you couldn’t be with us to celebrate but I really appreciate your gift. I’m going to use it to buy a desk lamp for my dorm room next year which I will surely need for late night study sessions. Love, Ryan

-or-

Dear Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Hank, We are so thankful you could both celebrate our special day with us. It means so much that you traveled such a long way. We were so excited to receive the beautiful, sleek coffee maker. We will think of you every morning when we awake to the motivating smell of caffeine. What a generous gift. Thank you for your congratulations and thoughtfulness. Fondly, Brittany and Logan

Taking just a couple of minutes to express something in writing, even in the busy world we live in with all its distractions, will make you feel civilized and make the person on the other end of the letter smile, for sure.