Back in the days of buggy whips and land lines, I made sure the kids wrote thank-you notes for their Christmas gifts. I would set a table with pens, paper and lots of favorite snacks as enticement, and felt reasonably sure that, whatever glaring faults they might develop, my children would grow up remembering to acknowledge with a written flourish every gift, kindness and wink that came their way. Full disclosure: I’m one of those people who can even justify sending a thank-you note for a thank-you gift, which may be why my now-grown children run the opposite way from watermarked stationery.
Then along came the Internet and, while forests of trees undoubtedly breathe easier, the written thank-you note seems to be heaving its last gasps. In 2003, the etiquette doyennes’ answer to the question “when is it appropriate to send a thank-you by email” was “Almost never”. Today, even that bastion of propriety Emily Post has been beaten into submission and now gives a non-committal “it’s never wrong to send a written thank-you note”
Decidedly, no, it is not. More to the point, is it ever right to send an email thank you? There is wide professional agreement online that following an interview, a prompt email thank-you is appropriate, given that the business world could presumably crash and burn in the three days it might take for gratitude to arrive by snail mail. The sniveling Ms. Post even allows that when it comes to gifts, “if it is from a close friend or relative (and it’s not a wedding gift) you can email or call instead if you prefer”.
Well, duh, who is NOT going to prefer? Other than me, of course. I remain entranced by the allure of Mrs. John L. Strong, William Arthur and Cranes, all makers of stationery so thick and creamy it almost seems edible. And if I wasn’t a leftie who drags ink allong the page as I write, I would probably also be up to my ears in Watermans and Mont Blancs.
Here’s a radical thought: why stop at thank-you notes? When was the last time you sat down and wrote someone a letter? On the one hand, you have these impassioned words from Napoleon written to Josephine: “My waking thoughts are all of you. Your portrait and the remembrance of last night’s pleasure have robbed my senses of rest. Sweet and incomparable Josephine, what an extraordinary influence you have over my heart….” Today’s equivalent would probably be a text to the effect of “Last night was kool. U wanna hook up again?” How silly are you going to look someday when you’ve conquered the western hemisphere and that’s the written legacy that goes in your bio? Think about it. On the other hand, don’t think about it – just go write someone a nice letter.
Admit it – you get a little thrill when you check your mail and there’s something besides bills and the weekly Coupon Clipper, right? Okay, so maybe you equate the hand-addressed envelope with a $20 stuck inside from Mom. That’s okay, too. I’m old-school, though, and anything hand-written, short of “Thought I’d drop you a note to let you know your taxes are being audited” is a bright spot in my day.
Oh, and an added incentive: As of January 22, 2012, the price of a first-class US postal stamp goes from 44 to 45 cents, so you’ll want to get your notes mailed before that date or else buy all those annoying sheets of 1 cent stamps.
Now, all that said, does it mean my holiday thank-yous are all written and sent? Well, no, not exactly. But I’m working on it. And if nothing shows up in your mailbox by the end of this week, you might want to check your email…