Dear Kind Reader,
I recently read a post by journalist Maria Shriver about her delight in receiving a handwritten note. She said that they really stand out amongst the stack of bills, mailers, and other junk that we all receive. You know a handwritten envelope when you see it. And you know that it’s something personal, and that it’s almost certainly from someone you care about, or who cares about you.
It is so rare these days, and I know exactly how she felt. Handwritten notes and thank-you notes may be on their way to becoming an extinct form of correspondence replaced by tweets, texts, and emails. But for some of us, they are alive and well and dwell on linen paper and embossed stationery, sprinkled with a rainbow of inks and wrapped in beautifully lined envelopes.
The late Emily Post known for the syndicated “Doing the Right Thing,” believed in doing the “write” thing. She said thank-you notes must sound sincere and should be written promptly. On the other hand, Letitia Baldridge, a doyenne of decorum with a resume that included the role of chief of staff for Jacqueline Kennedy in the White House, said that it is never too late to send a note. She recommended being honest. Some of us are more direct and less flowery in our word choice, but the sentiment is the same. A handwritten note takes time, takes thoughtfulness, and should sound like you.
Expressing thanks in writing is a permanent record of your feelings and can be read and reread over and over for years and years. I cherish a decades-old note from a dear friend who wrote in his signature hand his appreciation for a wonderful evening and his wish to do it again soon. I enjoy rereading the note from a student who took the time to write, “Thank you for being so nice to me. You have made me feel welcome in my new school. It’s been lots of fun working with you in the library.”
There are many occasions for writing these notes–personal gifts, hospitality, business lunches and job interviews, just to name a few. In this highly competitive job market any gesture that sets you above the rest is wise. A post-interview note makes a lasting impression.
A colleague who faithfully writes thank-you notes thinks it’s just good manners. She says, “If you start at a young age and set an example for your children, it becomes second nature.”
“I appreciate getting thank-you notes especially if I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into a gift,” says a friend who also religiously thanks people in writing even though she doesn’t like writing letters and would rather make a call.
There are some thank-you notes I didn’t write that I wish I had. To my Second Grade teacher, Sylvia Graham–I have used so many of her ideas as a teacher. And to my grandparents for the many things they did to help my mother when she became a widow, which in turn was a kindness to me. Last year I actually wrote a very long overdue thank-you note to my high school French teacher, Ellen LeClair, who comforted me at the time of my father’s death and helped me make an important decision that influenced my life.
There is a lot of joy that comes from writing thank-you notes. If you love beautiful stationery and interesting pens, it is a pleasurable experience. I have a stationery wardrobe that includes handcrafted luxurious fabric notecards made with a stitched edge detail, and letterpress correspondence cards made of 100% cotton Crane paper with beautifully lined envelopes. Jackie O was famous for her blue note paper and hand written cards, often delivered by messenger.
I was so happy last year when the USPS issued the colorful “Thank You” stamp designed in lovely calligraphy. Those two simple words express so much when the envelope is discovered in the recipient’s mailbox.
I’d like to thank you for reading my thoughts on thank-you notes. I hope you are inspired to express your thanks and gratitude in writing to the people in your life.
With warm regards,