from an expert in the field:
Philip Galanes writes The New York Times advice and manners
column “Social Q’s,” and is the author of Social Q’s: How to Survive the
Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today (Simon & Schuster, 2011).
NOVEMBER DEBATE RESULTS:
Should the mortgage interest
deduction (MID) be phased out?
BACK IN THE olden days, folks wrote messages on cave walls and scraps
of papyrus. Later, in the 15th century, Europeans began expressing gratitude
on paper and delivering the notes by hand (or horseback, if they were dashing). This practice was revolutionized in the 1800s, with the advent of post
offices. Thank-you notes could be mailed as far as postal services delivered.
See the pattern? Times change—often fueled by new technologies (first
papyrus, then paper, then stamps). People were doing the same thing they always had, thanking
each other. They were just doing it a little differently.
Nowadays, we have the Internet, our latest technological advancement. People frequently ask,
in my advice column, whether it’s OK to email thank-you notes. My knee-jerk reply was, “Heck,
no! That’s too easy.” But think about it: Isn’t that like criticizing people for mailing thank-you
notes instead of delivering them by hand—as they did originally—or for using paper instead of
papyrus? Making things harder doesn’t make them better. And ignoring technology is silly. Expressing gratitude is the important thing. So, I’ve changed my mind. Emailed thank-you notes?
Why not? Just consider some ground rules for sending thanks electronically.
Make them count. With all the time you’re saving—no more hunting for stamps—take a
moment to write a really thoughtful email. Typing “Thanks” and pressing “Send” is not a thank-you note.
Make them individual. No mass thanks to everyone who sent a birthday gift. Add handsome
colors and artwork to make your emails special.
Make sure. Proofread for spelling and grammar, especially when thanking a prospective
employer after a job interview. You want your would-be boss to see you at your best.
Make them like notes. When thanking old-fashioned folks (who might prefer a handwritten
note), use websites like PaperlessPost.com to send emails that look like the real thing—with electronic envelopes and everything.
But the most important thing is thanking people, period! Whether we do it in person, over
the phone, in cards or emails, let’s remember to express our gratitude to the folks who do nice
things for us. They deserve to be acknowledged, and we’ll feel good about ourselves, too. C
Percentage reflects votes
received by November 14, 2011.
OCTOBER DEBATE RESULTS:
Should paid sick leave
YES: 43% NO: 57%
Percentage reflects votes received by
October 31, 2011. Results may reflect
Debate being picked up by blogs.
from an expert in the field:
Daniel Post Senning is a spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute
and co-author of the newly released book Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th
Edition: Manners for a New World (
WHEN I GET a handwritten letter, I’m excited to open it. The art of the
postage stamp, the feel of the paper, the graphic quirks of a friend’s handwriting: There is simply nothing as personal as a handwritten note. In a
stack of bills and flyers, it’s a treasure in a sealed packet, full of promise and
potential. It is a visceral reminder of someone far away.
Good manners are about more than fulfilling bare-minimum social
obligations. They are an opportunity for us to connect to the people in our lives in a meaningful
way. In an increasingly informal digital world, to continue to pull out pen and paper is a way to
distinguish yourself. The handwritten thank-you note speaks volumes simply as a medium and
sends the message that you care enough to invest yourself personally in acknowledging another.
Would I ever send a digital thank-you for a gift I was given? No way. It just isn’t enough—not
personal enough, not weighty enough. You can’t hold digital thanks in your hands the way you
can hold a note. When was the last time you printed out an e-card? Right. Email is read and
deleted. A mailed note is seen again and again on a desk or counter. Would you rather your
thanks be remembered or deleted?
There are two common reasons people don’t write thank-you notes. The biggest excuse is
not having the materials at hand. Note cards or stationery that reflect your personality, a roll of
stamps, pens and an address book—one trip to the store and you’re all set.
The second excuse is not having time. A handwritten thanks is often as short as three sentences, just like an email. If you want to talk about your bike trip last summer, do it in a letter.
The thank-you note is special; it’s to express your appreciation, so keep the focus there. Does it
take longer to address and stamp an envelope than to click “send”—yes, but by about one minute.
A minute well spent to say thanks well.
Being part of a society means knowing how to be appropriate to a situation. Handwritten
notes still have a personality, warmth and, when needed, gravitas that computer screens don’t.
And questions of appropriateness aside, people still enjoy opening them. More than anything,
that tells me they have lasting value. So, send a little joy someone’s way! C
Opinions expressed are those of the
individuals or organizations represented and
are presented to foster discussion.
Costco and The Costco Connection take no
position on any Debate topic.
DECEMBER 2011 The Costco Connection 15