On The Demise of the Written Thank-You

Reuters quoted me yesterday in an article entitled "Thank you notes make a comeback -- as e-thanks." The gist of the piece: the proliferation of new technology has prompted people to send thank-you notes via email and text message rather than actual post, but "etiquette experts" say this is unacceptable.

Advice columnist Melissa Kirsch, whose book "The Girl's Guide to Everything" is being released in February, said people were wrong if they thought paper and pen were obsolete with writing a thank you note on practice that was timeless.

"E-mail is disposable," she writes. "Handwritten notes take time and effort, and they literally send a message -- they say the recipient is valuable, cherished, appreciated."

I'd like to clarify my point, as this sentence is taken from a long (not to mention compelling, complicated, nuanced and totally necessary) discussion of correspondence and general etiquette in my book, and because we "etiquette experts" are nothing if not dogmatic, and also because I did receive an aggrieved message from a reader who staunchly defends the acceptability of the electronic thank-you.

If time is of the essence (a job interview, say), send an email thank-you. If someone goes out of their way to give you a gift or make you dinner, it's a very nice thought some would say outmoded gesture to send a written card. It does indeed take more effort and care to send a card than an email, but that's the whole point. Even a phone call seems outdated these days (I mean, not for long, but I digress), but it takes roughly the same amount of time and is far more personal than an email.

Bottom line, you're free to thank as you wish, as long as you do it. And I don't care what anyone says -- it is never, ever appropriate to express anything truly heartfelt via text message.