Monday, 20 February 2012

Thank you letters

What I Asked.

Last week a friend of mine posted a comment on Facebook. She wrote: When did people stop sending formal thank you notes?

It is one of those things that has caused me quite a bit of angst over the years but my first thought was... well, do you write them yourself? If you do always write them, then that's fine but should you expect everyone else to do the same? Is it fair that you write them but never seem to get them in return? Should you stop writing them yourself? Is the age of letter writing and thank you notes well and truly dead?

I have half a dozen friends who never fail to write thank you letters, and it really is lovely getting them, but I have quite a few more who I have never received one from. Ever. Does that annoy me? Yes. But I also think, well, maybe they've just never done it and a text or email is just as good (it's not but I don't want to do the whole guilt trip thing!).

I was brought up to write thank you letters from a young age. My mother and grandmother instilled in my sister and I, that to thank people is not only polite but it takes only a few minutes and it can make the recipients day. It teaches a child to be thankful and think about what they have been given and to value it. A simple thank you note costs little but means a lot. My sister and I were also given writing paper and thank you note-lets as presents quite often... not really a subtle way of reminding us to write!

Dear Nana, thank you so much for the lovely thank you notes. They are lovely and very useful, as you can see, Love Juliet

So, what may have started as a bit of a chore when I was young, has become something that I try and do as much as possible. As well as birthday or Christmas presents, I also like to say thank you if I've been to a dinner party or a friends for the weekend, if someone has taken me out for the day or got tickets to something. I try and always write a letter and physically post it. But... if it is something smaller, a drink or lunch with a friend for instance, and in the modern day of emails and texts, I have also found that I sometimes send a message that way. Is that wrong??

I posed the question to my friends and asked them the following questions:

• Do you get your children to write thank you letters?
• If they are too young, do you write the letters on their behalf?
• Were you, as a child, made to write thank you letters, and do you now as an adult, write them to friends and family?
• Is it acceptable to send a text or email instead?

Well, I had quite a response!! Here they all are...

S: I write them for X's presents and she signs them but by her 6th birthday she must write them herself with my guidance. I wasn't made to write them as a child but as an adult, I learned to from a friend when i came to England. I only write them for presents, and emails or texts for dinner/help given.

H: I always send thank you cards from X because of his age and very slow writing speed! I write them and he signs his name. I always had to do it as a child too. Interestingly, I don't do it as a matter of course as an adult but usually call to thank people rather than text or email. I send a card on some occasions but it's rare.

K: I get X to write as she's 5 but Y can't, so I write his. Or I just send a text to be honest. It's sad but the old thank you letter is more a thing of the past in our house!

C: I'm a stickler for thank you letters and think it's very bad manners to not send them. I was brought up to write them as a kid and now write them for X and Y and put a photo of them with the gift if possible or at their party etc. I think if someone has made the effort to buy and wrap you a gift, you should acknowledge it properly. Especially these days when kids get so much it's important to teach them to appreciate people's kindness.

S: I am definitely one of those old fashioned types that thinks a hand written thank you note, posted, is the only possible way of doing it. I always write notes or letters as a thank you for birthday and Xmas gifts. I also write these on behalf of my youngest child, and since the age of 4, I have ensured that my eldest son has a hand at writing his own. He started with his name and now writes the entire thank you note. He goes to an all boys school where all his classmates do the same thing. I text or email to say thank you for dinner / a night out but if it has been particularly special, then I would write a note.

M: Mine are too young to write them so I write them for them. I still send hand written thank you notes because I was brought up proper like! Email and texts are okay but not generally something I do.

And this next one has to be my favourite... purely for the fact that she has someone to do it for her.. la ti da. And it sounds just a wee bit aggressive! She won't be reading this by the way!!!

B: I'm a working Mum so never have time but I try to make someone else do it for him.

M: I wasn't made to write them as a child but I am all about the thank you note. Most times it's an actual note but if time is against me then it's an email. I make X do them too after her birthday - she can't write them herself but she writes the persons name and signs it herself.

N: No I'm a crap Mum! X has started email thank you letters. And phone calls! Yes, I had to write them as a child and it was torture. My excuse is that they never get posted as I never pass a postbox!

And finally a right old rant from a friend that does write thank you letters (very good).

J: Thank you letters are more important and more appreciated than I think people realise. Firstly there are those that don't even bother to thank for a present, a dinner, a nice gesture and I just think that is plain rude. Modern society has dictated pretty much that its OK not to write. A text or thank you email will suffice but it doesn't have the impact. The longer you take to write a thank you letter the more the effect is lost. I went to a dinner hosted by my friend's parents on Saturday night, I've written this morning - they will receive it tomorrow and I know will be grateful I've written. One thing that can be annoying is you write a letter, then it takes ages to remember to stop at the post box! Its a question of manners and upbringing. As children we always had to write without fail. Our Christmas thank you letters were written on boxing day. A military exercise overseen by my father. But that discipline instilled early on has stayed with me and will for life. Thank you letters can take the form of a postcard, card, at home card, anything really as long as its handwritten. a lovely thank you card that I've done a few times is, if I've taken photos of the weekend/occasion then I will make a collage card on photo box as a nice reminder of a great time. It takes time, but we can all find 10 mins in the evening. My nephew never writes and I find it so rude, it just feels that they have not acknowledged the fact that you have gone out, spent money, thought of them, wrapped it, posted it etc. I blame the parents. My children do not write yet because they can't, but I write on their behalf for all presents.

J, you are a rare breed!

So... there you have it. What is more interesting, almost, than the comments themselves, is that those that took the time to write to me are the same ones that usually write the thank you letters!! Funny that!


Anonymous said...

i have learned a lot from reading this, and will make more of an effort in future, friends and family are worth it! Better late, than never, as well. By the way you have one coming! ;0) xxx

Anonymous said...

Good one Jules. But how about a blog on pet peeves like "instilled in my sister and I"

Why would you change "instilled in me ..." to instilled in my sister and I"?

Anonymous said...

Don't like leaving anonymous comments but it is the easiest way to cxhoose an identity

Anonymous said...

Jules I want to thank you for being a good and sexy mate these many years. How is that? See, I'm learning.