Thank-You Notes



A horse!  A horse!  My kingdom for a horse!  Okay, a bit of hyperbole from Shakespeare’s Richard III, but we feel that way about thank-you notes.

We’re not alone.

Dear Abby reincarnated (her daughter) verifies this.  She calls the lack of thank-you notes a “common aggravation” about which she receives dozens of complaints in every batch of e-mails and letters that land on her desk from individuals hoping for her sage advice.

Hey, it’s the digital age.  Even we can text!   So, we’d be happy with a text or an e-mail thank-you and swoon over a personal phone call, much less the ultimate…a hand-written note that actually appears in the mailbox.   We write thank-you e-mails thanking individuals for thank-you notes in any form, so overcome are we are with joy and amazement.  Positive reinforcement is…duh …positive!

While we understand these thank-you omissions may be more frustrating to oldies, we assume that one and all sending a gift would be grateful to know it arrived, especially since much merchandise today is purchased online.

And, for the younger generation?  Think about the impact of writing a thank-you note after a job interview?  Wow!  Trust us.  If you are a serious candidate for the position, this could be a home run.

We love Jimmy Fallon’s Friday nights when he writes hilarious, spoofy thank-you notes.  Yes, he is making a joke about the stuff our parents made us do—and we made our kids do—but he’s also underscoring that thank-you notes are not out of fashion.  Our Jimmy favorite?  Being thankful for little-understood grammar that makes you look smart when properly used.   Think SodaStream’s 2014 Super Bowl ad that had actress Scarlett Johansson enthusing about “less sugar, less bottles.”  It should be “fewer” bottles, Scarlet.  You are gushing about countable things.

Fallon has published not one, but two books, titled Thank You Notes in which he expresses undying gratitude for bunches of things, including microbreweries for making his alcoholism seem like a neat hobby.

Then, there is the challenge of writing in cursive, which is almost unknown to many today.   We do need to sign our names on checks and for credit card purchases, but other than that…not so much.  Hence, a hand-printed thank-you note is entirely acceptable.  That would, of course, still mean positioning a writing implement in hand, figuring out what to say, and committing the time to actually do it.

On what to say, we have some helpful suggestions.  Yes, most are tongue-in-cheek.  Feel free to share.

  • Thank you for the great gift. It’s just what I/we wanted.  Can’t wait to wear/use.
  • Thanks for including the gift receipt. Made it very easy to exchange.
  • Next year, why don’t you donate to a charity of your choice in our name?
  • While we appreciated the home baked goods, we are still allergic to nuts. However, my office buddies loved the treats.
  • Please don’t buy the children any more gifts that make loud, grating noises. P.S. Is this payback for me when I was a kid?
  • I can’t find the check you gave me. (Common variation: the dog ate it.)  I promise to cash the next one quickly so you can balance your checkbook.  Oh, and I have my eye on a really cool, new video game.

What the revered, but ignored, Emily Post labeled “good manners”—what scientists term “gratitude intervention”— has unexpected benefits.  Research links gratitude to increased optimism, stress reduction, and a better night’s sleep.  Writing a quick thank-you note puts you on your way to becoming a happier and more sociable person.  See?  There is actually something in it for you!!!

And, one thank-you note may also have far-reaching repercussions.  Those on the receiving end are reminded how wonderful it is to receive a thank-you note and often motivated to pick up a pen and write “thank you” to others—a new twist on paying it forward.  You can have an impact!  You can change lives!

Since we were a tad annoyed with our own family, we decided to take matters into our own hands.  We purchased thank-you cards for family members.  We made an effort to reflect the personal tastes of the receiver to include animal, beer, and foodie themes.  We wanted the prospective senders to like the cards; but, actually, we really didn’t care.  We just wanted to receive one.

To make the process even less painful, we thoughtfully wrote our addresses on a couple of envelopes and adhered stamps.   This was 66% effective!!  Okay, not 100%…but a marked improvement.

In the quest for the benefits of “gratitude intervention,” think of the many things—beyond holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, and wedding gifts—that could/should merit a thank-you note.  Who babysat your kids?  Who took care of pets while you were on vacation?  Who treated you to a home-cooked meal?  Or drove to a popular, crowded event…especially if he/she has a “handicapped” sticker!  Invaluable!

So, for those of you who think it’s enough to offer a verbal thank you for a gift, an exceptional kindness, or a much-needed helping hand…think again.  And, woe to those who don’t even say “thank you.”   You could find yourself out of the will!!!

So, our wrinkled wisdom for today?   Go for the positive karma of writing a thank-you note for a gift and, even better, when someone goes above and beyond.  Notes should be written within 24 hours; three to five sentences are just fine.  Okay…that’s ideal.  But, you get the idea…quick and short.  And, remember you are not exempted because you are old.  Today, we are taking our own advice.  We’re going to buy a stash of thank-you cards for ourselves because we can be delinquent as well!!  We recommend that you hit the stationary store the next time you are at the mall.  Set a good example!


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