August 10, 2004

Handwritten Thank You Notes

When is the last time you sat down and wrote out a hand written thank you note? I bet, ever since you got that first hotmail account, that it's been awhile, hasn't it? I wrote one this week and received one this week and the experience was so unusual that it sort of stayed with me.

I had been invited to a thank you dinner by an acquaintance and I accepted and attended. This was last week. It was great fun. A stag night, as it turned out, full of bourbon, steak, and some very good dirty jokes and true (or so they claimed) stories. The details remain blurry and even if not I will intentionally obfuscate them here to protect the identities of the participants. Still, no arrests, no convictions, nothing broken. Our host also had a little gift for us -- a Waterman rollerball pen, very attractive. Totally unnecessary, of course, but very sweet of him anyway.

So, I dug out my old box of nice stationary we got from Crane's, a long time ago when we still lived in the City and having stationary with our initials on it seemed really important. It no longer seems so important now that we live in the suburbs with two children, but that may be a topic for another day. I uncapped this nice new pen and I luxuriated in the tactile sensation of pen moving over fine paper, paper with a high linen content. I wrote a nice little note and I mailed it off. I dusted my hands off and put fingers back to keyboard and wrote a little something to someone else. It wasn't the same at all.

The other thing I like about writing a real thank you note is that it takes a little time to be delivered. Email is practically immediate. You hit send and your little note gets there the same day, almost within the same 60 second period. If you write it the next day after the event or thing which eventuated the note in the first place, it just comes right away and that's that. Ah, but if you send it by mail, it might take a little bit longer. And it's usually a surprise when you receive it. And because it's been at least a day or two after the event, it has the effect of extending the nice feelings on the part of the recipient. He or she gets to open it, read your pleasant words, and re-live, a tiny bit, the glow that you felt when you wrote it. That's nice.

Even receiving the note is a tactile experience. It comes in a heavy envelope with a lining so when you pick it up it has substance and heft. It's been hand addressed, so you look at the handwriting for a moment as you try to puzzle out who wrote it. The paper used on the envelope feels rich and not at all mass produced, even if it is. You open it and it takes a little more effort because the glue used is superior or because it is harder to use the letter opener to cut through the unexpectedly thicker paper.

A handwritten thank you note is an event. Really, there ought to be a soundtrack.

Posted by Random Penseur at August 10, 2004 09:26 AM

What a lovely description! I agree that a handwritten thank-you note is delightful, and I think your observation about its allowing the recipient to re-live the moment is a very good one!

Posted by: GrammarQueen at August 10, 2004 12:30 PM

I've got to go to the stationary store now. Hmmm...I wonder if there are any around here.

Posted by: Jim at August 10, 2004 02:52 PM

You're so right about this one!

I also think we put a lot more effort into what we say when we're going so far as to make out a handwritten note. There's more of a feeling that it's being written in stone, so to speak. It can't be edited afterwards.

Posted by: Mick at August 10, 2004 04:19 PM

I write thank you notes for everything that I get. It was drummed into me as a child. Perhaps it's a Southern thing?

Posted by: manda at August 10, 2004 04:59 PM

What is an acceptable time period within which to write a thank you note for a gift received? I was always taught it was within two weeks after receipt of the gift.

Posted by: Crystal Moss at August 30, 2004 04:55 PM
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