Thank-you notes still deliver traditional show of gratitude

Those still revelling in memories of social gatherings during the holidays can spread some belated festive cheer with a show of gratitude: a thank-you card. John Moore/Getty Images

TORONTO – Individuals still revelling in memories of social gatherings and gift exchanges during the holidays can spread some belated festive cheer to loved ones with a show of gratitude: a thank-you card.

While sending thank-you notes may be customary after major celebrations like a baby shower or wedding, fans of handwritten missives say the practice of putting pen to paper should be more widely embraced – even with the ease of sending similar messages via email or text.

READ MORE: Is the traditional Christmas card officially dead?

“Everything is hooked up to us 24-7 from a technological perspective, so a lot has changed. And I think our vision of what’s important and what priorities are and how we communicate has changed a little bit,” said Erin Crotty, founder and director of Ottawa-based BloomStra Consulting, a business etiquette, international protocol and image management consulting firm.

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“I think we’re losing so much with respect to the importance of valuing relationships, face-to-face interaction, demonstrating our gratitude and saying ‘thank you’ – all those things that help to enhance and support and nurture relationships.”

After enjoying a New Year’s Eve dinner hosted by friends, Leanne Pepper plans to send a note of thanks. The etiquette and protocol consultant has also received handwritten letters she treasures from her nephews, aged 11 and eight, after hosting them for sleepovers or dinner.

“It just shows that extra appreciation,” said Pepper, general manager of the Faculty Club at the University of Toronto.

“Of course, we always thank our hosts after attending … a house party or a dinner; but that extra special thank-you card goes a long way, and even if you receive a gift, a thank-you card goes a long way.”

“It doesn’t take long, and it’s just a matter of finding a few moments and writing a thank you.”

Whether it’s personal or in business, a handwritten thank-you demonstrates that “somebody has thought of me, that they appreciate me and that they value the relationship,” said Crotty.

Prior to starting her company, Crotty was responsible for all student recruitment in the Ottawa office of a national law firm. While she conducted hundreds of interviews over the years, students who sent handwritten thank-you notes “really stood out.”

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“It almost kind of completed their package of what made them unique and special because they went that extra step further – and that’s what that thank-you card says, especially when it’s handwritten and they’ve taken the time to put their own thoughts and gratitude into that note.”

Pepper said writing a thank-you card doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. She recommended keeping the note short, making specific reference to the present or event attended, and that the gesture or gift was treasured.

“It just goes to show that you really appreciated what the person did for you,” said Pepper. “In this day and age, we’ve gotten so busy with our emails and computers and lives that we just don’t take time to sit down and reflect and show our appreciation.”

Both Crotty and Pepper agreed that a handwritten note is preferable to an email, but that it’s better to send some form of thanks than none at all.

Crotty said the rule of thumb is to send a card within 24 hours of receiving a gift or other form of generosity but adheres to the motto that “it’s always better late than never.”

Sara-Lynne Levine said it’s important to teach children about gratitude and has instilled the message in her sons Jonah, 12, and Ben, 8 1/2.

“When we have a conversation about why they’re doing it – they know that it’s important to thank someone for buying the gift – but I think those little gems that the kids write on their own are really what personalizes and makes the card,” said Levine, editor and publisher of the Ottawa Capital Region edition of Macaroni Kids, an online parenting resource and newsletter.

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“(For) whoever is receiving the thank-you note, it’s probably great to open it up and see an eight-year-old’s handwriting saying: “This is so cool. This is the best gift.’ You give your kid some guidelines, but their personality shines through.”

Following Hanukkah last year, Levine said her eldest son opted instead to email his grandparents to thank them.

“While it may not be a traditional way to do it, he took the time and he acknowledged the gift,” she said. “I think the most important thing is the acknowledgment of the gift, and the method and the delivery you can leave it to the child once they get to be old enough.”

Crotty said writing a thank-you note is an extension of having proper manners.

“If you start at a young age, you recognize the value.”

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