Posts Tagged 'letters'

That’s Gratitude for You: Thank-you letters DO still matter

My colleague John Robertson had to be forcibly restrained one day when we were teaching at a business school in Italy where the majority of the students said that they agreed with everything we said but could not see any point in writing a thank you letter. And this is the trouble, many people, sadly, think that such letters are a waste of time. But they are missing the point.

If anything, I would argue that a well-penned, hand-written thank you letter carries more gravitas than in previous generations, only because they are becoming a rare breed. We live in an age of instant communication, but this is no excuse for letting standards of civility slip, although it is, for many, an easy excuse.

Thank you letters should be written (by hand) after you have received either hospitality or a present. If someone has thrown a party and you were one of the guests, the reasoning of ‘I’ll be the only guest who does write a thank you letter so I won’t bother’ is ludicrous to say the least. If others aren’t writing letters, it does not mean to say we have to copy them – try not to be a sheep.

When I was younger, my parents used to say to me that if I didn’t write someone a thank you letter for a present then I would find that the giver would stop giving me presents. Being young, naive and slightly materialistic, this would not do at all and so I duly wrote my letters on my parents’ writing paper.

These thank you letters do not have to be lengthy essays with bibliographies and academic references: one page on A5 writing paper (letterhead optional) will suffice. If someone has put in the effort of cooking for you or taken the time to buy you a present then it is common sense (and courtesy) to show them that you are grateful.

Many people say to me that they find it a chore writing such letters and they struggle with finding the right words, but once a winning formula is learned then they become second-nature. Again, these letters do not need to be the next Harry Potter, or match the mellifluous prose of Oscar Wilde. And to avoid confusion, I shall post a mock-up thank you letter on this blog next week.

One final word, please just don’t thank someone over Facebook or a similar site; a telephone call is the best option for the lazy individual.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Top 5 Email Etiquette Faux Pas

E-mailMost of us will use email every day and this has led to a lapse in common sense and manners. Here are the top 5 faux pas when using email.

Hello! If you’ve never met the person you are emailing, starting the email with ‘Hello, Jack’ or ‘Hi Jill!’ is never acceptable and irritates more people than others may think

Spelling Emails are designed to be a quick way for us to communicate but that doesn’t mean that we are given an excuse to look ill-educated by sloppy spelling, especially when emailing clients or people who are not our friends or family (but you should practise using good spelling on them, too!)

Name-check When we see an email such as ‘alex.jones@…’ most of us will probably assume that Alex is a man. An increasing number of people are getting gender-confused on email. Always best to double-check. Telephone the company and ask before sending the email, or ask your colleagues who may have dealt with he/she before. Never start an email (or letter) with ‘Dear Jack Smith’. Find out the title in advance

Attachments ‘Please find attached’. If you say something is attached, make sure it is! Double-check everything before hitting the send button.

Ignoring emails If you get an email from a legitimate person, it’s common courtesy (although not common enough) to acknowledge it. Even if you’re the busiest person in the world, send back a response reassuring the sender you’ve got the email but will deal with it at a later date. This will save them worrying that their email is broken

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Thanks a Million

I was staying in a bed and breakfast earlier this week and my host and I started discussing good manners, in particular thank-you letters. She told me the most brilliant story, which shows that you should always write such letters after receiving a present or any sort of hospitality.

As children, her sister and her were always sent one pound for Christmas and respective birthdays from a distant relative on their father’s side. At the time, £1 was worth considerably more than it is today. The one-pound kept coming and both sisters wrote, without fail a letter to say thank you to the relative. By the time the sisters for in their mid-forties, the pounds were still being sent and one sister (not my host – her sibling) decided that it was a bit silly now as £1 wasn’t worth much at all and writing a thank-you letter was ridiculous. However, my host still kept on writing the letters.

One year, the money stopped. My host got a call from the relative’s solicitor to say that the relative had died and in her will had left her £250,000 but the other sister was left nothing. The will stated that my host had been left the money because she had “better manners and always said thank-you”.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Letters of the Law

A question I often get asked is whether a thank you letter is stuffy and unnecessary in our new, liberal modern age. My answer is always, most definitely, no. There will never be a time when a thank you letter of any sort is no longer needed…at least, I certainly hope not.

writing-fountain-pen-400As a child, my parents would tell me that if I didn’t send thank you letters then people would not want to give me a present next time. Whilst this parental hyperbole is not strictly true, they do perhaps have a point. A thank you letter is a gesture that you are actually grateful with the present you have just received. Simply saying thanks on the day is just not enough. They have gone out of their way to buy you a present, so a quick (doesn’t have to be lengthy) note to say thank you is hardly laborious. I do know someone who does her thank you letters by telephone. If you do choose to do it this way (which is better than nothing) make it a decent length call: first to say thank you but then ask about their family/life etc.

Thank you letters should also be sent after you have received any form of hospitality, and preferably the very next day.  Emails are acceptable if you really cannot bear to write, but be clear that text messages are no way to communicate your thanks.

The same basic principle applies in the heady world of business. The rule used to be that if you received a letter today, a reply would be sent tomorrow or at least the day after that.  Even in these times of budgetary and manpower constraints, some form of acknowledgement should be given. It tells the sender that you have successfully received their correspondence and you are dealing with it. Even the new-age email has the function for a ‘read receipt’ to be sent back to the sender.

Not many people bother to respond to business letters (or emails) anymore, which is quite frankly wrong. One of the golden rules of manners is to make people feel valued and appreciated. A letter saying ‘thank you for your letter dated X, which we received today/yesterday…. we will get back to you shortly’ will do. “But that costs money!” I hear you cry. If the sender has included their email address on their letter, then a similar electronic letter can be sent.

Whilst we’re on the subject of business correspondence, we should remind ourselves how to open and close a formal letter. If I were writing to someone I did not know (and by that I mean them as a person, as well as their name) then I would open my letter with ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ (or even both – ‘Dear Sir or Madam’). I would then close it with ‘Yours faithfully’. On the other hand, if I were writing to someone to whom I knew their name, then I would start it with, ‘Dear Mr. Smith’ and close it ‘Yours sincerely’. These are simple rules that once learned should never be forgotten.

It is never acceptable to start a letter to a client with “Hi William”, as my bank once did. They won’t be doing that again.  Nor do I favour “Dear William Hanson” which appears more and more frequently and suggests mailmerge has been used.

In any event, remember that if someone has made an effort to write or email you, it takes very little time, money or energy to respond and you never know what dividends it will pay later.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner


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