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.
Tutor, The English Manner