The Write Thing

14 Jul

Letterbalm Thank You NoteDear LetterBalm: My daughter graduated from high school in June. She received lovely graduation gifts and money from family and friends, but she has not made any move to write thank-you notes. I’ve reminded her, but she blows me off and says text messages and e-mails are good enough and she’ll get to them eventually. I don’t want to be a nag, but I don’t want an inconsiderate daughter, either. I need to convince her that a hand-written note is the right thing to do. Any ideas?

–Duly Noted

This is arguably the biggest problem Ms. L.B. handles, and, like a bad penny or a foot fungus, it keeps returning. Everybody, it seems, has a beef with thank-yous. When should they be oral? Handwritten? Electronic? How long does it take for the thank-you grace period to enter the realm of rudeness? (Common wisdom, for example, holds that brides and grooms have a year from the nuptials to write thank-you notes. But etiquette dictates it’s more like three months.) Then there is the infuriating practice of saying nothing at all, leaving senders wondering if their gifts were ever received. A life milestone, such as a school graduation, a wedding or a religious rite is a big deal, and handwritten notes are called for. Bribery might work in your case. Presumably, your daughter is entering college in the fall. Tell her she won’t get something nonessential she really wants unless she writes and sends those notes before the end of the month. Buy a box of simple note cards and envelopes, and tell her a thank you note need be only two or three sentences – the thank-you acknowledgement, the restatement of the gift, and the warm adieu. Some examples:

  • Thank you for the beautiful pearl-drop necklace graduation gift. It was a lovely thing to give me, and I’ll treasure it. I hope to see you before I go off to State in the fall.
  • Thank you for the antique book of poetry. What a special graduation gift, and how thoughtful of you to remember how much I love old books. I’ll see you before I go off to State in the fall.
  • I was so happy to receive your wonderful graduation gift. The new tablet will go with me to State, and I’ll use it every day. Thank you for your kindness and generosity.

And, for a gift of money:

  • Thank you for your generous graduation gift. I have big expenses facing me as I go off to State, and your kindness is welcome. I hope to see you before I leave in the fall.


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