Modern Etiquette: Are thank-you notes a relic of the past?

Mon Jan 11, 2010 8:05am EST
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By Mary Mitchell

SEATTLE (Reuters Life!) - Inquiring minds want to know: have you sent thank-you notes for holiday gifts this year? If so, did you actually write them by hand? If you did not send notes, ask yourself why not. Perhaps you thanked the giver in person when you received the gift.

You can do better, and maybe you should.

Gift giving runs the gamut, from a box of chocolates or a coffee shop gift card, to tickets to the Super Bowl. Perhaps the gift was an introduction to someone you'd like to meet, or passing along helpful information. There is an almost limitless host of other possibilities.

Yet the truth is that the most special gifts we have to give are our time and our attention.

Gifts of time and attention do not depend on the economy, and, in fact, doing others a kind turn in difficult circumstances greases the skids of life.

A thank-you note, especially when handwritten, is a prime example of a gift of time and attention.

Unfortunately, my informal research within the for-profit and nonprofit sectors indicates that thank-you note sending, in any form, is way down this year.

Is there a greater return on investment than when we spring for a piece of paper, a postage stamp, and a few minutes of our time? I doubt it.   Continued...

<p>A boy shakes hands with a street performer during the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 7, 2008. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso</p>