When’s the last time you received a piece of ‘snail mail’ that wasn’t junk mail or a bill that you simply hadn’t converted to an e-bill yet? Our United States Postal Service (USPS) is on the verge of bankruptcy, in part because of the digital age. We tend to communicate via email, text message, tweets, Instant Messenger, Facebook and LinkedIn and most of us even pay our bills through online banking.
For the most part, we rarely use the US Postal Service; it’s slow, expensive and quite simply an outdated form of sending and receiving communications. But is it? In a world addicted to instant everything, isn’t it nice to see a letter in the mailbox, knowing that someone took the time to handwrite a note, place it in a hand addressed envelope, purchased a stamp (because who has them on hand anymore) and dropped that card or letter into a mailbox – all that to send you a special message.
So I ask, is the art of writing letters and sending cards dead? With many public schools electing not to teach elementary students cursive writing, perhaps anything handwritten in a world that chooses to communicate in 140 characters or less is out of date. Yet I feel the need to debunk the idea that a handwritten note or card, such as a thank you note, is dead. Who doesn’t enjoy receiving personal note from your Grandmother or Great-Aunt who still use the US Postal Service to send and receive meaningful correspondence? Open that card from Grandma and you see her handwriting, hear her voice, feel her love jumping right off the page – you will not reap the same emotional impact from an email or text, regardless of how thoughtful or personal the message may be. My Aunt Juanita Brookshire sends out monthly family emails and I love the fact that she is computer literate at 80 years young, but the emails don’t have the same impact me as a hand written, personal message scrawled in her aging penmanship. It blesses my heart and makes me feel special and loved.
If the art of note writing is still in vogue, when is it important to send a handwritten thank you note? Judith Martin, better known as Miss Manners, author, American journalist, and etiquette authority, recommends sending a note anytime for any reason, because being thoughtful never goes out of style. Miss Manners also suggests sitting down to write a thank you note within 20 minutes of opening a gift (even if that gift is opened in front of the gift giver) so the enthusiasm and appreciation is captured in the correspondence. Sending a card within 14 days of attending an event such as a party or after being hosted for an overnight stay is also suggested. Of course this strict timeline isn’t always possible, so the best rule of thumb is ‘better late than never.’ So, if your favorite Aunt Rhonda sent you a gift and you failed to immediately follow up with a thank you note – send it now! It’s never too late to show appreciation or have a genuine spirit gratitude.
Question: do the same rules for note writing apply in the business world and are post-job interview ‘thank you’ notes still relevant? Dare I say, yes! Thank you cards are a great way to differentiate yourself in a world driven by the need for instant gratification – but your message must be delivered in a timely manner to be impactful. Since we know that hiring decisions can be made rather quickly after the final round of interviews, I might suggest sending an email to the hiring manager on the same day as your interview so your ‘thank you for the opportunity’ message is well-timed. After you hit send on the email, take a few minutes to construct a hand written and well crafted ‘thank you’ note mailed in a hand addressed, stamped envelope. Not only will you have a second chance to show your interest in the job opportunity – your card will also reveal a thoughtful and well-mannered temperament. There’s any number of suggestions on what a follow up correspondence needs to include to influence a hiring manager, but to me a simple ‘thank you for the opportunity’ is a great place to start . . . and remember, good manners never go out of style – not even in our digital society!
Happy note writing!