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What’s Happened to Thank-You Notes?

The holiday gifts and checks have been sent and received … or have they?

Writing a thank you note

When our children were growing up, we hounded them to write thank-you notes. Today, however, notes of appreciation seem to be a lost art.

Millennials, in particular, seem oblivious to the rules of etiquette. USA Today dubbed them “awful millennial manners.” Considering that many digital natives see nothing wrong with breaking up via text or emailing a condolence letter, it’s not surprising that thank-you notes rank low. Indeed, a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll this year found that only 23 percent of those surveyed consider such notes important.

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Patricia Gannon, a Louisiana newspaper columnist, laments the millennial manners. “Millennials do not say thank-you for either gifts or when you do favors for them,” she said last week from Baton Rouge. “There’s a growing gap between the way they behave and what society expects of them.”

Gannon blames social media for breaking down the rules of etiquette, citing online visitation books for funerals and texted thank-you messages. Another example: She was forwarded a Facebook post showing a young woman with the gift that Gannon had sent to a shower. “Rather than writing me personally,” she says, “that post was considered enough of a thank-you.”

Although good manners never go out of style, we wondered what exactly is expected in the digital age. In search of answers we called millennial  Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and coauthor of Emily Post’s Etiquette (18th Edition).

Her rule: A verbal thank-you suffices if a gift is opened in the presence of the giver. But if the giver is not present, then a note of gratitude is required. “A thank-you note is not arbitrary for the sake of keeping the post office alive,” Post says. “A thank-you note lets you know two things happened: The gift arrived, and it was appreciated.”

Texts and emails will not suffice. Handwritten thank-you notes are required, especially for holiday, birthday, shower and wedding gifts. Post suggests that holiday gifts be acknowledged before New Year’s Day. If January comes and goes and still no acknowledgement, Post allows that a call or email is proper to see if the gift arrived.

If that doesn’t work, maybe next year send personalized stationery as a gift. Not only will it serve as a strong hint but, as an added bonus, it’s good for them because handwriting can actually boost brain activity.

Mary W. Quigley’s blog, Mothering21, tackles parenting of emerging adults and beyond.

Photo: blackred/iStock

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