What Ever Happened to the Handwritten Note?

It seems the practice of the handwritten thank you or thoughtful note is disappearing, along with the basics of acknowledgement.

As much as I loathe the piles of paper rubbish shoved through the mail slot, I always sift through the bulky mass looking for anything personal, handwritten.  Be watchful, even the lame advertisements and mailed gimmicks give the impression of a personal handwritten note. Look closely, we’re no longer special. They're printed by the thousands with funky black text and stamped with unfamiliar postage.  

We pay our bills online, send Evites for RSVP celebrations, checks are now preprinted at the grocery store and credit card signatures are done on an tablet. Even writing is done on a keyboard. Yet, there is something that makes us pause and reflect when receiving a personal note. It doesn’t have to be anything glamorous or lengthy, just a little card with sloppy penmanship and smeared ink will do.  

As children, we were not allowed to enjoy our gifts of cash or toys until notes were written and mailed. My mother would often proof read, sending us back for rewrites on candid feelings of dated toys or repeated gifts.  

“Redo. Don’t tell grandmother the toy is boring.”  

Today, the practice of note writing appears to be lacking. With growing technology, it seems the additional effort of writing, addressing and mailing is a thing of the past. But why? Sending an email, for most, seems an appropriate form of acknowledgment but for some, it’s perceived as lazy, maybe even insensitive. It’s convenient, but impersonal.

If someone takes the time to go out of their way, a handwritten note is classic. It’s not old-fashioned, it’s what is right.  

A few weeks back, a woman was telling me how she made an expensive trip for a granddaughter's college graduation. She received no correspondence thanking her for making the trip or the graduation check. She continued to tell me how hurt she was. Salt was added to the wound when her granddaughter sent her an an email, requesting sponsorships for an athletic event.  

Even if it's a child's chicken scratch that comes in the mail, it lets the receiver know that the parent is teaching the basics of being thankful and the child is getting into the habit of taking the few minutes of acknowledging effort. 

If the efforts are recognized, the individual is more likely to continue being thoughtful ... going the extra mile. If not, it’s like filling a black hole. Why continue when it only disappears and doesn’t make a difference?  

I’ve seen children open gifts, toss them aside and inquire, “Next!”  Granted, young children usually don’t respond with what’s proper ... they’re kids. But, if the only response to the gift is “next” with no acknowledged thank you from child or parent, how will they learn to appreciate others?  If everything were handed to them, with no understanding of time, effort and expense, they will surf through life with a sense of entitlement. In my world, no acknowledgement equals no specialized, thought-induced gesture.  

Showing appreciation with one's handwriting makes the receiver pause while acknowledging and recognizing the effort. So, show some class,  make an impression. Break from the new norm, write the note. A few minutes with pen and paper may very well give an entire afternoon of happiness to another. 

It’s not old-fashioned. It’s what is right.  

molly mead June 18, 2012 at 03:40 PM
I sent gifts to my nephews for years, and finally, after never receiving even an email thank you, let alone a handwritten note, I just stopped sending gifts. No one said anything. Apparently my gifts weren't important enough to miss.
Carol June 18, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Great article! I am going to read it to my kids when they get in from playing outside (yes, that, too, seems almost "old fashioned" these days)! My daughter took so long writing her thank-you's from her birthday in May (and griped the whole time), that I finally packed up all of her presents and told her that she couldn't have them back until she was done letting everyone know that she appreciated their thoughtfulness. Let me tell you, it sure worked and I won't wait as long next time! Hand-writing a thank-you note is definitely the right thing to do to show your appreciation!!!
Marcie June 18, 2012 at 06:13 PM
All of my kids write thank you's a soon as then can copy a sentence. Now the challenge is how to thank the person (usually my parents) and make the note really funny. I may not always get them out quickly. But we do send them out. Usually within 30 days of the gift. I have actually stopped gift giving to a few people because they never thanked me. I think more people should do this. I agree with Lauren S!
Jennifer Hunter June 20, 2012 at 03:53 PM
AMEN!,.....Get It Done People!...It's the Right Thing to do! Thanks for the Life-Style Reminder Cami!....:-)
Susi June 25, 2012 at 05:00 PM
I love that you wrote this, considering you are the author of the swiftest and most considerate notes I have received. Thank you for the reminder and the training.


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