DEAR ABBY: I was taught to write handwritten thank-you notes when I received a gift. Over the last few years, my gifts have been acknowledged with a brief text, Facebook post, a photo or not at all. I enjoy giving gifts, but the lack of response I receive from today's younger folks leaves me feeling frustrated and dismissed. Must I adapt my expectations to a new normal in etiquette? -- MANNERLY MISTER IN TENNESSEE
DEAR MANNERLY MISTER: The topic of thank-you notes is one of the most common complaints I get from readers. While there's no excuse for not acknowledging a gift, you may be judging those writers harshly. Although handwritten thank-you notes are the "gold standard," many folks today opt to take a shortcut by using technology that didn't exist before the quill and inkwell.
While texts may seem cold or terse, they are better than no acknowledgment at all. A common misapprehension is that thank-you notes must be long or flowery. In fact, short and to the point is more effective. Many people don't send thank-you notes because they don't know what to say or are afraid they'll say the wrong thing. I advise readers to keep a notebook handy when they open gifts and jot down the first words that come to mind when they see what's inside. Do they like the color? The style? Is it something they have been wanting? Write it down and use it for inspiration!
My booklet, "How To Write Letters For All Occasions" contains samples of thank-you letters for birthday gifts, shower gifts, wedding gifts and those that arrive at holiday time. It also contains sample letters of congratulations, as well as ones of difficult subjects such as the loss of a parent, spouse or a child.
It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address plus a check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby Letters Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.
With the holiday season just around the corner, this is the perfect time to reply with a handwritten letter, or a well-written email. Because letter composition is not always taught in the schools, my booklet can serve as a helpful tutorial -- not only a valuable tool for parents to use in teaching their children to write using proper etiquette, but also a handy guide for anyone who puts off writing because they don't know what to say.