E-mails are efficient, text messages — God help us — are here to stay, but the handwritten thank-you note is not dead yet. If Geoffrey Parker and I have anything to do with it, furthermore, the handwritten note will survive and prosper. Parker’s commitment to this disappearing art form was outlined in a Wall Street Journal report by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. If you want to make points with gift-givers, you might note his words of wisdom.
During the holidays, Geoffrey Parker, branding consultant for Parker Pen Co. and great-grandson of its founder, George S. Parker, is careful not to overlook what he calls a ‘critical’ aspect of the gift-giving season: thank-you notes.
‘It’s common courtesy,’ he says. ‘If someone does something for me, I need to acknowledge that.’ Mr. Parker sometimes thanks a gift-giver or party host with a phone call, email or text message. But he believes that these modes are ‘insufficient’ and always follows up with a handwritten message. ‘As these modern electronic devices become more common and overused, they become cheap,’ he says.
And more power to Mr. Parker. A phone call or an e-mail message might acknowledge your gratitude, but a handwritten note has soul. Quick: think of a piece of paper with words written on it, addressed to you, by someone of your acquaintance. Some little shred ties those words to that person, doesn’t it? Handwriting used to serve that purpose.
A quick check with several teacher friends turned up no one who could recall the time when cursive was routinely taught throughout the fourth grade year (though you can now learn to write online.) By fourth grade today every student on the planet knows how to text in abbreviated expletives. But nothing conveys a message — expletive or smiley face — like a handwritten note. You will be forgiven if you use a ball point pen, though Parker prefers a fountain pen with a broad nib and fountain pens can emote better than anything else. The flourish that such an implement can create — think John Hancock before he got commercialized — used to be able to paint eloquent pictures in words. My father (broad nib, dark blue ink) favored x’s at the end of his sentences, but when he left off with a dash you knew you had done something fine.
Today, a thank-you note is also an investment. But go ahead, spend the 44 cents, drop a line. Your appreciation will be appreciated.