Q: I am so hopeless when it comes to writing thank-you notes. I just don't seem to ever find the time to do them. What do you suggest?
Q: I am so hopeless when it comes to writing thank-you notes. I just don’t seem to ever find the time to do them. What do you suggest?
A: When in doubt, throw a party. As flippant as this may sound, it may be the answer — not only to your problem, but to the same problem shared by most of your friends. You’ll end up a hero.
When it comes to American customs, thank-you notes are an endangered species. People don’t seem to realize that a gift — whether it’s something tangible or one’s time and attention — needs to be acknowledged. And this does not mean a phone call or an e-mail; it means a nice handwritten note, preferably on personalized stationery.
A thank-you-note bash can banish the “homework” feeling many of us harbor when it comes to writing those all-important letters. Just gathering friends around a table is a tonic, and a great chance to catch up. Invite your pals by phone or e-mail. Tell them to bring stationery, addresses and stamps (39 cents now!).
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First of all, for throwing a thank-you-note party, you’ll be a hero just for getting your thank-you notes done.
Secondly, you’ll be popular among your friends for providing the encouragement, camaraderie and atmosphere to help write theirs.
And finally, you’ll be an entertaining diva for throwing a unique and economical party where everybody has a good time and does some good.
For your party, select a time that’s not “prime time,” such as an afternoon or a weekday evening, and limit the party time to a couple of hours. Serve simple munchies: cocoa, wine, coffee, cookies, small sandwiches. Steer clear of greasy food that will stain stationery.
Create an inviting setting with scented candles and upbeat background music.
Also, provide some etiquette books that suggest thoughtful language (you can borrow them from the library). Stumped on what to say about the “gift from hell?” These books and the group can help you out, and the creative result can be hilarious, even if it’s ultimately unprintable.
Have a few late thank-you cards to write? Everybody feels woefully late getting thank-you notes out, almost all the time! Write them as soon as you can, but better late than never. Sometimes I begin late notes with something like, “This is embarrassingly late and doesn’t reflect how happy I was to receive your gift. In my next life, I will be a model of efficiency. Meanwhile, let me tell you what a hit the (name the gift) was … ” Then be sure to say how you appreciate the time that went into the gift and how you will use it and so on.
At the end of the thank-you party, collect the envelopes and promise to mail them from the post office the next day.
One thing is certain: Your pals will be grateful. They might even send you a thank-you note.
Mary Mitchell is a Seattle-based corporate trainer and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Etiquette.” E-mail questions to Mary@themitchell.org. Sorry, no personal replies.