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The Case For Handwritten Thank You Notes

The Case For Handwritten Thank You Notes

Expressing gratitude is one of the most fundamental forms of courtesy a person can offer. It strengthens relationships — both business and personal — and fosters goodwill. On top of that, multiple scientific studies show that expressing gratitude can even boost immunity, lower blood pressure and contribute to higher-quality sleep.

There are many ways to do it: call, email, text, send a bouquet of flowers. But at a time when digital communication is overwhelmingly common and most of the text we see is on a screen, there are few things more striking and genuine than a person’s handwriting on a piece of paper. In the age of COVID-19, people may be checking their mailboxes with protective gloves or washing their hands after they read incoming letters, but in a time of social isolation, this gesture of connection is all the more meaningful.

“I am a big fan of handwritten thank you and recognition notes, and they always stand out from the rest,” PICOR Commercial Real Estate Services CEO and principal Barbi Reuter said. “I received one recently from our senator. She hand-lettered the envelope herself — I was awestruck.”

According to business etiquette consultant Jaqueline Whitmore, who shares her expertise in a number of books and via her Protocol School of Palm Beach, small favors may warrant a telephone call, text or email. But when someone is wowed by their boss or colleague, when a deal with a client wraps or when following up after a job interview, a handwritten note is the best way to both capture attention and convey gratitude — not to mention pave the way for future goodwill or business opportunity.

“If you think your handwriting is barely legible, print,” Whitmore wrote on her website. “This personal touch will convey that you cared enough to take the time to sit down and think about that person.”

If the thank you note is a follow-up on a job interview, it doubles as an opportunity, according to the Yale Office of Career Strategy. In a job interview thank you note, candidates have chances to reinforce their interest in the position, clarify something that may have been discussed, highlight something that was left out or strengthen the relationship by thoughtfully referencing something the candidate learned about the interviewer. 

To avoid procrastinating, have supplies — stamps, envelopes, quality stationery or custom note cards — on hand, and don’t overcomplicate the task; a couple of sincere sentences will do the trick. According to Whitmore, thank yous should be sent within a day or two of when the gratitude-worthy deed was done. But if you fall behind, she wrote, send it anyway — better late than never.

If sending a thank you note feels like a chore, Whitmore advised, persist.

"When you make follow-up a habit, it will become an automatic part of your routine," she offered in her book Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals. "The result is that your relationships will soon become stronger, they will last longer, and your ROI will slowly and steadily increase."