583: Written Thanks

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
583: Written Thanks

Do you send thank-you cards or notes?

Full episode script

From Jimmy Fallon to advice columns across the ages. From little kids being told to tell grandma thanks to high fashion designers — thank-you notes are very common in the United States, though you can find plenty of arguments talking about how sad it is that they’re a dying custom.


For all of the hand-wringing about their disappearance, I couldn’t find anything even beginning to approach statistics on how often notes or expressions of gratitude are shared in writing. Not even a greeting card industry report to be found, sadly, though I am sure they are out there.


What there is plenty of research about is the value and power of saying thank you. There’s also research indicating that because they take additional time and resources — and because personal mail is much less common in the era of email — a handwritten thank-you note can often have a disproportionate impact to the amount of time they take to write and send.


Which is, perhaps, one of the reasons it is so fascinating to look at the thank you notes that notable people throughout history have sent and received. Some go short and sweet – such as this letter from Marilyn Monroe to the German Chancellor Mr. von Fuehlsdorff:


Thank you for your champagne.

It arrived, I drank it and I was gayer.

Thanks again.


And some go much more verbose or reflective. As Julia Turner wrote in Slate magazine:

Virginia Woolf struggled more than most with the thank-you note, although she wrote them beautifully. Still, Woolf felt that her command of the language only complicated matters. After she attended a performance by a friend, she wrote, “If only I weren’t a writer, perhaps I could thank you and praise you and admire you perfectly simply and expressively and say in one word what I felt.”


Then again, no matter how wonderful these notes, they may or may not always be expected. As points out, the thank you notes that interviewees are normally expected to send to interviewers in the United States may be taken very differently in Germany, Spain, Portugal, the UK, and more

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.