Ysenda Maxtone Graham

The dying art of thank-you letters


‘Still no word of thanks. No letter, no email, no text. No acknowledgement that it even arrived. Did it arrive? Did I post it to the wrong postcode? Did I tap in the wrong account number? Of course it arrived. He just can’t be bothered to thank me. Such bad manners! I blame his mother for not bringing him up properly.’

These are the insomniac thoughts of the older generation as they try to come to terms with the younger generation’s bewildering non-thanking habit. The silence of early January, the non-landing of letters from grandchildren and godchildren on the mat, the non-pinging of affectionate emails of gratitude, really pains them, brought up as they were on the belief that writing thank-you letters is good manners, and good manners mean everything.

As soon as parental control loosens, thank-you letter writing goes the way of shoe polishing and toenail cutting

I asked a cohort of grandparents and godparents in their sixties, seventies and eighties about their experiences of the younger generation’s etiquette of thanking, and the response was overwhelmingly along the lines of: ‘I’m grateful these days if I get any written thanks from my grandchildren or godchildren in any form. It certainly doesn’t need to be a handwritten letter.’ ‘They don’t, on the whole, register thanks. This I lament,’ said one. ‘Rare to get any response at all, even for quite large 21st-birthday cheques,’ said another. ‘Astonishing how godchildren don’t thank.’ ‘I think our elder lot of grandchildren (when still under parental control) were the last children in England to write thank-you letters for Christmas presents.’ These people have learned to be pathetically grateful for any crumb of acknowledgement from the young darlings, who might have bothered to move their thumbs enough to tap the text: ‘Thanks for the lovely present, I really look forward to spending it xx.

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