December 30, 2009

Regardless of religious devotion, odds are most Americans exchange gifts during the month of December. We buy them, wrap them, give them, get them. We also mail and receive them through the post, which means giver and receiver┬ámay not be in the same room, or even state, to thank one another, and so rely on a phone call or, if more gauche, an e-mail. It’s a regrettable indicator of our times that e-mail is so prevalent a mode of communication; it’s efficient for business and sharing casual information, but for personal correspondence… utterly inadequate.

Try it.

Long years ago George S. Parker founded a company which produced good American writing pens, and today his son, Geoffrey Parker, works as the branding consultant to that company, Parker Pen Co.

Mr. Parker, though he may be unduly influenced by his financial interest in pen sales, is a firm advocate of that near-forgotten art, lost almost entirely in the antiquities of time: the hand-written thank-you note. As he tells the Wall Street Journal, “It’s a common courtesy. If someone does something for me, I need to acknowledge that. As these modern electronic devices become more common and overused, they become cheap.”

Mr. Parker prefers thank-you notes written on heavier stationary, with his name and address printed at the top, and writes them with fountain pens using an ink which is a different color than his printed header. A broader nib on the pen allows for a look which feels “less mass-produced.” Through his dedication to common courtesy, Mr. Parker not only resurrects the outdated practice of hand-written thank-you notes, but another almost-forgotten practice as well: common courtesy itself.