Are Email thank you notes and Email expressions of sympathy acceptable? I recently read a brief article address this topic in Time magazine and I was horrified. I suggest it is never acceptable to send expressions of sympathy via Email and, rarely, is it acceptable to express a formal thank you via Email alone.
Nonprofit organisations should consider times when Emails are sent to donors and volunteers when, in fact, a hand written note would have been more appropriate.
What is wrong with us, as a society, to suggest we cannot pull a thank you card from our desk drawer and take 5 minutes to wrote a personal note? I get it – Email is fast, efficient and you are not going to hand write a thank you note to everyone for every occasion. I am talking about special occasions here. Whoever you are thanking did something extraordinary and they deserve to learn of your appreciation. There is nothing personal about an Email. A quick thank you via Email may be acceptable, under certain circumstances, but to not follow up with a personal not is not acceptable.
The same could be said with expressions of sympathy. Why can’t we run to the store to purchase a sympathy card appropriate for the person and take 5 minutes to write a very personal note about the loss? I would argue most people shut down their Email during periods of grief. So, to rely on the party receiving your Email is a gross assumption. Additionally, the impersonal nature of Email may leave an impression about you. I cringe when I see expressions of sympathy on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media. It always appears to be less sincere, very public, and extremely impersonal.
There are always exceptions and solid reasons to use Email. Email serves a purpose in terms of delivery of quick messages. In the case of thanking and expressing sorrow, when in doubt, take a few minutes and error on the side of personalisation.