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Ideas
September 17, 2015 10:55 AM EDT

The other day a friend who got cancer received a condolence email from a relative. The subject line was “sh-t happens.”

I don’t care whether you express your sympathy (or thanks) in an email as long as you are not an insensitive jerk. The point is to be kind, empathetic, sensitive, and (for thank yous) genuinely grateful. Taking more trouble—writing by hand, putting the card in an envelope, stamping and mailing—doesn’t necessarily equal more feeling.

Perhaps it’s good for children to write thank you notes because it does teach them to be considerate and not take a gift or the person who gave it for granted. If you’re not already thoughtful and gracious as an adult, it’s too late to learn. For adults: Card versus email, or for that matter, texting? Which feels right? To figure out the answer it helps to be an emotionally evolved human.

Ephron is the author of Do I Have to Say Hello?” Aunt Delia’s Manners Quiz for Kids and Their Grownups

 

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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