James Willis Westlake , the author of How to Write Letters, once wrote, “No one would willingly lose out of his life the joy of receiving letters from absent friends, nor withholding others the same exquisite pleasure.”
Now, reading that, could you say the same for a text message? Probably not.
The great debate between digital and written thank-you’s shouldn’t be a debate at all. They both have a place in our world, yes, but they’re entirely different species of correspondence. It’s like asking if one should have cats or dogs. Well, they can live quite harmoniously, if done correctly.
Let’s start with the easier of the two: texting. For a thank-you, use texting sparingly. For me, I reserve texting when it’s a casual relationship or I don’t know the person that well. For instance, if I’m meeting a friend for a drink, I may text them. No sense in sending a letter every time I went to a bar – I’d be bankrupt! I also send a text when it’s a coworker or the relationship is business related (“Thanks for getting my mail while I’m gone,” I texted my neighbors last week).
Now a letter is a different story. Write a letter any chance you can. If you get a gift? Write a letter. Invited to a party? Write a letter. Thanking someone for answering their phone while you had an existential crisis at 2 in the morning? Totally hypothetical, but a letter would be the best way to show gratitude there, too.
Any chance you get, you should be giving someone a card if the relationship or action correlates to the time necessary to write a thank-you. It’s good manners and, better still, a good foundation for a long-lasting relationship.