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The Computer Written Thank You Note

My Aunt and Uncle live in Canada, specifically out in the country, and as such I don’t see them very often. In fact, the last time I saw them was at my Grandmother’s funeral a few years back. Yet every year, they always send my sister and me a Christmas gift. This year, they sent me a beautiful, hand made Doctor Who scarf, but due to some familial issues, the gift didn’t arrive until last month.

I really do love the gift and as they usually call in April for my birthday, I thank them profusely then (again, due to familial issues we don’t have a lot of contact with them). But this year, they didn’t call at all.  As I mentioned, I got the gift in May and now I’d like to send them a Thank You Note.

This is where the question comes in: I have a visual-spatial disorder that effects my handwriting and makes it VERY hard to read if you haven’t seen if before. Even when I make an attempt to write neater, I’ve been told that it is still hard to read. Because I have never sent this Aunt and Uncle a letter before, I doubt they’d be able to read it. My question is if it would be okay to type a letter of thanks on the computer? I usually rely on the computer for things that are typically handwritten (homework, other types of letters, etc.) but I know that computer generated Thank You Notes are looked down on. I’m still in High School, and as I’ve always thanked people in person, I haven’t sent a Thank You Note in a while (I’m sorry!) so I’m not sure of the Etiquette involved here.

Any help would be appreciated! Thank you! 0605-14

Is there a particular reason why you could not call your aunt and uncle to thank them instead of waiting for them to call you?

Etiquette isn’t so rigid and legalistic as to require people with disabilities to adhere to standards of protocol that are well within the capabilities of the average person.   I really doubt anyone expects to receive a handwritten note from Stephen Hawking or Christopher Reeves when he was alive.   So write your thank you note on the computer but soften the mechanical harshness of it with chit chat about the family, what you have done since seeing them last, how much you love the scarf, etc.  And then sign the note in your own handwriting if you can.

{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Marozia June 10, 2014, 5:11 am

    If you have a specific disability that affects you writing by hand, by all means do a computer-generated thank you note. Also send some photos of you wearing the scarf. I agree with Admin to sign your name in your own handwriting, though.
    Look at it in this way, at least you say thank you for gifts, some people don’t even send a computer thank you note, let alone a hand-written one! Kudos to you!!

  • Anonymous June 10, 2014, 5:12 am

    I agree with Jeanne. Also, most word processing programs now have cool fonts and clip art, or you could add a photo of yourself wearing the Dr. Who scarf, if you have a colour printer. You can also buy special computer paper with designs on it, just like some people buy fancy stationery for writing hand-written notes. Anyway, I’m sure that, if your aunt and uncle care about you enough to make you a Dr. Who scarf, then they probably care more about whether or not you like the scarf, than what medium you use to thank them for said scarf.

    • just4kicks June 10, 2014, 8:26 am

      That’s a great idea! My kids did that once with gifts from their great Aunt and Uncle, who live across the country with us. They sent a lovely package at Christmas time with cute sweatshirts, candies and bubbles (two of my kids were very young at that time). They sent a thank you note, and then I took photos of them wearing the sweatshirts, eating some of the candy and blowing bubbles. I uploaded the photos and sent them to their email address. They emailed back they had received the thank you note and especially got a kick out of the photos. Win, win!

    • Dee June 10, 2014, 9:26 am

      Yes, a photo of yourself wearing the scarf and other personal touches would make the note fantastic even if it is computer generated. Also, what about seeing if you can Skype Auntie and Uncle, or other methods of communication? I’m sure they would be thrilled to have any personal type of contact from you.

      • kit June 10, 2014, 2:01 pm

        The note would not be “computer generated”. Computer is just a tool, like a pen or pencil, and unless the LW intends to use some standard ready-made thank-you note, I see no reason why this should be considered “computer-generated”.
        It generally seems to me that people overdo this handwriting and personality thing. Yes, if it is something mindlessly copied, it is bad. But why is a letter, a personal letter not a form one, so much worse just because it was typed on computer? Is it really the form that is important in a personal letter, not the substance??

        • Dee June 11, 2014, 1:18 pm

          Well, it’s a computer that’s generating the note, so what’s the problem with the term?!? I suppose I could have said printer generated instead, but talk about splitting hairs …

  • Ruby June 10, 2014, 6:31 am

    I am a special education teacher. By all means, use the assistive technology to create your card. Never, never let your need to use a computer stop you from doing anything you want or need to do. Don’t feel embarrassed or like you have to explain yourself.

  • The Elf June 10, 2014, 7:15 am

    I don’t have a disability, but my handwriting is terrible. I type all my correspondance because I’d like people to be able to read what I have written. There’s nothing wrong with it, at all. It’s not impersonal, as long as it isn’t a form letter! It’s the words that matter, not the method of writing them.

  • E June 10, 2014, 8:00 am

    Why not hand write your note and send a computer printed “translation” in with it? But I agree with the admin, why can’t you call? Rates using Google voice to Canada are absolutely free.

  • Kat June 10, 2014, 8:16 am

    I’m aware etiquette disagrees with me here, but I would have no problem with receiving a typed (or emailed) message of thanks from anybody, regardless of their handwriting abilities. The content of the message is what matters.

    OP, in your case I think a typed note is a great solution.

    • Lerah99 June 10, 2014, 12:58 pm

      I agree. The bias against typed notes has to do with people using form letters.

      Some clever Bride or Groom thinks they are so cool when they create a template along the lines of:

      Dear ,

      Thank you so much for the . My spouse and I will think of you for years to come each time we use it.

      Thank you,
      Bride & Groom

      Then they creat a list of names and gifts and merge it into the letters. Making writing thank you notes not at all personal and can lead to some hilarious things like a thank you note stating:

      Dear Aunt Barbara,

      Thank you for the $100 cash. My spouse and I will think of you for years to come each time we use it.

      Thank you,
      Bride & Groom

      Those are the kind of electronically generated thank you letters people consider tacky.

      But if you write a personal and heart felt thank you letter on the computer versus by hand – that is no big deal. It is the effort and the thought that counts, no the penmanship.

      • InTheEther June 10, 2014, 9:52 pm


        What’s appreciated is the amount of effort put in. So if say, you know how to use photoshop/illustrator/some other design software and you decide to be artsy and make thank you cards on that, the effort doesn’t magically disappear just because it was printed from a computer file.

        As another example of the truly tacky, I’ve seen company’s that you can order little kits from that contain little thankyou cards, envelopes, you can get small pics with captions, and whatever other little pieces of paper might be remotely appropriate for the occasion. All the person has to do is put everything in the envelopes and then address them. So the amount of effort is almost nonexistent if you don’t add anything personal.

  • JWH June 10, 2014, 8:18 am

    To be honest, I’ve never thought that hand-written thank-you notes are necessary. I’ve always thought that a neatly typed and signed letter is more professional.

    • Steve June 10, 2014, 12:48 pm

      Which is precisely why it is wrong. “Professional” is a word used for business correspondence, not social correspondence. There is a significant difference.

      In this case, special circumstances make a word-processed letter acceptable.

    • Rosie B. June 11, 2014, 2:05 am

      The reason people often prefer handwritten thank-you notes is because typed notes often come off as impersonal–one could type up a basic template (“Dear____, Thank you for the____! Hope to see you soon! Sincerely,____) and just fill in the name and gift for each person. With handwritten notes, at least the recipient took the time to hand-write each one. But as long as the note is well-thought-out and personalized enough that it’s obvious the recipient spend time on it, it doesn’t really matter.

      • JWH June 12, 2014, 10:36 am

        In my case, the handwritten note would read:


        Thu for the



        My handwriting’s always been atrocious. I switched to word processors in 1982, and I haven’t looked back.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith June 10, 2014, 8:20 am

    Perhaps the question behind the question isn’t so much what kind of thank you or whether it should be written by hand- but rather what you can do to warm up your family connection and maintain better (and perhaps more regular) contact. Your relatives have for years sent gifts and (apparently) been a warm and genuine presence. The best thank you that you can offer them and the best ongoing acknowledgment of their efforts would simply be to respond in kind and to show them that you are able (and willing) to reciprocate their warmth and kindness.

  • just4kicks June 10, 2014, 8:27 am

    ….across the country FROM us….not with….sheesh.

  • Wild Irish Rose June 10, 2014, 8:30 am

    I’m with Admin. on this one. I love the idea of sending your aunt and uncle a picture of you wearing what has to be one of the coolest scarves EVER. What a great gift!

  • acr June 10, 2014, 8:33 am

    Generally, I think what’s frowned on is the generic computer generated thank you note, such as sending the same “thank you for the lovely gift” note to a whole list of people. So even though you’re typing it, you’re still writing a thoughtful letter.

    Plus you can use a big font, which is very helpful for older people, who may have bad eye sight.

  • Melissa June 10, 2014, 8:40 am

    How did you thank them on prior Christmases when they sent a gift?? Why don’t you just pick up the phone and thank them and let them know the gift just arrived?? Then, send them another note on the computer with pictures.

  • AMC June 10, 2014, 8:57 am

    A Dr. Who scarf sounds like an awesome gift! I just want to add that there are fonts, such as Brush Script, that look sort of like very neat handwriting. There would still be no mistaking that it was typed but it would, as Maven put it, “soften the mechanical harshness”. Or maybe even ask a friend with nice penmanship to write the note for you while you dictate what you want to say.

  • Angel June 10, 2014, 9:27 am

    Nothing wrong with a typewritten note. Find a way to personalize it for your aunt and uncle–I agree a photo of you wearing the scarf would be a nice touch. What I do with my little one (who is just learning to write) is I type the note out and she signs her name on the bottom. Sometimes I write it for her but our family/friends understand, she is just learning to write and therefore there is only so much she can do. How about a photo with you holding up a sign that says “thank you!” That’s pretty cute too!

    I agree if you can call them, by all means do so. They probably would appreciate that even more.

  • flora June 10, 2014, 9:27 am

    I don’t understand why, in the era of digital technonogy, a typed but personal thank you letter would be any less acceptable then a hand written one. To be honest, I don’t understand why a personal, well thought out email would be less accpetable then a letter sent through US Post. (unless of course you’re like my father in law who is a stamp collector and is fascinated by US mail but I digress) Now when I say a well thougt out letter I do mean someting more then the equivenlent of a tweet. Something more then; hey luv the scarf! TY!
    I personally believe that ettiquette should evolve with the times. Thoughts?

    • The Elf June 10, 2014, 12:10 pm

      I think some people think handwriting a note conveys a more personal touch, the idea that someone really spent some time on it. I admit, I like getting handwritten notes better than typed notes. But it is the words that matter more. So much more that the medium for those words becomes less relevent. And if your handwriting is so bad that people routinely have trouble reading it (whether by disability or just poor skills), then it would stand in the way of the words and typing it would be preferred.

    • Powers June 13, 2014, 11:07 am

      There is more to communication than simply the words. The medium is the message, to hearken back to Marshall McLuhan. Inkblots, crossed-out words, insertions, the choice of ink color, etc., and most importantly, the choice of stationery (and its physical presence, up to and including the scent of the ink or the writer’s fragrance) all contribute to the message, and all are lost (partially or totally) in a neatly printed computer copy.

      Obviously this is a special case, but in general a handwritten note is still more personal and intimate than a typed one.

  • Ellex June 10, 2014, 9:39 am

    I wish etiquette evolved more quickly. It’s asinine that writing a thank you note on a computer is a faux pas.

  • NostalgicGal June 10, 2014, 9:50 am

    I’ll add about look for a nice font that’s readable and yes, sign it by hand.

    My handwriting is atrocious, always has been, always will be; I went to block printing draftsman caps as an attempt if you have to read it you might have a chance. The computer allows me to type stuff out, and it is readable! (my spouse is not dis-similar, his handwriting is by courtesy a ‘spastic chicken stepped in ink and limped across page with a broken foot’ too; and he took me to task once about he couldn’t read my handwriting, I said I couldn’t read his either, he said THIS IS PERFECTLY READABLE… so I said ‘what does it say then?’ and he couldn’t read what he wrote. hehehe)

    Hand write the greeting/saluation; hand write the signature; add the pictures, and I’m sure they will be thrilled.

  • mark June 10, 2014, 10:09 am

    We are well into the internet age. I personally have no problem getting thank you notes via emails or text messages. Technology makes our lives easier don’t be afraid to use it. Everyone likes to say “it’s the thought that counts”. Well if thats the case then the transmission mechanism is secondary.

  • Justin June 10, 2014, 11:03 am

    I say this as someone who also has disabilities that impact handwriting, you are using it as an excuse. Handwritten notes and cards are nice, but they are not the only way to express yourself. It is also not a choice between nothing and a handwritten note.

    Use the tools that are available to you to overcome your disability. Type everything, it is fine and if that is what it takes to be legible use the tools. Pick up a phone and call if you want a more personal contact.

    Generic computer created notes are looked down on, for a personalized message it is just a medium to convey it. For example putting a thank you to everyone who gave me stuff post on facebook, poor etiquette. Crafting an individual note and sending it via facebook PM to the people you communicate with mostly through that media, good etiquette.

  • The OP June 10, 2014, 11:43 am

    Thank you all for the advice!

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with calling my aunt and uncle. However, my parents (I still live at home) have been at odds with them for the past few years and I don’t know how comfortable they’d be with me contacting them via phone. I don’t want to go into detail out of respect for my parents, but it’s been messy and there have been long periods of silence between our households. Thus, we tend not to contact them until they contact us, as we never know their feelings towards us.

    However, they’ve always been kind to my sister and me and I really wanted to thank them properly this time, as they truly gave me an awesome gift. (Not to say that they haven’t given other gifts that are worthy of thanks, of course! I don’t want to come off as gimme pig-ish!) I love the signature and different paper idea, I will definitely use that.

    Again, thank you all! 🙂

  • Cecilia June 10, 2014, 3:11 pm

    My hand writing tends to be a little too “girly” and “loop” for some folks. My father, for example, can not read a note I have written in proper cursive, so I tend to write his letters and TY notes on the computer in Times New Roman, font size 20, so he can read it. He’s in his 80’s so I use the larger font to make it easier to read as well. I do what many have suggested- sign it by hand and include photos, if appropriate.

    • Margaret June 11, 2014, 10:53 am

      I know someone like that. If you look at it without reading it, her handwriting looks pretty fancy. But if you actually try to read it, it is eye straining. Very loopy and extra squiggles and zags. I think she is trying to put her love for everyone into her writing, but it just drives me crazy. I wish she would type more and write less.

  • Cecilia June 10, 2014, 3:11 pm

    Oops- that was supposed to say “loopy”.

  • Rosie B. June 10, 2014, 4:32 pm

    I agree with everyone else; a typed note would be perfectly fine. There are lots of ways to personalize a thank-you note besides the handwriting, which many of the above commenters have already mentioned. If you have their phone number or email address, there’s no reason not to call them email them in addition to sending the note, at least to let them know you received the gift.

  • Cat June 10, 2014, 5:10 pm

    I don’t care if you type it or write it in crayon. It’s not that you are too lazy or that you don’t care. You have a physical problem. You never have to apologize for what you cannot do.
    They probably already know about your difficulty. If they don’t, you can briefly mention it in your thank you note. “Hi, my handwriting is hard to read, so I thought you’d appreciate my typing this….”

  • crebj June 10, 2014, 8:20 pm

    I think the admin has a good idea. Thank them with a phone call. They’ll certainly be able to read the tone of your voice!

  • Barbarian June 11, 2014, 6:18 am

    My child grew up with the same disability as OP. He uses the computer to handle most tasks involving writing.

    OP should send a computer typed thank you note for the gift. A picture of OP wearing the gift would thrill the givers. If the letter has warm personalized content, it will be treasured whether it was written on a computer or by hand. I have saved many witty and loving letters from family written on their PC’s along with handwritten mementos.

  • Calli Arcale June 12, 2014, 11:36 am

    My daughter has the same problem. Well, sort of. She can write very beautifully, but for reasons that are unclear, she confuses upper and lower case when handwriting but gets them perfectly if typing. So she types. As long as you write each thank-you note individually and make it a heartfelt note to the person you’re writing to, it will be appreciated in that same spirit.

  • Elizabeth June 12, 2014, 2:55 pm

    Ask a friend to hand write the thank you note for you.

  • Enna June 13, 2014, 8:53 am

    I like oo’s advice on this

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