Today the world is divided into two groups of people: those born in the paper age, and those born in the digital one. I am in the former group. Some of us might not be comfortable sending invitations online, but whether we like it or not, welcome to the new world, the digital world, where the news comes to us 24/7. If news, why not invites? In the past year I recorded a record number of holiday e-cards.
Here are some common questions and answers that may offer solutions to some of your digital quandaries:
When is it OK to send digital invitations? Digital invites can be a useful marketing tool when you're hosting a large event. For example, if you're having a high school reunion, a fundraising campaign (think President Obama), or an art opening, you can reach a lot of people with just one click.
What about birth announcements, or announcements of illness or death? Because of the speed of email, all these events are now commonly announced by email, as people generally want their friends to know the news as soon as possible.
Are there any situations in which is it not appropriate to send a digital invitation? I would steer clear of e-vites for weddings, showers, bar and bat mitzvahs, christenings, housewarmings, engagement parties, and graduations. If the invitation is for an occasion like these, when a gift is expected from the recipient, the least the sender can do is take the trouble to send a paper invitation. An exception might be if the invitation specifies no gifts.
Can you send birthday greetings electronically? Why not? With the cost of postage stamps going up (sorry, USPS), especially for international mail, it's less expensive to send email greetings, and of course much faster, too. But for dear friends and family, a hand-addressed paper card, delivered by mail, is a special treat that will be greatly appreciated, even if you've already sent an email greeting.
What about graduation cards, birth congratulations, get-well cards, or messages of condolence? If you've sent an email announcement of an event or occasion, it's natural to respond right away by email with congratulations, good wishes, or sympathy. But you should follow up any with an actual paper note or card. As with actual paper birthday greetings, the real thing is so much more meaningful to the recipient.
Are there certain people we should avoid when it comes to digital invitations, announcements, and greeting cards? Some people, such as older friends or relatives and certain eccentrics or other stubborn holdouts, might not even have an electronic device and therefore won't have email. And some who might have access to email might still be offended by a digital invitation or greeting card. Good etiquette is all about common sense. If you know that the recipient is in any of these categories, take the time to send him or her a message through the mail.
Is it ever OK to send an electronic thank-you? The look and feel of a handwritten note is incomparable and deeply personal. In the case of thanking someone for a job interview, a personal note is preferable to email, as an email will be read quickly and then probably become lost or forgotten. A personal note will probably be opened before other mail and will be remembered! And if someone has taken the time to buy you a gift, you really should take three minutes of your time to write three lines saying thank you. It's OK to call or email first with thanks, but always follow it up with a note. Below is the copy for one of my favorite ads from Tiffany & Company, which expertly makes the case for using handwritten notes on beautiful stationery:
PERHAPS A NOTE OF THANKS FOR A DINNER PAST.
MAYBE NEWS FROM A FRIEND NOT RECENTLY SEEN.
OR AN INVITATION TO BE OUT AND ABOUT.
QUITE POSSIBLY A LOVE LETTER, TO BE SAVORED ALONE.
OR AN INTIMATE VOICE OF SHARED CONCERN.
A TRENCHANT INSIGHT FROM A CRUSTY OLD CHUM.
OR A DASH OF WIT WITH A PINCH OF FLIRTATION.
A FAMILIAR HAND ON THE FINEST WRITING PAPER,
SOMETHING TO PONDER AND PUT CAREFULLY AWAY.
Tiffany & Company