A page from Judith Martin’s Miss Manners’ Basic Training: Communication
[Etiquette provides] a whole catalogue of things to say on every occasion: congratulations, thank you, I’m so sorry, happy birthday, I love you, happy holidays, best wishes and I offer you my sympathy. None of these, it will be noticed, is funny, insightful or original. Surprisingly enough, that is not what is wanted. On important occasions, people don’t necessarily want to be lectured, enlightened or kidded; they just want to bask in the ideal that people who care about them are sharing their pleasures or sorrows.
But the commonplaces are not meant to not be personalized (hence my championing Erasmus’s De Copia) and Ms. Martin obliges with a reminder of obligations:
Signing one’s name to such a statement is supposed to convey that. Actually putting it into one’s own handwriting suggests that there was some thinking going on, as opposed to mere acquiescence in someone else’s statement.
Leaving traces in the appropriate fashion is the polite thing to do.
And so for day 162