Friday, June 26, 2009

The Elements of Style: Thanking you in advance...

In the Elements of Style Series, I relay helpful hints for good writing from the classic book, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

This week's advice from The Elements of Style is more than just writing advice; it is advice in how to deal courteously with other people. In Section V on Words and Expressions Commonly Misused, Strunk and White advise writers against using the phrase "thanking you in advance."

Their reasoning goes beyond writing well. Strunk and White point out that it is improper to thank someone in advance. More directly, just thank them. Don't imply that you won't thank them later. Put another way, they want us to strike this phrase from our writing because it is impolite.

I agree, but I want to take their advice off of the written page. It is good life advice to show gratitude. If you want to thank someone, thank them. If you want to thank them again, thank them again. People can't get enough of well-intentioned gratitude -- and, for good reason. Our world is presently starved of gratitude. A genuine expression of gratitude is refreshing.

If you don't believe me, ask yourself how frequently you say "thank you" to the server at the coffee shop. Worse still, how often do you say thank you to your bus driver? They don't hear it often enough. If "thank you" does not fit your purposes, try "have a nice day" or a similar friendly comment.

Try to go through an entire day by greeting and thanking the people who help you along. It might not seem like much, but a simple demonstration of gratitude can transform your day.

The next installment of the Elements of Style Series will appear on this blog on Friday, 3 July 2009. I will continue this series each Friday until I run out of interesting topics in grammar, style and writing.

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