In the Email Intelligence classes I teach, a hot topic for discussion is email replies that say only "Thanks."
Some people complain that "Thanks" emails waste their time. They have to stop what they are doing, click open the emails to see if anything comes beneath "Thanks," and delete them.
Others say, "I'm human. I always appreciate a thank you."
Still others say, "I like knowing the other person got my email. 'Thanks' is an acknowledgment."
IT (information technology) people say a "Thanks" email is just another message that takes up storage.
Considering all the opinions I have heard in business writing courses, I have developed my own view. My guideline is:
Do not reply to say thank you unless the message merits sincere thanks, or the person who sent it needs acknowledgment that you got the email.
By "sincere thanks," I mean more than one or two words. Sincere thanks might be:
Thanks for responding so quickly to my request.
Thank you for being flexible.
Thanks so much for the great information. You rock!
If a message merits a sincere, specific sentence of thanks, that's what I write. I don't reply "Thanks."
People who reply to email on their smartphones have told me that sincere, specific sentences take too long to type. Can't they just type "Thanks"?
If typing is an issue, I suggest "Thanks!" or "Thank you!" or "Terrific!" Although it requires knowing where the exclamation mark key is located, the exclamation adds energy to their brief message.
The other part of "Thanks" is acknowledgment. Sometimes people need acknowledgment that their important email has been received. When that's the case, I recommend email replies like these:
Thanks. Got it.
Thanks. Consider it done.
Thanks for letting me know about the change.
Thanks. I'll pass it on.
I never respond to routine emails with "Thanks." They don't merit sincere thanks, and the sender doesn't need confirmation that I received them.
I don't mean to be impersonal. I am a huge fan of courtesy and of nurturing business relationships through thoughtful writing. But when "Thanks" becomes an unconscious, meaningless habit, it's time to stop it.
What is your view? Do you welcome all thanks or wish they'd disappear?