Today’s practice: Write your thank yous instead of abbreviating them.

Last night, I caught myself on the verge of a profound etiquette violation. A colleague had replied quickly and helpfully to an email I had sent, asking for information, and my breezy reply ended “tx”. She had taken the time to answer my question in the middle of her busy day, and I couldn’t spare the  extra 2 seconds to type out the full “thank you”.

That’s the kind of violation that reminds me of the relationship between good manners and human decency. Saying “thank you” isn’t just a formality: it’s an actual expression of appreciation, an acknowledgement of the effort or kindness someone else has shown.

It’s easy for the fast pace of life online, or the slow pace of typing on an iphone, to erode our commitment to those deeply meaningful human courtesies. Especially when so many of us have bought into the idea that we should be sending pro forma thanks for each retweet or mention — a practice that cheapens the thank you, and pressures us into condensing it so that it fits in 140 characters.

If you’re writing a tweet, it is fine to embrace the “tx” — so that you have room for a more personalized acknowledgement. “Tx for the lovely tweet — it was so delightful to hear how my post helped you plan your new (very cool) campaign)” is a well-used abbreviation. “Tx for the RT” is meaningless, and training you in the bad habit of the empty thank-you.

And if you’re on email, the only time to use “tx” is as a sign-off (in place of “yours” or “xo”). As an expression of gratitude, it’s more of an f-you than a thank-you. As in, I’m too busy, or your contribution was too trivial, to warrant real appreciation.

A real thank-you deserves all eight letters. Maybe the practice of typing them will inspire you to offer even more articulate appreciation for the people who are helping you at work and beyond.