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Judith Martin


Dear Miss Manners: I teach at a small school in a close-knit society. As a result, most teachers go together and buy a gift for each of our graduates.This year we are purchasing each of our 24 graduates a voice-activated iPod shuffle, which is going to cost each of us around $50 -- a little more than we have contributed in years past due to the size of this parti…

Dear Miss Manners: Is it wrong that the first thing that occurred to me while watching the lovely Audrey Hepburn in the opening scene of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was, "She's eating while wearing her gloves!"? Gentle Reader: Let us hope that it is exactly the reaction the filmmakers intended you to have. It serves as a tip-off that Holly Golightly, the chara…

Dear Miss Manners: When is one obliged to join a standing ovation? My understanding is that standing ovations are reserved for truly outstanding performances, and that applause while seated will suffice as a show of appreciation for other performances. However, if one's fellow audience members judge a performance worthy of a standing ovation and rise, is one requ…

Dear Miss Manners: My high school did not, as I recall, limit its senior prom to couples, and when I've heard of schools that do, I've always assumed that it was because of mistaken notions of what is traditional at formal dances.But now I'm wondering if perhaps the high school prom, as opposed to dance parties in general, really did originate as a couples-only e…

Dear Miss Manners: I am fortunate enough to be expecting in a few months, and I have a very sweet and generous mother-in-law who would like to throw me a baby shower. (My mother would like to as well, but her finances are tight, so it wouldn't be so bad if she let my MIL take the reins. My mother just threw me a bridal shower two years ago.)The problem is that my…

Dear Miss Manners: I have created a gentle and cordial debate about the use of top sheets: When patterned sheets are used, does the print go face up or down? Since it usually gets covered by a blanket or bedspread, it is not seen. If it gets folded back in front of the pillows, it is usually the hem that shows, and most of the time the sheet and blanket are cover…

Dear Miss Manners: Are you obligated to have a graduation party for your child in order for your child to receive gifts?When I graduated high school in 1981, some of my friends had parties, but most did not. All of us still received gifts (usually monetary) from family and friends.I've now been told that you have to have a graduation party for your child to receive…

Dear Miss Manners: I have been reading about calling-card protocol in a few dusty old etiquette books and something puzzled me. Several authors writing in different time periods indicated that simpler is better when it came to the style of the calling card; they described using simple text, with the person's name and perhaps an address, being careful to avoid ost…

Dear Miss Manners: It has been brought to my attention that if you are to go to someone else's prom, you should wear a less attractive/fancy dress. This is because you would not want to outshine the graduates.I used to go to this school, and although I have not been there for two years, I feel quite comfortable. So now I need your opinion. I can either wear a sub…

Dear Miss Manners: I was invited to a shower by a group of the groom's mother's lady friends. Apparently it was close to the "small" wedding (three weeks) and the bride and groom could not be home for the shower, as they both work in a city about five hours away.The invite said that since the couple was unable to attend, the guests would be honoring the mother of…

Dear Miss Manners: I am a 20-year-old college student. My grandmother sends me dozens of forwarded emails each week with information such as "watch out for new virus."I try to be respectful, and even spent some time last semester trying to reply to each email she sent, despite the fact that it was cutting into my other priorities, like school and sorority. Howeve…

Dear Miss Manners: I am seeking a polite, civil, yet firm way to express that a person's opinions and thoughts are unwarranted and unwelcome.My husband has had full custody of his daughter since the age of 3; she is now 12. Last year, for three months, the child had a trial custody change to her mother's care. The court reversed that decision after "Tammy" provid…

Dear Miss Manners: I am a private person, but I have taken an unpopular public stand on a controversial issue. I speak to civic groups about the issue, sometimes participate in debates sponsored by such groups and write letters to the editor. Within my local area, I am well known for my stand on the subject.However, I do not want to limit my associations to only th…

Dear Miss Manners: I have encountered the expression "bride-elect" in engagement announcements. It seems to confuse fiancees with politicians. Where does this expression come from, and is it correct? I now live in Alabama and first encountered the phrase here. Gentle Reader: The use of the term "elect" to mean someone who was chosen goes back at least as fa…

Dear Miss Manners: I am a young and healthy 16-year-old. Over the last few months my family and I attended a lot of family events that involved seeing long-distance relatives. My sister and I found ourselves in an awkward position when greeting relatives who would say how skinny we are. I know that it is intended to be a compliment, but how does one respond to so…