DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a bosom buddy who loves to cook. Unfortunately, every time I eat her cooking, I suffer enormous intestinal distress.
I couldn’t think of any way out of a recent invitation, so I accepted and had a meal with her. Inevitably, I got sick. What would have been the polite way to avoid eating at her house? She rarely goes to restaurants, and especially not now.
GENTLE READER: Etiquette exists to avoid confessions like, “I value our friendship, but your food makes me throw up.”
This should be relatively simple: You express disappointment that you are — for no specified reason — unavailable; your buddy accepts this answer gracefully.
Miss Manners realizes that, in reality, your other friends are urging you to be honest, while your would-be host will not stop asking what you will be doing at that time. When everyone sees staying the course as a virtue, without regard to oncoming traffic, collisions are unavoidable.
You have two good options: Get used to hearing yourself say how sorry you are that you cannot attend — or find something among the food provided that you can eat.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When and how is it polite to tell a casual contact that there is a glaring typo on their business card, website or other promotional materials?
Here are just a few examples I have seen: “Family RESOURSE Center” on a business card from a mass-networking event; “We Provide EXPEREINCED help” on a proudly displayed banner in a temp placement office; “Estimated Texas Population in 2040 — 50 BILLION” on a PowerPoint presentation.
I figure people might want to know so they can correct it, but I don’t want to sound pushy or arrogant. Also, some of these are people who might hire me, so there’s the added question of, “Will this be a positive indicator of how conscientious I am, or a negative indicator of how nit-picking I am?”
GENTLE READER: Most people will assume the latter — or worse. They may tack on “rude” (when they remember it is impolite to correct another person in such situations) and “superior.” (The latter will not be about your spelling — which is superior — but rather an invented crime to hide their own embarrassment.)
Miss Manners says this to convince you that, in most cases, you will simply have to look the other way (or “weigh” or “whey”). The exception is if you can find a non-insulting way to offer your services as an editor — and to have that offer willingly accepted. “Oh, I just looked up some of those figures in my own presentation. Do you want me to look over yours?”
The misspellings can then be fixed as part of the larger task. This will demonstrate not only that you know how to spell, but also that you are adept at saving a potential boss from her own mistakes without embarrassing her.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.