Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Has it become rude to call people on the phone?

niversal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Nowadays when I call someone, the voice mail message often instructs me to “hang up and text me.” This is said in a surprised, aggravated tone, as if I were violating an established rule known to everyone else.

Is this really the etiquette now? People would rather read badly typed, semicoherent message fragments than have an actual conversation?

I think texting is fine for quick little messages and reminders, but I cannot imagine conducting the equivalent of a normal phone conversation by text. I know people are busy and don’t always have time to chat on the phone, but I cannot help thinking that this new directive is rude.

GENTLE READER: It is true that one need not make oneself available to all forms of communication. Miss Manners chooses not to get her feet wet at the beach retrieving discarded bottles on the off-chance that they may contain correspondence.

But once a voice mailbox has been activated, it is only polite to check it. Miss Manners will allow for a gracious message to the effect that this box is not checked frequently, so that if your matter is urgent, you may prefer to use an alternate form of communication.

Meanwhile, send an email — not a text, because you needn’t follow rude instructions — saying you would like to talk to that person sometime.

What’s on the menu tonight

DEAR MISS MANNERS: At family Christmas gatherings at my brother’s house, his wife has an annoying habit of announcing what will be served to the guests, much like a waitress reciting the daily specials at a restaurant. She claims this is “dinner party” etiquette.

GENTLE READER: Not exactly, but it is not improper to do something that will strike you as even more restaurantlike: provide a menu.

Not, Miss Manners hastens to add, a list to be passed out with choices. The proper way to do this is to put little handwritten cards at intervals along the table so that the diners know what is to be served and can pace themselves. These days, fearing the worst, she had better specify that they should not contain prices.

Notable thanks

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When does the desire and pleasure found in continuing the traditions of the past become an annoying affectation?

I am not speaking of you. Nor am I referring to those rituals most necessary to the comfort of the bereaved or to the celebration of loved ones’ accomplishments or milestones. I speak merely of those of us belonging to a generation who enjoy such relatively small courtesies as sending thank-you notes for dinner parties.

When does sending such a note, perhaps on embossed card stock, become an intolerable affectation that rather offends or aggravates than gratifies the majority? Of course, one would otherwise send a more informal thank-you message by way of email or text.

GENTLE READER: We have not reached that point yet, not because there is nothing left for Miss Manners to do, but rather because the dinner party is sadly disappearing at the same rate as the accompanying letters of thanks. Miss Manners is ordering more card stock and suggests that you do the same.

Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

© Universal Uclick 12/17