Q: Occasionally friends, on my birthday or Christmas, have given me a card announcing they’ve made a (financial) gift in my name to their favorite cause, which is not one I’m particularly a supporter of, although not one to which I’m opposed.
Since gifts among us are not expected, I always find this awkward. Is there a polite way of responding?
A: Ah yes, the Potemkin gift: one that is not a gift, but which you cannot fail to acknowledge without giving offense.
Miss Manners sympathizes, but still requires a thank-you note, perhaps one saying how good it is of them to support a cause that you know is special to them.
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She would recommend that you also say how much you are looking forward to learning about this unfamiliar organization if she did not fear that your friend would miss the implication — and instead bombard you with propaganda.
Q: While it is currently common etiquette practice to send thank-you notes after a job interview, is this practice in fact confusing personal with business? And does sending notes on stationery further confuse this purpose, which is to find a qualified candidate for the position?
I do understand that an interviewer does not have to interview the individual and could just as easily pass the person over, but it does seem to be mixing business with personal.
A: Everyone has business correspondence for which it is not acceptable to use the current employer’s letterhead. In addition to interview thank-you letters, personal stationery is properly used for job application letters and for threatening to sue the phone company, to give two examples. It can even be used for congratulation or condolence notes to co-workers.
While Miss Manners sometimes recognizes the need to refer to “personal stationery” to distinguish it from company letterhead, so naming it does not render it unfit for all business correspondence, any more than calling an invitation “personalized” makes it so.
Q: When a phrase such as “As you know,” or “As you have no doubt heard,” precedes a bit of news of which the recipient has, in fact, no previous awareness, is it proper to correct the news-bearer’s mistaken impression?
On the one hand, it seems petty; on the other, it could inform the person that a channel of communication assumed to be working had failed. For example, an email that was supposed to be sent to a group was not delivered. My typical response is, “Actually, I had not heard, but thank you for telling me.”
A: There is another possibility, namely that the speaker is attempting to avoid responsibility for the failure to deliver the news in a timely manner. However, Miss Manners agrees that your response is both proper and efficacious, whatever the speaker’s motivation.
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, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.