Advice Columns

Miss Manners: A thank you for online service is perfectly correct

Q: If you send an email to a business or company asking which department or individual handles a specific matter, is it polite to send the person who answered your email a thank-you for the information?

I know it’s polite to thank someone in person who points you in the right direction to have your questions or concerns taken care of, but what about email? I don’t want to clutter up someone’s business email inbox, but is it rude not to thank them for the information they provided?

A: Although email etiquette is evolving, Miss Manners still believes that a service rendered deserves a thank-you.

She realizes that saying so will clutter her own email inbox with truculent explanations that everyone’s email load is already burdensome; that if every transaction required a thank-you, the internet would be overwhelmed by the increased traffic; and that as a thank-you contains no new information, it is a waste of resources.

Yet she believes that a society that treasures endless social media posting, mass forwarding of jokes, countless customer satisfaction surveys, and other correspondence of questionable value, has no basis for objecting to a two-word email expressing gratitude and satisfaction. Not every transaction requires a thank-you in email, any more than it does in person. But it is perfectly correct in the situation you describe. Unappreciated thank-yous can be deleted in an instant.

Q: My mother corrects my grammar at home but also tells me it is impolite to correct other people’s grammar in conversation. Should I point out this discrepancy in instruction to my mother?

A: You would be asking for another correction, Miss Manners warns you.

Correcting a child at home is called child rearing. Correcting others is rude.

Q: What are we to do with a boorish dining companion, part of a group that dines out regularly? When seated with her (which sometimes cannot be avoided), we watch her treat the wait staff poorly, making rude faces and demands.

She expects nothing short of perfection wherever she is, including at pizza joints. She is quick to criticize the smallest infractions, like a waiter putting a soup spoon in the wrong place on the table.

We like the wait staff, try to be appreciative and have no idea whether we should confront our colleague about her behavior.

A: Your boorish dining companion clearly does not expect perfection when it comes to good manners. Putting the soup spoon in the wrong place, whether in a Michelin-star restaurant or a pizza joint, is nothing compared to the rudeness of pointing out another’s mistake.

Other than ostracizing the offending member, Miss Manners counsels you to make it clear that you do not condone your companion’s behavior, but without yourself being rude. Studiously studying your shoes or your plate, being yourself exceptionally gracious to the wait staff and perhaps also tipping well are all proven ways to distance yourself from your companion’s rudeness.

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.

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