Form vs. Substance

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Every once in a while, Miss Manners makes me smile with a short, sweet reminder that etiquette is contextual and has a legitimate purpose.

This is far from the common stereotype of etiquette being a collection of arbitrary rules that some second-handers can use to herd around others -- whom they presume to be/hope are also second-handers.

Ever since a falling-out with his parents, the letter-writer has occasionally been on the receiving end of scathing, uninformed letters from strangers and distant relatives -- and is in a quandary about whether to respond and, if so, how.

The concern arises in part because the senders are "members of an older generation, who may care more about etiquette." The following sentence, from the reply just about stands on its own:

Image by Insung Yoon, via Unsplash, license.
Members of a generation who care more about etiquette would not write rude, impertinent letters in the first place.
As I suspected, not replying at all is well within the bounds of proper etiquette in that situation, but there was an amusing pro forma option I wouldn't have considered, and probably would ordinarily not use myself.

-- CAV

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