Dear Miss Manners: In the past, we were taught the proper form of addressing envelopes for mailing, but in recent years, the postal service has given us a different structure - for business mail, I realize, but it is my understanding that it is preferred on all correspondence to speed delivery.
We are asked to use uppercase letters, remove punctuation, write the apartment number on the same line as the street address, and so forth.
Should we follow the long-accepted decorum or should we cooperate with the postal service to ensure that our mail arrives in minimum time?
Gentle Reader: There would be something noble about Miss Manners saying, “You address that thing correctly, do you hear? Never mind what the postal service says. You do it the old way, and if they won’t deliver it, too bad.”
Foolish, but noble.
The truth is that as much as Miss Manners likes to see a handsomely addressed envelope, her heart wouldn’t be in it. She doesn’t want to abet rude people who claim that they “did too” write their letters of thanks and condolence, but the postal service must have failed to deliver them. However, that is not her only reason.
It is that the issue was settled a century or so ago. This was during the Great Footman Shortage, when people started realizing that the etiquette rule of the time, which required serious correspondence to be hand-delivered, was costing them more than they would have spent on stamps.
It had been a nice system. Prospective guests had to make up their silly minds fast when a six-foot-tall footman towered over them demanding a response to the invitation he had delivered.
But when the footmen found they could do better starting whatever it was that they went off to do, there was a problem. Great - and very serious - debates were held about whether or not it would be vulgar to send one’s personal correspondence through the mail.
The argument of saving money won. It always does.
In compensation, the double envelope was invented. This solution preserves the pristine look of the handdelivered envelope, while bowing to the necessity of producing a practical one at the direction of the postal service.
It is still in use for wedding invitations, and can be used for any important correspondence that the writer wants to be both prettily addressed and properly delivered.
Dear Miss Manners: A longtime friend has a new man in her life, but she has stated that she can never marry him, as she will lose financial arrangements set up by the court four years ago, when she divorced her husband of 35 years.
She is now pressuring her friends to throw an “engagement party” for her. When I told her that I felt it was bad taste to give her and her lover this kind of party, she snapped, “Well, call it a life-commitment party, instead.”
She wants some kind of “ceremony” to let people know that they have a commitment to each other. Am I being an insensitive friend? Is there something that one does in a situation such as this?
Gentle Reader: Why can’t she commit herself?
Never mind the fact that an engagement is an agreement to get married. Never mind that the only traditional engagement party is one that the prospective bride’s parents give for the purpose of announcing the engagement by toasting the couple at the party - and they don’t call it an engagement party on the invitations because that would give away the surprise.
Miss Manners is more struck by the fact that this lady seems to think it proper to harangue her friends to honor her. No doubt she figured that celebrating this way would, unlike getting married, save her a bundle. Why you should consider cooperating with this demand is a mystery.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate
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