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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Humble reader sees the candlelight

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I seem to remember, from way back, that eating by candlelight was restricted to evening dining and not “proper” during daylight hours. Is this the current practice? With daylight saving time, it is not truly dark until well after 8 p.m., so even dinnertime could be affected.

Miss Manners: Don’t give laid-off workers the brush-off

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A large percentage of the U.S. work force for my corporation was laid off without warning. Some of these are colleagues who I am not close friends with, but yet I have worked closely with for several years. What is the proper etiquette in such situations? Everyone in the office seems to wish to avoid contracting the contagion by remaining holed up in their offices or cubicles and not speaking to these co-workers.

‘Friends’ hound ill woman for wedding present

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Several years ago, I volunteered at an elementary school and became friendly with a mother and son who both taught there. My health has since deteriorated to the point where I am in a wheelchair. I left my volunteer job and the mother and son moved on. In the eight years since we worked together, the mother has sent me jokes and prayers thru e-mail, but seldom a personal message. I have not heard from the son in at least four years. Nothing at all until I received his wedding invitation.

Miss Manners: When whole family wants to know health details

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a serious, but probably (hopefully) not dangerous medical condition (a benign inoperable brain tumor, if you must know). I am receiving radiation therapy for it. This situation is very unpleasant for me, and I would rather not discuss this except when I feel the need and am comfortable doing so. I have shared this with my immediate family because I want to and I feel they do need to know. However, my wife thinks less close family members need to know this. And when I have chosen to reveal this at family gatherings, I have been chastised for not informing people sooner.

Miss Manners: Celebration hard for cash-strapped

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are gathering for dinner to celebrate a friend’s last night in town, as she is moving away. The host is expecting us all to pitch in and pay for the guest of honor’s dinner. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if the dinner weren’t being held at an upscale, expensive restaurant, and since several of attendees (not including the guest of honor) are either out of work or in danger of losing their jobs. I understand this is customary for birthday celebrations, etc., but is it also customary to pick up the guest of honor’s tab for such an occasion as this?

Miss Manners: ‘Goody bags’ at funeral creepy

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend recently attended the funeral of an acquaintance. During the service, silver trays were passed with small silk bags on them, and each guest was encouraged to take one. She’d been to a funeral where everyone had been given a bubble wand, and during the service they all blew bubbles, so she figured some similar high-jinx were afoot. Later in the service, it was announced that the bags contained the “cremains” of the dearly departed, who could now remain for all eternity with friends and loved ones.

Refer to letter writers’ comments unedited

DEAR MISS MANNERS: As the communications director for a government agency, I respond to written constituent inquiries. In an effort to personalize my responses, I often excerpt from the original missive. For example, “You’re agency stnks!” (sic). Should I correct spelling and grammatical errors from the original correspondence or leave them as is? I hate to fudge a quote, but if I don’t correct errors, I am concerned the constituent will think the mistakes are mine, putting my agency in a bad light.

Miss Manners: Please leave a message – that I’ll never listen to

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A few months ago, I needed to call my former wife on a matter of some importance (fortunately not an emergency) concerning our children. She was not home, so I left a message. She never called me back. When she later learned of the situation, she reproached me for not contacting her, so I explained that I had left a message for her at home.

Miss Manners: Dress color custom not meant strictly

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m pleased to note how consideration for others seems to be the guiding principle of manners as you promote them, but one rule of etiquette has puzzled me for a lifetime: the prohibition of wearing white or linen between Labor Day and Easter. This rule assumes September is always nippy and Easter is always mild, when the reverse can often be true in the United States. The rule seems even more arbitrary when one lives in the subtropics, where February days routinely top 80 degrees. Would you please shed some light on how we might understand this rule?

Students put on the ritz at Holmes

Holmes Elementary School’s cafeteria was transformed into a first-class dining establishment Thursday so graduating sixth-graders could practice the etiquette they’d studied all week.

High school performances are places to encourage arts

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When attending a performance of, say, a high school musical, what are the rules about standing ovations? They seem to be occurring more and more frequently for what I’d consider an adequate, but certainly not spectacular, performance. I know people are proud of their offspring and want to show that, but my goodness, a standing ovation? My husband and I feel mean-spirited just sitting when everyone has heaved him-or-herself out of the chair to “ovate.” I must add that those who do stand appear to do so with some lack of enthusiasm. Any thoughts?

Miss Manners: Handshake works even for kings

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What should an American president do when he greets a foreign head of state? What about his wife? And would that be any different from an average American citizen greeting a foreign head of state? A handshake and “How do you do?” seem appropriate everywhere, but what about curtsies, head nods and genuflecting? Is a bend at the waist considered different from a bent knee? If anyone can have a final say on this, I believe it would be you.

Miss Manners: Calling people on social lies

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was recently a guest at a group campout. While enjoying the fire after a day of outdoor fun, another guest claimed to have been a sniper with a Marine reconnaissance unit in Iraq. His garbled, panicky answers to a few simple ballistics questions revealed this to be an outright lie, but the other guests appeared none the wiser. This spoiled the evening’s conversation for me, and I retired immediately.

Miss Manners: Invited guests carry obligation to send a reply

Dear readers: Guests ought to be insulted by response cards. Decent people of course already know (yes? yes?) that they must always reply to all invitations, even the most casual ones. Does anyone think it all right to stand there speechless in response to “Do you want to take in a movie tonight?” unable to realize that a decision, one way or the other, must be made and conveyed immediately? For formal invitations, a quick and clear response is even more important, and not only because the caterer needs to know how much food to prepare. That is reasonable enough, but it skips the fact that ignoring an invitation is a major insult to the hosts.

Don’t delay enjoying good things in life

Dear Miss Manners: I have a flatware issue that perhaps you could shed light on. My everyday flatware is a set of stainless steel that I purchased over 20 years ago. At this point, it is difficult to keep clean and I don’t really like the design. This leaves me with two choices: purchase a new set of stainless steel or use my set of sterling silver flatware. To be honest, spending money on a new set of stainless flatware seems like a waste of money to me even if I found a set that I like.

Rules of engagement still apply to shady casual acquaintances

Dear Miss Manners: I live and work in a small, localized neighborhood within a large metropolitan city. My job is in retail, and I am paid handsomely to be friendly and courteous to people I would normally prefer not to associate with in my personal life. Sometimes I pass these people on the sidewalk on my days off, and I understand that if we make eye contact, it is proper for me to acknowledge them with a smile and a nod.

Miss Manners: Proud mother seeks guidance on son’s graduation

Dear Miss Manners: My son will be receiving his Ph.D. at a ceremony this June. I am wondering what the proper procedure is for announcing this (to me) exciting and important event to relatives and friends. Does one send announcements like for a regular graduation, or is it better to let people know individually? During these tough economic times, which have hit some family and friends rather hard, I don’t want people to think that we are asking for gifts.

Good luck policing people’s choice of dress

Dear Miss Manners: You see a lot of cleavage in all sorts of settings these days, and most of it has been exposed proudly and purposely, so I’m used to trying to ignore such things. I’m sure it is none of my business to point out unwise clothing choices, even if I find the overexposure embarrassing or offensive. If there’s a chance that person is unaware that he/she’s unintentionally exposed a private part of his/her body, it’s another matter and makes me feel that I should do something to help if I can.

Miss Manners: Say ‘thank you’ but delay etiquette lesson till later

Dear Miss Manners: Will you come to my rescue and share with me a wise and prudent response to the “wisdom” that comes sometimes from the mouths of mere babes? Such as when I pick my 4-year-old up from day care, and one of her little classmates observes, quite loudly and openly, “You have a big belly.”