DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have just graduated from high school and received a few small scholarships for academic merit from local organizations. My mother wants me to write thank you notes to them. While I don't have a problem expressing my gratitude, I don't know anybody in these organizations very well, and I am not sure if writing thank-you notes would be appropriate.
I have asked my friends if I should write notes, and they all said no, but they also don't believe in R.S.V.P.-ing to invitations, using turn signals, stopping at stop signs or apologizing for bumping into people.
Would thank you notes be a) required, b) nice but not necessary, or c) inappropriate, in this situation?
GENTLE READER: What is inappropriate is for your friends to be handing out etiquette advice. They are singularly unqualified to do so, and Miss Manners hopes the scholarships will put you into more refined circles.
The problem is not so much that your friends don't know the rules, but that they don't know the first principle of etiquette. That is to look at each situation from the point of view of everyone involved before weighing the claims and hardships. In your case, as in the others you cite, they are of the "Why bother?" school, unwilling to consider the effect that their failure to act will have on their hosts (or traffic).
Suppose you try imagining the effect of your writing that letter of thanks. Is it likely to annoy your benefactors if they are thanked for their generosity?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm afraid that I'm puzzled by your use of titles when you referred to "Gen. Washington, Dr. Franklin and Mr. Jefferson." Surely the fine old rule that at most one living person has the title of "president" no longer applies to the first and third? And if you do not care to use "President" for them, why does Gen. Washington receive his lesser courtesy title when Gov. Jefferson does not? I am doubtless missing a subtle point.
My smart aleck follow-up to my first question was to wonder whether you believed that the presidents had been raised as zombies, vampires or other revenants, so that the "President" rule applied again. I then wondered whether manners had rules about titles and honors for the undead. Mr. Bram Stoker's famous character may easily have been Vlad III Tepes, the late head of state of Wallachia, so it's possible that the issue has been considered. I suspect the correct answer is that such a creature is addressed either 1) however he wants, or 2) "AIIIEEEEEE!"
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners hates to discourage a smart aleck by taking him seriously, but you do happen to have the right answers. Your second suggestion seems apt for addressing the undead, while your first one applies to the three gentlemen whose titles you question. Two of these gentlemen quite properly eschewed the title of president after leaving office, and the third managed to escape election. The titles Miss Manners used in referring to them are known to be the ones each preferred.