DEAR MISS MANNERS: This is a question the answer to which will probably benefit any graduate student.
I am about to finish a late paper. It's two years late and, worse, the recipient of the paper is among the leading scholars in her field (unfortunately for me, also my field).
What tone do I take? Flippant I know is bad, but an obsequious apology would probably be seen both as insincere and as a waste of her time. I'm leaning toward a very brief note like this: "Dear Professor Soandso, I'm sorry this is so late." Please advise.
GENTLE READER: Any graduate student? You mean they are all two years late turning in their theses? Oh -- except for those who never finish and therefore never have to grovel.
Yes, grovel. Like flippancy, a perfunctory apology would leave a lasting impression of nonchalance on someone whose opinion will seriously influence your career. Miss Manners has one more writing assignment for you, and it is due when you hand in the paper. The topic is "How I Got So Caught Up in This Fascinating Subject Through Your Teaching and Writing That I Had Trouble Establishing a Cut-Off When I Would Stop Researching and Start Writing."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a married woman in a platonic friendship with a married man. We two couples are members of the same clubs, and so frequently find ourselves in social circumstances.
My friend's wife seems to dislike me intensely, in spite of my attempts at gracious behavior toward her. I suspect that she thinks my friendship with her husband is not platonic. He and I only see each other at parties and club events, always with one or both of our spouses present.
They attend all my parties. He seems to have a good time, while she sits in a corner, without smiling or speaking. I used to invite them to dinner by themselves, but stopped after a few cold refusals. They entertain frequently, and invite all our mutual friends, but not my husband and me. It hurts my feelings when people discuss their plans with this couple, assuming that we have been invited, when we have not. Must I drop them entirely?
GENTLE READER: If your friend has a wife who is jealous for no reason, who sulks at parties and who refuses to reciprocate invitations she has accepted, even if unwillingly, he has a big problem. Miss Manners advises you to extract yourself from the friendship before it becomes your big problem.