DEAR MISS MANNERS: If someone invites you some place, how do you say maybe in a polite way? An example is, say, one of your friends is having people over, then your friends from work ask you if you want to go eat at this place. How do you say maybe in a polite way? I cannot say, "Well, I have to see what my plans are" or "Well, my friend is having people over but if it's lame I'll come...?!?!?"
I do not want to say yes and then not come or be stuck, but then I do not want to say no and then decide, well, I wish I would have gone with the other people.
GENTLE READER: So you want a polite way to say "I'll be there if I don't find something better to do and provided I happen to feel like it at the time"?
Miss Manners is sorry to disappoint you, but there are no polite ways to be rude. Imagine that!
And hedging is rude. Someone who is kind enough to issue you an invitation deserves an immediate answer. You can buy a day's leeway by asking if you can check with your spouse/boss/doctor, but that's it. If you are not enthusiastic about going, decline. If you accept, you have to go.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife, a high school English teacher who taught advanced composition courses to seniors before retiring, had a pet peeve about one very common usage by prominent speakers in every field and also highly respected authors. It is starting a sentence with "I don't think...." She insisted that her students use "I think" instead of "I don't think."
Her rationale was obvious. The latter implies that the writer doesn't think. I would like to have your opinion on this subject.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners hates to contradict pedants, because she is one. But she does not think that your wife is right. And that is more polite than saying that she thinks your wife is wrong, which is no small reason for preferring it.
If the statement "I don't think" stood alone, it would mean what you wife says it does. But she admits that this is only the beginning of a sentence which then names what the person does not think -- itself evidence of thought.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: As half of a same-sex couple, I am a little puzzled about bread-and-butter notes. When my partner and I lived in separate communities and had dinner in the home of a couple who lived in between, I agreed that it was proper for both of us to write. But now that we are living together, it seems a little odd for the same couple to be getting two separate notes from the same household. I think one note over two signatures would suffice. Perhaps we might alternate writing them.
GENTLE READER: Alternate. Or assign the task entirely to whichever of you enjoys doing it or minds the least. Unbeknownst to most brides, even among that gracious minority of brides who actually do write timely letters of thanks, a letter should be signed only by its author. Two people can issue an invitation, send a greeting card, make a formal announcement and write a movie script, but only one person can write a letter.