DEAR MISS MANNERS: A conflict of values: I have always been committed to the practice of sending hand-written expressions of thanks for kindnesses in an appropriate and timely manner, and have valued receiving the same from others.
However, I am also committed to doing my small part to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases on our precious environment. I recycle, take canvas bags when I shop, receive and pay bills electronically, and send electronic greeting cards to friends. I have canceled all catalogues and magazine subscriptions, carefully managed the use of electricity and gas in my home, and am careful about fuel consumption in my auto.
I find myself feeling guilty when I write a thank-you note, as each note uses resources in the form of both the paper on which it is written and the fuel required to send it from place to place. I would like to replace these notes with similarly appropriate expressions of thanks via e-mail to those of my friends who I know use e-mail. I would value your thoughts on this dilemma.
GENTLE READER: Weighing competing virtues is a pleasant diversion to Miss Manners, who spends most of her time just pointing out the difference between good and bad manners.
So let us examine the particulars of your case. It argues well for you that you do propose continuing to express thanks in writing, and that you extend your sacrifices to matters other than your social duties. You'd be surprised at how many virtuous-sounding people do neither.
How many letters of thanks do you use in a year, and how many pages do you write? How much more energy is used by sending a letter through the postal service as opposed to using your computer?
When you have an estimate, it should be weighed against the difference between the hand-written letter and the same text sent by e-mail. That would consist of the extra trouble your recipient observed you taking on his or her behalf. It is rather like handing over a bare object as a present rather than gift-wrapping it (which may also be one of your ways of saving paper). And the total should include the overall effect of doing away with small niceties.
Miss Manners does not presume to give you your answer. But she knows what she would decide.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: If a man wants to cross his legs while sitting, how should he do it? One alternative is with the crossed leg at a more or less 90-degree angle with the top ankle on the bottom knee. The other alternative is the more "feminine" way, with the top knee directly above the bottom knee. This latter way is much less comfortable for men for somewhat obvious reasons, though I've been told that it is the only proper way. Is that true?
GENTLE READER: It's not even proper for ladies, Miss Manners is afraid. They are supposed to cross their ankles, not their knees. To get an idea why, the next time you are in a lecture audience, take a look at ladies who are sitting cross-legged on a platform.
Gentlemen, in contrast, are supposed to keep their feet on the floor, not to form an unfortunate triangle by crossing an ankle over a knee. To get an idea why...