DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a student who really takes her studies seriously. I am academically inclined and enjoy learning, and so I do a lot of extra reading on my own time. Unfortunately, this puts me in an awkward situation: I often notice my teachers' errors.
I never know whether or not I should say anything. It's rude to correct people, and I don't want to seem like a bratty know-it-all. But at the same time, it pains me to see my fellow students taking down and memorizing information that I know to be factually inaccurate.
Is there a way to alert my teachers to their (sometimes distressingly frequent) errors without seeming rude and disrespectful? Or should I just sit silent and sigh to myself?
GENTLE READER: No, speak up. Socially, it is rude to correct others. In the classroom, where the pursuit of knowledge is the goal, this might be considered your duty.
But watch out.
The greatest danger is not that you will be insulting your teacher. It is that you will confidently announce a correction from a source that your teacher, who is presumably more widely read in the field, knows is discredited.
Miss Manners is far from saying that teachers are always right. The best of them can make mistakes, and the very best of them would think well of a student astute enough to uncover a mistake.
But books, also, can contain mistakes. Scholarship is constantly being revised in the light of old errors, new discoveries and novel theories. She therefore advises you to put your information in the form of a question, stating the book in which you read it and asking if different sources disagree on the point.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have discovered that I have fallen into the habit of over-apologizing. I seek to always be polite and to keep my social interactions pleasant and smooth, but I have become quick to drop an "I'm sorry" for things that are clearly not my fault or have not inconvenienced anyone. For example, someone stepping on my foot or dropping my own handbag several feet away from any passersby.
I have been trying to substitute "Excuse me" as much as possible, but could you please suggest other things I may say to minimize my apologies? I am beginning to feel that the sheer excess is starting to diminish my sincerity, and that would make me truly... sorry.
GENTLE READER: Here is your new vocabulary:
"Oops." And its slightly merrier variation: "Whoops!" And "Ow" if someone steps on your foot, in which case that person gets to make the apology.
The first two have a certain insouciant charm, as opposed to the unnecessary breast-beating you have been practicing. If you insist on something longer, Miss Manners offers you "Oh, dear, I'm so clumsy" when you drop something.
Much as etiquette appreciates apologies, you mustn't wear them out. Save them for when you do something truly dreadful, and then use them to wear other people out until they give up and forgive you.