Order your copy of Minding Miss Manners now.

Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Alternatives to ‘Guys’ and ‘Ladies’

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve noticed I tend to respond to emails from my colleagues with the term “guys,” regardless of the gender of the recipients -- i.e., “Thanks, guys.”

I also do this if I’m responding to an email when all the recipients are female. I also do this in person, unless all the people I’m addressing are female, in which case I will use the term “ladies.”

Is there more of an ambiguous or polite term I should be using? And does it matter if I’m referring to only females? For some reason, “Thanks, ladies” seems condescending to me in an email, but perhaps I’m too sensitive. I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues and would hate to learn I’ve ever offended any of them.

GENTLE READER: Email affords you the opportunity to choose your words carefully, and to know whom you are addressing. However, there is rarely a need to identify groups in terms of gender, so why not give it up entirely? “Thanks, everyone” or even just “Thanks” is sufficient to end a letter or discussion.

Miss Manners has noticed that others have taken up her distaste for “you guys” as a generic, supposedly gender-neutral greeting. And the strange notion that a feminine form such as “ladies” is perceived as an insult further corroborates that inherent bias. Until we find a greeting that is truly gender-neutral and satisfactory, Miss Manners suggests that we all give up addressing mass audiences by gender entirely. It seems inevitable to get it wrong or cause offense.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a relative who exercises during conversations. It used to be that she would drop to the floor and do situps, leg lifts or pushups. Family members didn’t know what to say or do, but after she had left, we all agreed that we thought the behavior was quite strange. She even used to do leg stretches in the aisle at restaurants, and I worried that she would trip the wait staff.

Now, she no longer drops to the floor, but does standing stretches and yoga-type exercises. It’s extremely distracting to any conversation the rest of the family is enjoying, particularly when she stands in the line of sight between two people who are conversing.

Is there anything we could or should do to stop this behavior? Currently, I leave the room when this occurs, taking a very long time to get a drink or find a tissue, but then I miss the conversations. There is often no place I can escape to. Do we continue to tolerate such odd behavior?

GENTLE READER: “Mary Louise, I admire how committed you are to fitness, but it is somewhat difficult to hear you or others while you are doing all that heart-healthy breathing. Perhaps you can take a break while we talk so that all of us can enjoy the conversation. Later, I would love to have you show me some of your more effective moves.”

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)