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

How Will People Learn If I Don’t Correct Them?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: You’ve said it’s considered rude to correct others’ manners. I’ve always been told this, but it leads me to this question: How are others to learn better manners if they’re never corrected when they’re rude?

I realize it can be difficult to do this kindly if one is feeling insulted by the rudeness. But if it can be done nicely, wouldn’t it be helpful to say, “Shelby, do you realize how rude it is when you do X?”

I don’t expect you to change your mind on this point of etiquette, but I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts.

GENTLE READER: You are correct that if no one’s manners were ever corrected, we would all be eating with our hands and wiping our mouths on the tablecloth.

Miss Manners does not dictate that no one can correct another person’s manners -- only who may do so, and sometimes when. Parents may correct their own, growing children. Teachers may correct students.

It may interest you to know that Miss Manners, who, in her profession, corrects everyone, would consider it the height of rudeness were she to correct a friend or acquaintance face-to-face.