DEAR MISS MANNERS: For the past few years, I have been fortunate to be given very generous bonuses and raises by the firm, and I've written thank-you notes to the founding partners — two of whom are located in a different city, and the third of whom is the managing partner of the office where I work. A few weeks ago, my managing partner stopped by my office with the thank-you notes I had sent to him and returned them to me, saying he was cleaning out his office.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a paralegal in a midsize law firm, where I will soon be marking my 10th anniversary. For the past few years, I have been fortunate to be given very generous bonuses and raises by the firm, and I've written thank-you notes to the founding partners — two of whom are located in a different city, and the third of whom is the managing partner of the office where I work.
A few weeks ago, my managing partner stopped by my office with the thank-you notes I had sent to him and returned them to me, saying he was cleaning out his office. On one hand, I was flattered, if not a little surprised, that he had kept these, but I also thought it was a little unusual to return them. I've never heard of anyone returning a thank-you note, or, for that matter, of anyone other than a doting parent keeping a note for a number of years.
I know he appreciated the gesture, but I'm wondering if, going forward, I should continue to express my appreciation verbally, or by email, without adding to the correspondence on his desk. It's obviously not something I'd feel comfortable asking him.
GENTLE READER: When Miss Manners considers demands for the return of correspondence, she is thinking of someone insisting on the return of love letters, not the hoarding of thank-you letters. Otherwise, returning letters is an insulting gesture.
What your managing partner did was, indeed, odd, and in your particular case, she agrees that in future, consideration suggests that you clutter his electronic inbox instead of his desk.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: On what occasion would you cover your plate with your napkin? If you don't finish your meal and want to shield your guests from seeing it? When you finish?
GENTLE READER: Never?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: As someone who endeavors to fulfill the obligations of a polite person, I find myself stymied by how to write an appropriate letter of condolence in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
A young man who had been in my daughter's class from kindergarten through high school recently died of a drug overdose. We do not have a personal relationship with his parents, yet if I lost my child under such horrific circumstances, I hope I would find it comforting to know that others remembered him and cared enough to write.
But how can one correctly word a letter expressing sympathy for such an unimaginable loss? I hesitate to mention my daughter's connection to this young man for fear that it would be insensitive, yet it is likely that they would recognize her name, but perhaps not mine.
GENTLE READER: Mentioning your own daughter is only insensitive if the bereaved parents resent your not having suffered a similar loss. Bereaved parents can be forgiven much, but as it is an ugly feeling, it is more generous to assume this is not the case. Miss Manners trusts that a condolence letter from your family — which includes your daughter — will be both appreciated and taken in the proper spirit.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.