Dear Miss Manners: I am looking for an appropriate way to uninvite someone to a corporate event. The guest list has been revised, and I need to uninvite five guests.
Gentle Reader: If this were a social function, Miss Manners would have to tell you that there is no polite way to rescind a proffered invitation. In contrast, revising the list of attendees to a work meeting carries no such ban.
It seems clear that the event in question blurs the boundary between professional and private life. Your only hope is to reassert the distinction.
This will be easier to do if the uninvitees are employees who were "working" the event, since you may be able to suggest that their workload is being reduced. If, however, you have spent the past few months telling everyone that this event is fun and not work — or if these are outside guests — you would do better to locate five more chairs.
Mom's the 'boss'
Dear Miss Manners: I work with my mother, who happens to be my "boss." How should I address her in the workplace?
Gentle Reader: Address her as you would an employer who did not rear you, which among other things, Miss Manners points out, means omitting those quotation marks.
No party, but send gifts
Dear Miss Manners: We have a super busy year with a wedding and grad party, but my daughter wants to skip a grad party because it, like the wedding, would require all of our family to travel.
But I want to acknowledge her graduation and hope that people would still send a gift.
Is there a way to word this appropriately on a card? "Our daughter is graduating, but we want to save you the travel, but please acknowledge her anyway." Just kidding, what is the best way to handle this?
Gentle Reader: Of course Miss Manners understands that you are kidding. How could there be a polite way to tell people that you are doing them a favor by not offering to entertain them, but that they should not consider that an excuse to skip rewarding your daughter for finishing school?
Changing the subject
Dear Miss Manners: People often ask what I do for a living, and when I reply, they say, "Oh! You must love that!"
I do not like my job, nor do I like talking about it. When I give the answer, "No, not really," they insist on knowing why that could possibly be, and then try to point out the merits of my job.
How can I fend off the questions and avoid this topic of conversation?
Gentle Reader: By resisting the temptation to give a leading answer. Miss Manners suggests keeping your answer short — "yes" — and changing the subject. But if you prefer to avoid a white lie, answer a different question. Nod your head distractedly and reply, "Ah, yes," while thinking — but not saying — "I can see how you would think that."
"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post. Send questions to her website, www.missmanners.com.