Dear Miss Manners: I have an old friend from high school, and we carry on a very cordial correspondence via e-mail and social media. Most of our exchanges are lighthearted and brief. We are both very busy, and I, especially, do not want to get bogged down with the need to read and respond to long e-mails.

The problem is that my friend loves to travel — and to write excruciatingly long, detailed trip reports. He e-mails these out with the expectation that everyone read them and comment on them. Even though he can't travel anymore due to COVID-19, he still writes about decades-old trips! Every time he sends one, I want to pull my hair out, and I am already mostly bald!

I don't want to hurt his feelings, but I can't think of a tactful way to tell him I would rather read a book in the small amount of spare time I have rather than read and respond to another of his voluminous travel e-mails.

Gentle Reader: It is not often that Miss Manners has the chance to relieve people of the obligation of responding. You do have to respond to invitations with a definitive acceptance or expression of regret. You do have to respond to presents with letters of thanks. You do have to respond to your friend's personal messages if you want to maintain the friendship.

But guess what? You do not have to respond to social media postings or mass e-mails, as these are not tailored to the recipient. They are more like press releases, widely distributed in the hope of catching some interest.

But if that seems callous, simply reply with "Nice trip!" This can be done without reading the accounts. Or tearing out your remaining hair.

Dishing up butter

Dear Miss Manners: I know dinner rolls and butter are not traditionally part of a formal dinner service, but if I want to serve butter at the table, how should I do so?

I have a collection of antique butter pats that I would love to use, but I am wondering how these were traditionally used. When I have searched online for "how to use butter pats," most of the results refer either to slices of butter from a stick, or to implements for making and shaping butter — not how to use these tiny plates.

Gentle Reader: Did you bookmark the link about shaping butter? It may be useful if it has to do with making tiny shapes — roses or pleated balls, for instance — to put on those little plates, confusingly themselves called butter pats, which are for serving individual portions of butter.

You can just whack squares from a butter stick, of course. But such plates were generally forgotten, or pressed into humiliating service as inadequate ashtrays, and Miss Manners presumes you would like to make them proud again.

"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post. Send questions to