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Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (Freshly Updated) Hardcover – April 17, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0393058741 ISBN-10: 0393058743 Edition: Freshly Updated
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Evoking the vaguely Victorian voice her "gentle readers" no doubt expect, Miss Manners imparts her personal brand of wisdom along with a lady-like amount of wit in this updated look at propriety. Martin, author of the "Miss Manners" columns and a variety of related books, speaks to readers' behavioral concerns typically by introducing a general topic area with a sharp-tongued essay, as she does with "Houseguests," which describes perfect and not-so-perfect guest behavior. She then provides her responses to a limited selection of questions related to the general topic. For instance, regarding guest behavior: When can one stop writing a frequently visited friend thank you notes? Her answer: Only when they appreciate being taken for granted. Though Miss Manners frequently refers to her "gentle readers," there is nothing gentle about her treatment of them. She never shies away from finger-pointing (or wagging), as she does when she chides a woman who engages in one-night stands for complaining about the lack of social follow-up on the part of her discarded men. Unlike etiquette books that take a more preventive approach, offering an encyclopedia-type reference to potentially awkward situations that allows readers to get quick, definitive advice, Miss Manners seems to assume the "gentle reader" has a lot of time for reading-and for puzzling through the answers to divine truly proper behavior or to find a way to apply it to their own situation. And while the questions reflect an updated look at today's etiquette conundrums-from email correctness to dealing with the unmarried pregnant women in our midst-the responses seem to convey weariness over the arrival of such new opportunities for graciousness. In the end, much of Miss Manners' advice can be summarized as: just grin and bear it and leave the snide remarks to pros like myself.

From Booklist

"Freshly updated" is a so much nicer phrase than "revised edition." Besides, isn't it just like Miss Manners (aka Washingtonian Judith Martin) to summarize the quintessential guidelines to "feel correct" in all situations by using two brief sentences? One, don't. Two, be sure not to forget to. As in her previous works of heart, Miss Manners gently approves, educates, and reprimands her fan club and answers urgent should we/shouldn't we questions that literally cover cradle to grave. Her responses are always instructive and usually laced with her unique wit, such as the RSVP to childless couples: "The chief kindness is to remember that your friends now have children and to try not to hold it against them." Or the niceties of eating: "Dessert is the only course that may be properly eaten while strolling on the sidewalk, and only certain desserts at that." And the quick-and-dirty retort to "Where exactly does the salad bowl go?" The answer is, of course, "Directly under the salad." Miss Manners is always as entertaining as she is civilized. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 864 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Freshly Updated edition (April 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393058743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393058741
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

103 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Shape up, America! Miss Manners (a/k/a Judith Martin) is back with a fresh updating of the original MISS MANNERS' GUIDE TO EXCRUCIATINGLY CORRECT BEHAVIOR from the 1970s. And she lays down the law -- only when necessary. She's more interested in deriving principles of correct behavior for everyday life; yet somehow her writings still manage to hold the conceit that the writer is just a little old mid-Victorian lady, quietly sobbing in her lace handkerchief over some new egregious violation of the canons of etiquette.

In short, Judith Martin is more pragmatic than many people give her credit for. People who want only to "do the right thing," wedding-wise, are sometimes unfortunately in thrall to the stereotype of a Hollywood film wedding, "circa 1948." If the numbers and relative sizes of the ushers don't match those of the bridesmaids, well, better to work something out than adhere to a strict model that was idealistic and perhaps a touch bogus to begin with. Miss Manners is against all this "pseudo socializing" at work, especially when people get nickled-and-dimed to death for gift recipients they barely know; but she's for uniforms on kids because otherwise they would look "so drearily alike" in their t-shirts, jeans and sneakers. She's against the kind of complicated and expensive stationery kit that bills itself a "stationery wardrobe"; note cards and letterhead are plenty for most of us, she avers, and don't waste money on preprinted "thank you" cards. Soon-to-be-married couples who suggest that they prefer money to presents deserve neither, in her estimation, especially if it's a second marriage. And she makes each case -- and so many others -- with ironclad logic and penetrating wit.
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a career reference librarian, I have answered probably several thousand inquiries from the public regarding the details of wedding invitations and condolence letters, and whether you're "allowed" to wear white shoes in months with an "R." Those are just "etiquette" questions and most of them I can answer from Emily Post or Amy Vanderbilt -- but for the rationale behind *manners,* I turn always to Judith Martin, the leading authority on civilized behavior for a quarter-century, combining sometimes starchy asperity with a home-grown love of American democracy and classlessness. Who else could lay out so lovingly the rules for a formal dinner à la russe, followed by thoroughly sensible guidelines for the civilized use of cell phones, email, and instant-messaging? And you won't find her wishy-washing when it comes to inviting same-sex couples to dinner or organizing a shower for an unwed mother; to her, people are people and all are deserving of polite treatment, if not always respect. And her dry wit, as always, is a quotable marvel.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Times have changed. We're now in an age of technology with a whole new set of etiquette problems to solve. It seems as though people don't care about manners anymore, codes of conduct relegated to a lost century, like men sporting hats and women in white gloves. But Miss Manners (Judith Martin) is hanging tough, refusing to give in to such lackadaisical attitudes. She's dusted off that old rule book and swept away the cobwebs, offering humorous, often hilarious, common-sense advice to anyone seeking help.

There is no topic Miss Manners won't discuss, although often with a quirky retort that makes you smile, as she tackles every possible topic, including children's manners, basic courtesy for all ages, conversation (especially on those ubiquitous cell phones!), houseguests, rites of passage, engagements and weddings, employment interviews, invitation etiquette, life after divorce and even bereavement. There is virtually no problem ignored and help for every etiquette concern. Let's face it, life has gotten complicated the last few years. It's a real comfort to have this impressive volume, over 800 pages, of Miss Manner's guidance on the family bookshelf.

"Etiquette is not for amateurs" and Miss Manners is adamant about the difference between "being pushy and being a pushover". How do you respond appropriately when having lunch with a "friend" who talks on a cell phone all through the meal? Is it all right to send a thank you note via email? The truth is, we're all in this together. The only reasonable thing to do is treat each other respectfully and resolve those irritating little behavioral problems we all share. Like a favorite non-judgmental aunt, Miss Manners offers her insightful suggestions, guaranteed to save wear and tear on our already fragile psyches. Luan Gaines/2005.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Wilfrid R. Koponen on July 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'd read an earlier version of this guide to etiquette and remembered it as being useful and witty, but I am struck in this updated version by how practical is Miss Manners' advice. Don't be fooled, Gentle Reader: this book is packed with information that you may put to good use in everyday situations, not just at receptions at the White House or at fancy weddings.

Miss Manners covers cell phones and laptop computers. She lets us know that etiquette does NOT require that we agree to be put on hold when we phone a business and are asked, "Would you hold, please?" or that we leave a message when our call is routed to voicemail. (Hanging up on a machine is not rude, she assures us; it's not the same as hanging up on a person.)

Particularly helpful to me are the author's suggested ways of saying "no" politely--for example, when declining to enter into conversation with someone seated next to you on a plane or declining to donate money to a charity when someone phones to ask for money. Main take-away point: apologize ("I'm sorry. . . ."), and say "no" firmly, but do NOT offer any excuses (truthful or otherwise), which is where, she tells us, we are apt to get ourselves into trouble. If pressed, there is always a polite way to cut off the conversation, such as, "I'm sorry, but I never discuss my personal finances" or "I'm sorry, I'm not up to conversation right now."

This book is not just one that deserves to be purchased and read; it deserves to be read cover-to-cover and then referred to again and again.

Recommended most highly.

Brava, Miss Manners!
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