Miss Manners: Do I give my relative honest feedback on their self-published memoir?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A family member has self-published a memoir of their life as an e-book. Although we are not close and live in different cities, we do enjoy chatting and catching up by phone from time to time.

I decided to purchase a copy, as I was curious about their perspective on various family events over the years, but found the book to be poorly written and generally uninteresting.

Do I mention it when next we speak? If asked directly, is it acceptable to offer vague pleasantries or a fib? I have no wish to be unkind, as taking the trouble to write and publish this book clearly meant a great deal to my relative.

GENTLE READER: Then say something nice. Your relative is not inviting literary criticism, just a kind word.

And no, you needn’t fib, because for an author, any sign of apparent interest is a kindness. Miss Manners can offer you a few samples:

“You must have a wonderful memory to be able to recount all this.”

“You’ve certainly seen a lot of changes.”


“Was it difficult to go over all that again?”

“Are you planning a sequel?”

No, maybe not that last one.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 17-year-old girl in her final year of high school. Earlier today, I was writing a test, and the teacher asked the students if we minded if she turned on the air conditioning. I immediately replied “No,” and someone else said “Yes, go ahead.” The teacher turned to me and said that it was really warm, and she’d really like to turn the air on.

Miss Manners, I am confused. Isn’t the correct response to someone asking if you mind something to say “No,” as in “No, I don’t mind”? Saying “Yes” is like saying “Yes, I do mind, so please don’t.”

This isn’t the first time I have come across this problem. Please clarify!

GENTLE READER: Was this English class? If so, you should bring the matter up, as it would provoke an interesting discussion about assumptions made in regard to the missing words.

You are right that “No” answers the question. But your classmate could argue that their response implied, “Yes, turn it on.” Evidently, the teacher thought so.

But Miss Manners votes with you.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am expecting houseguests, and their visit will include a Sunday morning. Normal Sunday mornings for us include a church service; we only stay home if someone in the house is ill or the roads are unsafe due to weather.

Our guests will be invited to join us at church, but if they decline, ought I stay at home with them? Or is it acceptable to leave them at the house with a generous supply of coffee, pastries and the Sunday paper?

GENTLE READER: There is no need for you to skip church. Miss Manners assures you that a quiet Sunday, with ample provisions, is the answer to your guests’ wishes -- if not their prayers.

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

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to