Miss Manners Minds Your Business

It’s been a long time since Miss Manners (Judith Martin) brought out a new etiquette book. By my count, the last one was around the turn of the century, with Miss Manners’ Guide to Domestic Tranquility. Everything since then has been updates of previous volumes, travelogues, or polemics. I shouldn’t complain — she’s been doing this for 35 years, after all — but I do enjoy her comments and advice, and I’d like to read more of it.

So I was thrilled to hear that, in conjunction with her son Nicholas Ivor Martin, she’s got a new volume of advice coming out in September. Miss Manners Minds Your Business is a collection of work-related advice, examples and guidance for a number of basic situations.

The introductory essay, comparing then and now in terms of business manners, sums things up eloquently (as I would expect no less). I wish I could make everyone I’ve worked with read it — and more, follow it, particularly the points about treating everyone with dignity, keeping work restrained to appropriate hours, and avoid confusing workplace and family obligations. I welcome her call for professionalism and a return to dignity.

The meat of the book consists of reader questions and Miss Manners’ on-target answers, which, although brief, are always informative and often entertaining. Covered are such topics as interviewing and getting hired, leaving the workplace (including firings), forms of address, email etiquette, dress codes, yucky things co-workers do, talking about money, networking, office parties, and business friendship.

I would encourage those seeking modern business advice to balance this etiquette book with the more work-focused Ask a Manager website, but many will enjoy considering these questions and answers from a more reserved point of view. I didn’t find quite as much humor in the answers here as I did in previous Miss Manners books; perhaps the subject doesn’t lend itself as well to light-hearted responses, or perhaps it’s been so long that my memory is faulty. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

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