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Reblogged:What Are Rules For?

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One of the reasons Miss Manners has long been my favorite etiquette column is that the question What for? is never far from the authors' minds. (It doesn't hurt the the replies are often humorous.) To wit, a reply to a question about how far from the edges of the envelope one ought to place a stamp:
Image by Brett Jordan, via Unsplash, license.
Etiquette governs behavior among people, a fact obscured by the public's -- though not etiquette's -- obsession with the disposition of the silverware.

As the stamp is now more likely to interact with a machine at the post office than a clerk, it need only be in reasonable reach of that machine.

But as the recipient of the letter may see it before it lands in the trash, Miss Manners counsels that the stamp not be placed so as to draw unwanted attention on its way out. It should be far enough from the edges that it will not detach, and even enough that it does not suggest the poster was in no condition to be writing letters. [bold added]
What I like about this gentle reminder of the purpose of etiquette is that it helps the reader properly conceptualize it, and to become better able to make such judgements on his own. In addition, it both helps us see the importance of etiquette for ourselves and helps us realize that those who ritualistically follow what they allege to be rules of etiquette (or wrongly insist on others doing so) are not truly being polite at all.

-- CAV

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