Miss Manners: My best friend’s second novel is worse than the first

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Dear Miss Manners: One of my best friends decided, in retirement, to write novels. She’s already self-published one, which was awful, but luckily she wasn’t asked to rate it.

He has now sent me a draft of his second novel, which he has been working on for more than two years. This time, she asked me for feedback.

It’s absolutely awful, worse than his first book. I do not know what to say. I really appreciate his friendship.

There is one question Miss Manners will have to ask first, and she also addresses anyone who was about to advise that honesty is always the best policy: Was the request for feedback an honest question?

If your friend is only seeking praise — and will likely argue with constructive criticism — that’s not a reason to lie, but it’s a reason to consider what would be gained from an honest response that alienates her without improving her writing.

It is also, perhaps, a reason to look for a hiding place. Barring changing your name and fleeing the country, the next best advice might be to protest that you’re not a writer; or, if you are, you are not a novelist; or, if you are, you’re not a romance novelist; or, if you are… well, at this point Miss Manners will be relying on your storytelling skills.

Dear Miss Manners: My good friend is having her first grandchild. She asked me to make a quilt for the baby, which I did. Quilts aren’t cheap, so I asked if it could be my baby gift. She was thrilled and said yes.

My daughter, who is friends with the expectant mother, is upset that I’m not buying a gift from the registry. Am I messing up?

To make a gift by hand Did it take your time and will it be remembered by the family when the animated tummy time mat celebrates its 10th anniversary in the landfill, instead of taking 15 seconds to check a box and push a button on a website? Miss Manners hopes not.

Dear Miss Manners: While remodeling my home, at one point I put my contractor on a speakerphone with a vendor so he could discuss the technical specifications of a particular product. My contractor interrupted and was curt with the salesman, whom I found courteous and helpful.

I didn’t feel like “scolding” my contractor – who was always nice to me – but I also didn’t feel good about how he spoke to the salesman. Is there anything I could or should have done now or later?

As an employer, it’s your good name at stake, so Miss Manners agrees that you have a duty to step in when things go wrong. She also realizes that there may be a relevant backstory that the contractor is aware of but you are not. She therefore recommends starting with a question: “Is there a problem with this seller? Is this something you need my assistance with?”

Letting a contractor know you’re paying attention is often enough to save you the unpleasant need to explain that you expect him and his employees to treat other workers with the same courtesy he has shown you.

New Miss Manners columns are published Monday through Saturday washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website, missmanners. com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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