Miss Manners: Too busy to write a letter? No, just lazy

January 15, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m in the process of applying to law schools. Most schools require that you submit three letters of recommendation.

Last August I asked three former colleagues if they would mind submitting letters on my behalf. All three of them enthusiastically agreed. At the time, I told them that I would need the letters to be sent in around November, since admissions are rolling and I would have a better shot at acceptance if my applications were completed earlier.

It’s now approaching mid-January and none of my recommenders has submitted a letter.

While I understand that schedules are busy, final deadlines are in February, and I’m concerned that my applications will not be completed. I sent each of these colleagues a handwritten letter in August thanking them for agreeing to write letters for me and again in early December updating them on my progress.

What is the polite way to remind these people about the recommendations? If they no longer wish to write these letters on my behalf, I need to know as soon as possible so that I may find replacements.

GENTLE READER: Nobody is too busy to write a letter. Miss Manners keeps hearing that anguished cry — from bridal couples, from young people whose relatives shower them with presents, from friends of the bereaved — but it arouses no sympathy in her steely heart.

She has a pretty good idea of how these people spend the discretionary time that they grudge others — and many of whom have just spent time and thought on pleasing them.

In the case of recommendations, there could be another, equally culpable, element. It is possible that they didn’t want to recommend you, in which case they should have said immediately that they didn’t feel they could do you justice. But as they were all enthusiastic at the time, Miss Manners suspects the rudeness is due to laziness.

You have done all you can, except to find other letter writers immediately, and caution them that it must be done that very day to meet the looming deadline.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My dentist enjoys using his patients as a means of venting his political frustrations. I’ve been through several nightmarish dentists and don’t want to give this one up, as he does a very good job on my teeth, but I am stressed by the comments he makes regarding the state of things in society.

I would normally try to change the subject by saying, “So how is the tartar looking?” but it’s rather hard to talk with dental instruments in my mouth. What can I do short of changing dentists?

GENTLE READER: Close your eyes.

Normally, this is not a polite thing to do while someone is talking to you. But those dental chairs are so comfortable, and there are sprays in the air from which you should shield your eyes, and anyway, your mouth is open, and he is supposed to be concentrating on his work.

Miss Manners suggests that you refrain from making those ulmphh noises that dental patients do to indicate assent, to leave the impression that you have dozed off. With any luck, you will.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2013, by Judith Martin

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