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Miss Manners for Jan. 30

Saturday, January 29, 2011; 5:23 PM

Dear Miss Manners:

I, like many, feel uneasy about asking for help in general areas of life. For example: rides to the airport, watching the children for an hour or painting a room. For myself, it is because I am afraid others will see me as needy and therefore will avoid me. So I avoid asking for even one thing.

I wish there was a common rule as to how often one could ask for large or small favors! A guideline similar to "overnight guests do not stay longer than three days" would be a wonderful relief. Do you have any recommendations as to how often one should ask for a favor?

Approximately as often as one does more or less comparable favors for the same people.

Miss Manners put those qualifiers in there to avoid quashing generosity toward those in need, even relatively trivial need. Friends, colleagues and neighbors ought to be prepared to do favors for one another without keeping an exact and immediate count of who does what for whom.

But for this to work, it must be basically reciprocal. Perhaps you do not drive, but you could shovel a neighbor's snow. The friend whose computer emergencies you keep solving should be glad to help paint your room. Whatever you can do for others will make you part of a network of mutually helpful people.

This is not to say that good people always expect to be paid in kind. Many will cheerfully comply with requests - until they suddenly realize that the beneficiary just keeps asking but is never available when they need a favor.

At that point, even the most charitable souls begin to reflect that what they are giving is not favors but charity. And they may prefer to redirect their charity to those who cannot possibly pay for taxis, babysitters and painters.

Dear Miss Manners:

I've just been informed that only one space is needed after a period, but having learned to type on a typewriter, this confused me. Apparently (note, I'm still putting in two spaces), computer fonts no longer require two spaces after a period, but if you (whoever that may be) are typing on a typewriter, you should continue to do so?

Ordinarily, Miss Manners handles only those problems that are truly about etiquette. This is less of a limitation than one may think, considering that she defines etiquette as all human social behavior.

She does have a hard time fitting the relationship between sentences into that definition. However, as someone who vaguely remembers the typewriter as an attempt to replace the quill, she is too much interested in your question to pass it on to Miss Print, if such a creature exists.

Her answer is that while it is true that a computer does not require double spaces between sentences, you should continue to use two spaces on the typewriter. Partly this has to do with tradition. But mostly it has to do with the fact that anyone still using a typewriter has been at it too long to be retrained.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail questions to Miss Manners at MissManners@unitedmedia.com; enter them at www.missmanners.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

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