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Miss Manners: Do traditional etiquette rules apply to online dating?

Dear Miss Manners: I’m an online dating coach, and I often work with female clients who are flooded with date requests the moment their profile pictures go live.

It’s very common in online dating for women to reply selectively, ignoring the many messages from potential suitors who don’t seem like a good match — or who seem to have copied and pasted a dull boilerplate message to 100-plus different women.

For the most part, I permit and even encourage such selective reply behavior.

However, I know you regularly indicate that all invitations, no matter how casual, deserve a reply. (I admit I'm sometimes guilty of not replying to online invitations, particularly since I receive messages to attend art exhibits or contribute to fundraising campaigns all over the globe.)

I'd like to get your take on replying to online dating messages and invitations. How diligent do you feel a lady must be in responding to potential suitors?

Is it appropriate to roughly match the amount of effort the suitor seems to have put into the message? For example, a message reading simply “Hi cutie :)" does not necessarily merit a response beyond “Hello,” but a message thoughtfully indicating a suitor has read a woman’s profile and would like to meet her in person for a nice outing would deserve a polite reply, even if the answer were ultimately in the negative.

This is strange new territory for traditional etiquette rules, but I think there’s value in keeping them in mind. I’d love your opinion, both out of curiosity, and to have something to point my clients to, in print, that indicates they may wish to reconsider their communication tendencies!

Much as she appreciates your deference, Miss Manners must qualify that injunction to answer all invitations. All genuine invitations, yes, but solicitations do not qualify. If you are invited to the opening of a store that does not interest you, must you respond to the advertisement that invites you, even if it is addressed to you by name?

Online dating generally requires mutual agreement before socializing. Positive responses may lead to such, and therefore require the social niceties, but there seems little point in negative responses to opening overtures.

As everyone is self-declared as available, the little excuses of being busy are patently false, and the rejected person can only conclude that it is on the basis of appearance or other qualifications. Better to be left in doubt, consoling oneself with the notion that it is the non-respondent who is deficient.

Dear Miss Manners: My spouse’s siblings obviously are my in-laws, but are their spouses my in-laws as well? Just wondering about terminology.

Do you like them?

In that case, yes; commonly, they are also referred to as in-laws. But if you really can’t stand them, Miss Manners gives you leave to refer to such as “my brother-in-law’s wife” and “my sister-in-law’s husband.”

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, non. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin