The Washington Post

Miss Manners: Crank letters need no response

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work as a secretary at an English department. Somewhat to my surprise, we have been besieged by fringe “academics” who are very adamant that we are part of a conspiracy to cover up the fact that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was Shakespeare.

The professors understandably do not wish to waste their time on this. I personally think the “authorship question” is an incredibly stupid and classist one, but as I am not credentialed, just the person handling incoming general mail, I am not sure what to say.

GENTLE READER: Have you thought of responding that you are all wild-eyed revolutionaries, determined to suppress an aristocratic genius in favor of a plebeian hack?

No, Miss Manners supposes not. Conspiracy theorists are not known for their sense of humor, and inflaming them would only waste your own time.

These letters are not academic challenges; they are accusations. What you need is not a response, but a crank file.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: With all the read-a-thons, walk-a-thons, bike-a-thons, bowl-a-thons, etc., I’m frequently asked to make donations and often do so. More often than not, the request is in the form of an e-mail and a link to a Web site where I can make a donation.

For the past 15 years, I’ve been fundraising myself for a number of charities by participating in multiday bicycle rides. I send out letters and e-mails with requests for funds. When I get a donation, I make sure that I at least send an e-mail to the donor. After the event, I write a letter recapping the event. I’m often complimented on the letter. I also bake goodies at Christmas to give to the donors I can easily reach.

Since I know the effort it takes to raise funds, I give donations to others, including people participating in the same event. I don’t expect the same amount of effort I do in responding to my donors, but I’m always a bit disappointed when I don’t have my gift acknowledged.

Last year I made a donation to another high-profile rider who sent out an e-mail asking for donations since he was having problems raising the minimum. I responded, and noticed later that he went way beyond the minimum required to participate. I’m certain he was notified of my donation, since the ride sends out e-mails to the participants when they receive a gift. We saw each other several times while on the ride and he said nothing.

Finally, I approached him and told him, “You’re welcome.” His response was along the lines that he sends out all thank-yous at one time after the ride. I never got one.

Am I assuming too much when I expect some form of acknowledgment from the participant when I make a donation?

GENTLE READER: The dark side of philanthropy is the widespread notion that being charitable excuses one from practicing other virtues.

A frankly taught technique of charitable fundraising is causing embarrassment. And if it weren’t for organizations being required to acknowledge donations for tax purposes, donors would hear nothing from their beneficiaries except repeated requests for more.

Miss Manners is sorry to find that you are not only the victim of this attitude, but also a perpetrator. Your donation did not excuse the rudeness of confronting the recipient with his ingratitude.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site,

2014, by Judith Martin



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