This tag is for questions regarding the polite use of words or phrases.

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68
votes
9answers
25k views

Can “thanks in advance” be considered rude?

Some argue that because “thanks in advance” is written before any help has been offered, it adds an expectation of help and thus can be considered presumptuous. Is this reasonable? Would it be ...
61
votes
16answers
85k views

How do native English speakers respond to “Thank you”?

In my school and university I was taught to say "Not at all" or "Don't mention it" in response to "Thank you!". Now I rarely hear these phrases used, but rather something like "You're welcome", "It's ...
55
votes
13answers
8k views

Is there a polite alternative to “No thanks, I'm full”?

English is not my native language, but when I was studying in the US, I was always trying to find an alternative to I'm full! I felt that it was a very improper way to express that I have eaten ...
29
votes
8answers
17k views

“Toilet”, “lavatory” or “loo” for polite society

My friend is trying so hard to fit into polite society, and is raising her child to say loo rather than toilet. I know it should be lavatory (and I would not say lav) but we are in the 21st century ...
27
votes
6answers
37k views

When do I use “can” or “could”?

When should I use can? When should I use could? What is right under what context?
25
votes
12answers
25k views

Are greetings and salutations redundant in an e-mail?

Do I really need to write my email this way? Hi John, [My Message here] Regards, Jane The email header already includes the to and from. The recipient should not be confused by who the ...
24
votes
16answers
25k views

Polite synonyms for “a——hole-ish” behavior

Are there any polite synonyms for asshole-ish behavior? A good synonym would probably have about the same impact and wouldn't send people looking for their dictionaries.
23
votes
32answers
6k views

Alternative ways to say “I cannot answer that question”? [closed]

I'm getting bored of repeating the same "I can't answer that" phrase over and over. I'm trying other phrases, like "I'll leave that to your imagination," but that one sounds too weird. Specifically, ...
20
votes
11answers
3k views

Is “chubby” offensive?

I said to a person that she is "chubby" and, apparently, she took it very seriously. What I meant to say is that she's not skin and bones, she carried more pounds than needed but, precisely because of ...
20
votes
6answers
32k views

How should I ask for a bill in a restaurant politely?

I used to say check please, but my English teacher said that it's wrong, and the proper way is to say something like bill please. What's the truth?
20
votes
5answers
63k views

“My friends and I” vs. “My friends and me” vs. “Me and my friends”

I've always been taught to put myself last when referring to myself in the same sentence as others but the usage of "me and..." seems to be everywhere these days. The misuse of the word "me" instead ...
19
votes
7answers
36k views

What is the meaning of “don't mention it” (in response to “thank you”)?

I read at several places that "don't mention it" is equal to "you're welcome". But for me, the word means something like "don't go around talking about this to anyone". So what is the real meaning of ...
18
votes
10answers
8k views

Is “Yankee” derogatory?

I have heard of the term "Yankee" often referring to people in the Northern U.S. by Southerners. My question is: is this term considered derogatory or offensive and should it be avoided in formal ...
17
votes
19answers
12k views

What is a less offensive synonym for “retarded”?

I occasionally use "retarded" when chastising myself or other friends. I know it's not Politically Correct, but am I only allowed to say stupid? How long before we can't say that anymore? Other ...
17
votes
4answers
14k views

“you” versus “You” as polite form of writing

Is it correct to write "You" with a capital Y as a form of politeness? If yes, should I use that form throughout the entire letter/document, or only at specific places?
17
votes
3answers
3k views

May you please explain this?

At a family dinner, my 18 year-old niece asked my sister, "May you please pass the salt?" My sister said that she was impressed with her daughter's politeness, but that that particular wording was ...
15
votes
5answers
4k views

How should I address a professor in the US?

I am always puzzled about how students address a professor in America. Perhaps "Professor + Last name" is the most formal way to do. Here are my questions: What if the last name of a professor is ...
15
votes
2answers
735 views

Tendency of using pronouns 'she/her' when talking about a random person

Reading different specifications and manuals I've noticed that more often and often pronouns she or her are being used when some unknown person's behavior is described. For example: "when user opens ...
14
votes
9answers
7k views

What does “No Thanks!” mean?

Alice: Do you want some cookies? Bob: No thanks! Does it mean that Bob doesn't want cookies but still is thankful or its just opposite of thanks?
14
votes
5answers
10k views

What’s wrong with saying “Have a nice day”?

I once read the book Class: A Guide Through the American Status System by Paul Fussell. There, he mentioned that saying “Have a nice day” was a faux pas, without elaborating why. I’m not American, ...
14
votes
6answers
4k views

What is the correct form of address for a police officer?

How should one address a police officer in English speaking countries? More specifically, in a non-emergency situation—asking directions for example—what is the expected form of address used to call a ...
14
votes
2answers
25k views

In what cases should I use a comma after “please”?

As far as I can see from different texts, there seems to be no strict rule about putting comma after "Please" when it is used as an introduction to a request. Am I right? In what cases using comma ...
13
votes
4answers
860 views

What are exchanges like “How are you,” “I'm fine,” and “See you later” called?

Some verbal/written exchanges convey almost no meaning but are part of the protocol of conversation. For example, somebody greets you with "How are you?" and they're not usually not listening for ...
12
votes
6answers
9k views

What is a less offensive synonym for “hypocrite”?

Is there a word that describe a person who doesn't "practice what they preach"? Basically, is there a synonym for "hypocrite" that carries less pejorative connotations? For example, let's say a ...
12
votes
6answers
675 views

Will some parents be offended when being asked, “Is it male or female?”

If I ask the parent about a baby's gender, will it be impolite or not appropriate to say, "Is it male or female?" Is there any subtle difference, in terms of politeness, among "Is it a boy or ...
12
votes
7answers
2k views

Is it appropriate to call a British person a “Brit”?

Specifically, is it appropriate for a non-British person to call a British person a "Brit"? Whenever I see it from an American source it always feels too familiar or too informal, or both. But I can't ...
12
votes
5answers
31k views

Popular alternatives to “thank you”

The context for my question might be a bit strange. I have stuttering and therefore I have some difficulties pronouncing some words starting with particular phonetics. And I've found that if a ...
12
votes
4answers
845 views

How to ask a knowledge question without causing offence?

By "knowledge question", I mean any sort of question intended to check whether the listener already knows the answer or not. For example: Are you familiar with how an operating system works? Do you ...
10
votes
3answers
3k views

How do I ask a question politely?

When I was growing up, if I ever said something similar to "Can I go to the store with Joe?", my mom would correct me with "May I go to the store with Joe?". Is "May I?" the typical way to ask a ...
10
votes
10answers
14k views

Polite way to refuse to answer a question

It sometimes happens that I am asked a question which I am uncomfortable answering for a variety of reasons (it invades my privacy, the answer may hurt the person asking, it is painful for me to ...
10
votes
7answers
4k views

When is it appropriate or disrespectful to refer to someone as “she”?

My boss has asked me not to refer to her as she because she says it's disrespectful. After I refer to her by her proper name or by her title, isn't it appropriate to refer to her as she?
10
votes
3answers
324 views

“God bless you” equivalent for fart?

In response to someone sneezing there are a few possible phrases you can say as a form of polite acknowledgement: "God bless you" "Gesundheit" And others. But with a fart you laugh, deride ...
10
votes
3answers
45k views

What is the meaning of “I am humbled”?

From a recent article on CNN: Aboukhadijeh, who is from Sacramento, California, said he's been blown away by how quickly his tool went viral and is grateful for all the supportive feedback. ...
9
votes
21answers
2k views

What is a word to describe a statement that seems meaningless

Is there a phrase or word in the English language that describes a statement or a discourse that seems meaningless or so broad it lacks value? For example Society grows best when those who plant ...
9
votes
4answers
2k views

Why is “bloody” considered obscene in the UK but not in the US?

Why is the word bloody considered obscene in the UK but not so in the US?
9
votes
1answer
1k views

Is there any situation where I should use ‘Thank you’ instead of ‘Thanks’?

The EL&U’s archives told me ‘thanks’ is slightly more informal than ‘thank you’. I’d like to get a little more specific info. I’m now reading Harry Potter series and came across the following ...
9
votes
4answers
85k views

“Could you please” vs “Could you kindly”

I am a non-native speaker of English. When communicating with a professor, would it be better to use could you kindly send me the document or could you please send me the document? I know both are ...
9
votes
1answer
7k views

Politely asking “Why is this taking so long??”

I am trying to write a business email and, as English is not my first language, I'm having a bit of trouble coming up with a really polite way of saying the following: Hi, It's been a week since I ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

Is “not at all” still alive and doing well?

I was taught to use "not at all" as a rather polite, standard reply to "thank you". However, I don't see it being used at all nowadays. Can I still use it? Would it be widely understood? Should I be ...
8
votes
6answers
4k views

Response to “God Bless” when parting company

What should the correct response be (from someone not overtly religious) if someone says "God bless" when parting company? "Bye now" or "Bye" doesn't seem an adequate response.
8
votes
5answers
34k views

Is it acceptable to drop the comma in “Thanks, John”? [duplicate]

I grew up learning that the comma must be placed there, but it seems like an unnecessary interruption in a phrase that isn't ever spoken that way.
8
votes
6answers
32k views

Madam vs. Ma'am

I suspect that the answer to this depends on region, so insights from multiple areas would be beneficial: It has been my impression that in the US addressing a woman as "Madam" is considered ...
8
votes
2answers
500 views

How should one address a police officer in the US? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the correct form of address for a police officer? What is the correct way to address a police officer in the US in a non-emergency situation (such as asking ...
8
votes
2answers
33k views

Is “nice to meet you” an appropriate online salutation?

When one makes a new acquaintance with somebody in person, you may say "it was nice to meet you", e.g. when you leave. What if you make a new acquaintance over the internet, what do you say when you ...
8
votes
5answers
2k views

Is “IMHO” a rude thing to say (or type)?

The initialism1 IMHO stands for "in my humble opinion". It's commonly used in text-based communication (chat clients, forums, popular Q&A platforms). Here's an example: Person A: What do you ...
7
votes
5answers
2k views

Is it rude to call a gay person “homosexual?”

I was talking to one of my co-workers today. We have two homosexual persons in our office. I forgot one's name, so I asked my co-worker, "What's his name?" My co-worker said "Who?", and I replied, ...
7
votes
9answers
1k views

Is saying “who cares” impolite or rude?

Two people are talking about what tasks should be finished on time, and what tasks should be put off until later. The conversation was like below: A: I don't think those tasks are important. We ...
7
votes
4answers
6k views

Proper answer to “excuse me”

What is a proper reply for excuse me? Like for thank you, you can say no problem or welcome. I don't know what a proper reply for excuse me would be.
7
votes
7answers
30k views

Should I say “have a good night” at 5:00 PM?

We're off work at 5:00PM. I've never tried to say "have a good night" at this time of day. In fact, I wouldn't even say it at all unless I'd like to say it to someone who is heading to bed. When I'm ...
7
votes
7answers
772 views

A polite substitution for “lamer”

Is there a polite word that can be used to designate someone who didn't really understand what he or she was doing? Or, in general, someone who is intentionally ignorant of how things work. A "lamer" ...