DEAR READERS: I'm marking my 10-year anniversary of writing the "Ask Amy" column by rerunning some of my favorite Q-and-A's from a decade of advice. Over the years I've composed hundreds of "scripts" for people who struggle with "how to say it." My goal is to help readers start conversations.
DEAR AMY: My brother is trying to get me to date this girl I don't like. She's one of those futureless, pot-smoking screw-ups with the IQ of a sponge, one of the "bad crowd" (like about every other person in this town). I know he's just trying to help me, so how do I tell him to stop and not to try again? I highly doubt any of the people he knows would interest me at all.
— Don't Like Her in N.D.
DEAR DON'T: I'd probably leave out the futureless, pot-smoking screw-up with the IQ of a sponge part and just cut to the chase. You could say, "Thanks, man, but I'm all set." Then I think it's time for you to book your bus ticket. If you are surrounded by such losers, it sounds like it's time to make plans to "get out of Dodge." (2004)
DEAR AMY: My first-grade son brought home some corrected homework the other day on which the teacher had written this note: "Write neater."
Under any other circumstance, I would never correct another adult's grammar; that would be rude and embarassing. But she is a teacher, after all, and she would probably appreciate being reminded that adjectives modify nouns and adverbs modify verbs, and the grammatically correct statement is, "Write more neatly."
— Stickler for Grammar
DEAR STICKLER: In a world gone mad, it's something of a relief to know that there are still people out there for whom grammar is a headline.
If you think your son's teacher would appreciate having her grammar corrected by you then, by all means, let her know that this language breach is something with which you cannot put up. (By the way, you've misspelled "embarrassing" in your note to me, but, hey, I'm just letting you know.)
But since it's rather toward the beginning of the school year, why don't you sit on your grammar issue for a few more weeks and assume that she might have committed a one-time offense.
If you notice further grammar problems or if your son comes home with his participles dangerously dangling, you should speak with her. But don't get cute by circling her comments in red pen or anything. Just tell her you're a stickler and say you've noticed a grammar issue: Is she aware of this? (2003)
DEAR AMY: During the past few years a friend has taken improv comedy classes, which always culminate with skits open to the public. I have attended these shows with a friend or two to show my support, although they can be quite painful to watch.
It seems that my friend expects attendance with "see you there" remarks when extending an invitation. While I am open to going to these shows occasionally, I would rather not be a perennial audience member.
Is there a polite way to say no to these invitations, or should I bite the bullet and go every time? Please keep in mind that the shows usually run for a while, so it's difficult to come up with an excuse that spans several days.
— Looking for Comic Relief in Chicago
DEAR COMIC RELIEF: Maybe you could stand inside one of those imaginary telephone booths and mime your distress by doing a silent scream?
"Call him out" and make him perform a rap song in the character of an improv-theater-loathing squirrel?
Improvise a scene in which you offer to trade places with Saddam Hussein in exchange for one night of improv ... and Saddam says no?
Or you could just tell your friend, "I'm probably going to miss this show, but let me know what comes up next, because I'm interested. I just can't make it to every show."
This way you're covered, just in case your pal is the next John Belushi or Bill Murray. (2004)
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.