Etiquette Questions, Answered: Tricky Conversations
Q. My superior at work consistently misuses a common phrase, “in light of,” both in conversation and in writing. It totally drives me crazy and makes her look rather foolish—which she isn’t, at all. Do I tell her?
Name withheld by request
A. Do not correct your boss. If you are a parent, you may correct your children. If you are a teacher, you may correct your students. If you are married, you may correct your spouse (though ideally not in public). But you may not correct your boss.
Why? Your supervisor may feel it’s condescending to have her grammatical or rhetorical deficiencies pointed out. It may feel to her as though you’re subtly suggesting that you’re smarter than she is. Oddly enough, she may not appreciate that. What you can do is start using the phrase properly in front of her. Frequently.
Maybe she will figure out on her own that she was wrong. If not, there’s a good chance that she may try to correct you—which she is allowed to do, being above your head and all.
At that point, act innocent and say, as if you are actually curious, “Oh, wow, I had no idea I was misusing the phrase. I always thought it had a different meaning. Let’s look this up on the Internet to see what it really means.”