How to Congratulate Someone at Less-Standard Junctures

Many of us—dare I say, all of us—are familiar with how to offer congratulations on life’s ordinary range of subjects: We’re so happy to hear of your engagement, great job on the new promotion, what a beautiful baby, etc., etc. But what do you do when a more  . . . say . . .  unusual occasion comes around? Congratulations on the moon landing? Hey, happy to hear you received partial custody of the kids?

We at Auto(in)correct believe that life would be just a little more commendatory if we all congratulated each other a little more often. With that in mind, we offer tips on how to congratulate at various, less-standard junctures.

Divorce. Express your enthusiasm for the recipient’s newly single state, while not leaning too hard on the other party’s flaws (what if they reconcile?), or in case it turns out the other spouse was behind all those great dinner parties. “Heard you broke up with Jan! You were never right for each other—good riddance!” is a little strong unless you’re sure you have an alternative source for that chocolate crème brulée.

Minor Achievements. Again, keep it positive. “Hey Tom, I heard you didn’t burn the last cake you made—what a first! At this rate, you’ll be Cordon Bleu in no time!” You always want to be able to say you supported them. Even if what you support is them choosing a different career path.

Dubious Work Circumstances. Promotions are easy to congratulate someone on. New jobs, too. But it’s pretty hard to say, “Hey, boss! Congrats on finishing that six-week anger management program! Glad to have you in the office—it’s been so quiet without you!” in a way that won’t trigger an explosion. Our suggestion? Keep it short. Keeping it sweet should go without saying.

Parenting. You find so many ways to congratulate someone on having a kid, when really, that’s the easy part (except for you, moms. No one doubts your labor.) Really, we need to come up with better parenting congratulations. Like a card that reads “Congratulations on using an inside voice with your child after they asked you for the 37th time this week why Dad was so much rounder than in those old pictures they found from high school, and do all people get twice as round after they graduate. We know it took a superhuman amount of will.”

We don’t have those cards yet, but who knows, maybe they’re in the works. In the meantime, how about offering some condiments on their hot pierogies? Everybody could use some sautéed onions.

Congratulatory cards from Auto(in)correct are here to celebrate any event, be it substandard or exemplary.

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