Etiquette For Dummies book cover

Etiquette For Dummies

By: Sue Fox Published: 06-05-2007

There’s more to good etiquette than knowing which fork to use at dinner – it helps you survive social interactions at home, work, school, and everywhere 

Life is full of moments when you don’t know how to act or how to handle yourself in front of other people. In these situations, etiquette is vital for keeping your sense of humor and your self-esteem intact. But etiquette is not a behavior that you should just turn on and off. This stuffy French word that translates into “getting along with others” allows you to put people at ease, make them feel good about a situation, and even improve your reputation. 

Etiquette For Dummies approaches the subject from a practical point of view, throwing out the rulebook full of long, pointless lists. Instead, it sets up tough social situations and shows you how to navigate through them successfully, charming everyone with your politeness and social grace.  

With this straightforward, no-nonsense guide, you’ll learn basic behavior for family, friends, relationships, and business, as well as how to: 

  • Groom, dress, and stay healthy 
  • Cope with unexpected sneezing, feelings of queasiness, and other unpleasantries 
  • Maintain a civilized relationship 
  • Make friends and keep them 
  • Build positive relationships at work 
  • Communicate effectively 
 
 

Full of useful advice and written in a laid-back, friendly style, this book shows you how to take on these situations and make them pleasant. It also gives you great advice for tipping appropriately in all types of services and setting stellar examples for your kids. Pick up your own copy of Etiquette For Dummies and discover all the tools you need to face any social situation with politeness and courtesy. 

Articles From Etiquette For Dummies

page 1
page 2
12 results
12 results
Etiquette For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-23-2022

Practicing proper etiquette means knowing the mechanics of dining, the correct amount to tip for a service, giving a gift graciously, and traveling with ease while exercising good manners.

View Cheat Sheet
Phone Etiquette and Safety Guidelines for Children

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Teaching your child phone etiquette and phone safety requires good sense and firm guidance. You want your children to learn how to communicate effectively, but you don't want them to take over the phone as their own personal property. Safety is another consideration. Every child who is old enough to manage a phone should know how to dial 9-1-1 and stay on the line. Don't overlook your responsibility to teach your children when and how to dial 9-1-1. Here are some suggestions regarding children, phone etiquette, and phone safety: Don't inflict toddlers on others via the phone. When Grandma (or anyone else!) calls, don't put your 2-year-old on the line unless that person asks to speak to the child. You may think that it's cute, but Granny and others may not be thrilled to get an earful of silence or babbling when calling long-distance. Even if the call is local, remember that the person called to speak with you, not your child. Similarly, avoid prolonged conversations with your child while your caller waits (patiently or impatiently) on the other end of the line. Discuss with other parents your desires regarding child-to-child calling times for preteens and teens. Establish the best time of day and a maximum duration for calls between kids, and then enforce the rules. Even though most kids have their own cell phones these days, the parents are still usually the ones who pay the bills and should have the final word in regard to when and for how long talking on the phone is appropriate. Teach children how to take a message. If a child is old enough to answer the phone, the child is old enough to take a name and number and promise a callback. Make sure that teenagers participate in equal access to telephones in the same way that they participate in equal dessert at dinnertime. Establishing a time limit for each call and a between-call time interval is fair. Otherwise, you won't receive incoming calls for anyone else in the house. Don't worry if your Shoshanna dials up her friend Justin to arrange a meeting at the coffee shop. The old business about girls not calling boys has pretty much disappeared. Examine your monthly telephone bills carefully. You may discover that one of your children is using the phone in a way that displeases you. Kids tell each other about little scams and pranks that they can play with the phone. Discuss exceptional charges and notations with the child. If your child has her own line or cell phone, consider placing limits on it. Your telephone or wireless phone company can provide useful limits on a telephone to keep your children — and your phone bills — safe. For example, you can arrange to block all outgoing 900-number calls and all long-distance calls. In other words, the youngster can use the home telephone only for local calls. Purchasing a calling card for cell-phone use can also limit large phone bills. Display positive cell-phone behavior with your children and teenagers. Remember, children learn by example. Even if your children are old enough to stay home alone, it is still wise to ask them not answer the home phone when you're away. As an extra safety precaution, tell them to let the calls go to the answering machine or voice mail.

View Article
Empowering Yourself through Good Manners

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

No matter what you call it — manners, courtesy, etiquette, or civility — you can associate it with leadership. When you take the lead in putting people at ease and making every situation pleasant, you exhibit poise. Poise comes from being self-confident. In today's climate, etiquette and civility are sometimes seen as snobbery. Others view polite behavior as a sign of weakness, and some professionals actually believe that it's impossible to get to the top while being gracious and polite. None of this is true. Knowing how and when to ask for what you want in a polite manner means empowerment. When you need to ask for something, be sure to remember the following: Speak up. Even if you feel intimidated or nervous, you can get around these roadblocks that undermine your efforts by speaking with confidence. Invite reactions, making it easy for your allies to respond to your request or expectation. Be open to constructive criticism. Be specific, focus clearly on what you really want or need, and ask for it. You may even want to jot down a few notes or rehearse mentally before making your request, especially if you're about to ask someone on a date. Don't undermine yourself. Adding on demeaning tag beginnings or endings — such as, "I know this is a stupid question, but. . ." or "I'm sorry to have to ask you this.. ." — makes you sound like you lack self-confidence. Being assertive doesn't equal rudeness. Take responsibility for nurturing and maintaining your own self-esteem. When you're competent in using basic assertive skills, you can feel confident to handle most situations and can achieve the respect you deserve.

View Article
Family Etiquette: What to Call Your Parents-In-Law

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The way you initially address your parents-in-law can have a lasting effect on them and can shape the future of your relationships. Every family is unique, so here are some basic guidelines of etiquette to keep you in safe territory until you figure out what works best in your own extended family. If you can bring yourself to call your parents-in-law Mom and Dad, they'll probably be pleased. In many families, parents consider sons-in-law and daughters-in-law to be as close to them as their own children, and they appreciate that affectionate regard in return. But some people find this practice difficult, at least at first. The safest tactic is to confess your uncertainty and ask your parents-in-law how they wish to be addressed. Be prepared to honor their response. If they ask you to use their first names, do so. If your mother-in-law asks to be called Mother Smith, so be it. If the answer is Mom, call her Mom. When everyone's parents are present, you may call your own parents Mom and Dad and your spouse's parents Mother Jones and Father Jones. In all cases, using a pronoun instead of an actual name is an absolute no-no. When the person is within earshot, using words such as she and her is definitely not courteous, and the more you use them, the more rude they seem. You can usually address your spouse's grandparents with their last names appended, as in "Grandma and Grandpa Smith" (unless there is no ambiguity, in which case you can call them simply "Grandma and Grandpa"). Some grandparents don't wish to "sound so old" to their adult grandchildren, though. Ask directly what the grandparents prefer to be called.

View Article
Tips for Traveling Gracefully

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

World travel can be quite stressful — even before you leave your home! Follow these travel tips to make your trip as enjoyable as possible and keep your manners intact: Every courtesy should be afforded when traveling, especially abroad. Remember the adage of “when in Rome.” Always be respectful of your differences, others’ customs, culture, and religion. Always dress appropriately. Be polite with all passengers and always be considerate to your traveling companions. Offer them your best smile and don’t lose your temper, no matter what. If you want to maintain composure, be as flexible as possible and don’t take rude incidents personally, even when you may be pushed and shoved! Practice patience. Make sure you have your travel documents in order. Always bring proper identification and, if traveling internationally, your passport, visa, and inoculation documents (if required). Leave your valuables at home in a safe. Purchase a slender wallet that hangs by a cord around your neck, under your shirt. Keep your passport, credit card, and large bank notes in that wallet. The best way to keep from suffering stress and anxiety while waiting to check in at an airport, railroad station, or bus terminal is to allow about twice as much time as your first impulse dictates. Use that same expansion of time at the other end of your journey. It can take a lot of time to gather your belongings and leave an airplane or train station. If you or your travel companion has any special needs, be sure to provide details to the airlines, hotels, or cruise ship before traveling.

View Article
Etiquette Tips for Dining

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

People usually think of the mechanics of eating when the word etiquette is mentioned and for good reason. Dining is one common area where rough edges show. To keep social and business dining situations less stressful here are some etiquette quick tips: Always introduce yourself to those around you at the table and talk with those on each side and across from you. Sit up straight at the table with your feet flat on the floor; it makes a good impression. If you must cross your legs, do so at the ankles. And keep your shoes on! The meal officially begins when the host unfolds his napkin. This is the guest’s signal to do the same. The napkin remains on your lap throughout the entire meal and should be used to gently blot your mouth. You can start eating when your host starts eating. If the first course is brought to the table in twos or threes and not everyone has food yet, don’t begin to eat; wait until all the people around you have been served the first course, and then begin to eat together. Sometimes the host may encourage you to “Go ahead, please don’t wait.” In this case, beginning eating is perfectly fine. Use the utensils farthest from the plate, working from the outside in. Remember the rule of solids to the left and liquids to the right. All properly set tables have glasses to the right (liquid) and solids to the left (bread and salad plates). Never cut your food into bits all at once; cut only two or three bits at a time. Take small bites and always remember to chew with your mouth closed — and don’t talk while you have food in your mouth. When you’re not eating, keep your hands on your lap or with wrists resting on the edge of the table. Elbows on the table are acceptable only at the end of the meal when no food is on the table. If you must leave the table during a meal for any reason, do so with as little interruption to others as possible. Politely and quietly excuse yourself, lay your napkin on your chair, and leave without fanfare. After the meal is over, the host signals the end of the meal by placing his napkin on the table. You should follow suit by placing your napkin neatly on the table to the left of your dinner plate, with no soiled areas showing. Don’t refold your napkin, wad it up, or place it on your plate.

View Article
Tips for Gracious Gift-Giving

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Deciding on a gift for someone is a personal choice. Research and thought will make selecting a gift easier and more appropriate for the person and occasion. Remember the spirit of giving is what matters! Consider these gift-giving guidelines: When selecting a gift, consider the person’s hobbies and interests. A bit of research and thought can make the gift-selection process a whole lot easier. Pull together a list of gift ideas and roughly how much you want to spend. Many stores are online, so you can search the Internet for ideas and prices before you go shopping, or you can always buy online. Unless you’re absolutely sure of the person’s tastes, purchase gift certificates or gift cards in lieu of clothing. When searching for a gift for a family, consider any of the following: Photo album Travel journal Cookbook Tickets to a sporting event, concert, or play How-to DVD or book for a new hobby Gift certificate to a family restaurant or favorite store Book on CD Plant Food gift basket For a friend who is hosting a party, send a floral arrangement that complements her home and send it the day before or the day of the event. Some of the best gifts can’t be purchased at any store. Perhaps you have a skill or talent that you can use to create a painting, a handicraft item, or a piece of pottery. Giving a material gift isn’t the only way to go. The gift of your time for volunteer work or for helping out a friend or neighbor is also a form of giving — and one that may be appreciated more than a material item.

View Article
How Much Should You Tip?

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

In the United States, tipping is a voluntary practice in most places and is based upon your experience of a service or meal. Knowing how to tip gracefully is an important skill in etiquette. Here are some tipping suggestions: If you’ve received excellent service and food, you should tip 15 to 20 percent of the before-tax amount of the bill. If a wine steward or sommelier gives you special help selecting wine, tip equal to 15 percent of the price of the wine. Give your barber or hairstylist a 15 to 20 percent tip if you’re having a cut, color, or perm. If you have a separate colorist and stylist, each person should receive 15 to 20 percent of the cost of the particular service that she provided. If you’re having your hair set or washed and blow-dried, a 20 percent tip is sufficient. If other people in the salon help you (for example, if a junior assistant washes your hair), tip each person a few dollars for her service. If you have a manicure or pedicure, tip the manicurist a minimum of $3 or 15 percent of the cost of the manicure or pedicure. If a doorman carries your bag, give him $1 to $2 per bag. Give a doorman who hails you a cab $1. If a bellman arrives at your hotel room with your luggage, tip him $2 per bag. For a concierge who gets you into a fashionable restaurant, tip $10 to $20, or if the concierge gets you into the opening night of a popular play or opera, tip $20 per ticket. Tip the parking valet who retrieves your car $1 or $2. Give your hotel maid $3 per night.

View Article
What to Do, Say, and Wear at Funerals

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Going to funerals or memorial services can be uncomfortable for some people because of the emotions involved. Knowing what to do and say at funerals — and what to wear — can ease the discomfort. When in doubt about going, do try to attend the service. Generally, the more difficult the situation, the more the family will appreciate your presence and your words of support. Your willingness to go out of your way to say a word or two of comfort will be very much appreciated. Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/LeggNet 2011 These services provide a sense of completion, a process for mourning, and comfort for the living. The outpouring of grief and support for the family enables them to eventually go on with their own lives. Attending a funeral or memorial service In many cultures, the first event that follows a death is a visitation, calling, or wake — a courtesy call at the funeral home prior to the funeral. The casket is present (open or closed), with flowers on display, and the family receives visitors who come to greet them and offer words of comfort and support. A funeral or memorial service may be a very public event, attended by family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and even acquaintances. A eulogy, prayers, or other funeral customs are observed. Because the immediate family may be overwhelmed, you need only to greet the mourners and briefly offer condolences. Most important for the family is the knowledge of your presence. (If the service is private, those attending will be notified personally, usually by telephone.) Burials usually follow funerals. Some cultures consider it a sign of respect to deposit a ceremonial shovel of earth into the grave. This ceremony is initiated by a member of the family and followed by others. If you were close to the deceased, you may take your turn. In almost all cultures, taking a meal in the company of close friends and family is a symbol of the continuation of life and a moment of separation from the intense details of the death, funeral, and burial. Recalling fond memories of the deceased may inspire smiles and even laughter at this gathering — this behavior is perfectly acceptable. Expressing condolences at a funeral Most people are at a loss for words when it comes to comforting someone who is grieving. If you don't know what to say, start with these thoughts: You're so sorry to hear this sad news. The deceased will be sorely missed by friends and colleagues. How much you loved this person and how bereaved you feel. You know how much the deceased loved and cared for the people who are left behind. The grief you feel for the person who is left behind. What a wonderful person the deceased was. Recounting anecdotes, warm remembrances, and stories about the deceased is a kind thing to do. Remembering the person's accomplishments and all that person meant to you and did for you, and sharing that with the family, is very important and much appreciated. The etiquette of consoling a dear one is the etiquette of genuine affection. Do what you can to comfort and assist the survivors, and be alert for an indication that your attentions have been gratefully received and are no longer necessary. Sometimes people need to work things out for themselves. What to wear to a funeral In Western society, black has long been the traditional color for mourning. However, wearing black isn't required any longer. Wearing a color other than black isn't a sign of disrespect, as long as the color isn't bright or wildly patterned. In many cultures, red is a color for festivals and would be inappropriate for a funeral. Generally, play it safe with any dark or subdued color. Hats may be worn by women, and at Orthodox Jewish services, yarmulkes are worn by the men. Dark suits and ties for men and dresses or suits for women are always appropriate. Some religions impose strict standards of modesty on women. When in doubt, ask someone or do an Internet search. If you don't know whom to ask, make sure that the only skin you display at a funeral is from the neck up and the knees down.

View Article
Party Etiquette: Talking, Listening, Mingling

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

A guest's good manners (or party etiquette) includes knowing how to start a conversation — and how to participate in one. Knowing how to mingle with people at a party or other social function is the mark of a gracious guest who's always invited back. Understanding the basic principles of party etiquette can help you socialize better at any gathering, whether the social occasion is a dinner party or an office event. A good conversationalist knows how to be patient and not interrupt; be a good listener. And you need to think about what someone is asking and respond appropriately, just as you need to think about what you want to say and say it clearly. Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Webphotographeer 2008 Not everyone is a social butterfly by nature, but don't shy away from conversation just because this form of communication isn't innate. With the following party etiquette tips and a dose of confidence, you can be mixing and mingling in no time: Think about other people and care about them. If you're shy or quiet, learn how to open up to others and not always wait for them to draw you into a conversation. If you're an extrovert and extremely outgoing, you may need to rein in your enthusiasm and let other people have the floor. Act as if you're a host, not a guest. Reach out to people standing by themselves, the white-knuckle drinkers, or those that look obviously uncomfortable. Introduce people to each other. Be helpful, kind, and genuine. Don't be afraid to approach people. Strangers are merely friends you haven't met yet. If you focus on the other person's comfort, you can lose your own self-consciousness. Be pleasant, cheerful, and upbeat when mingling, no matter what your mood. If you've had a bad day, don't rain on anyone else's parade by talking about your negative experience — unless, of course, you want to be left standing alone. And when ending a conversation, say that you enjoyed talking with the person or that it was a pleasure meeting her. Listen more than you talk. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion. Nothing is more flattering than someone who listens carefully and shows sincere interest in other people. Know how to gracefully end conversations. It is perfectly fine to simply say, "Excuse me, it has been nice meeting you" or "I've enjoyed our conversation." Then visibly move to some other part of the room. Avoid making negative comments on the room, the food, the guests or your host. In any social situation, making negative comments, especially when you're a guest in someone's home, is rude. You never know if another guest can overhear your comments. And, quite often, the person holding the party delegates the actual planning and details to someone else, and you could be speaking with someone that helped with the event. Basic party etiquette for guests insists that you be mindful of the host or other party planner's feelings. To engage a stranger into a conversation, find a shared interest. Some common topics of interest include: travel, children or pets (if you both have them), hobbies, current news topics (preferably nothing controversial), sports, careers, films, and books. Avoid any type of talk regarding physical injuries, sickness, accidents, or off-color language or jokes. Also, commenting on the host's home, décor, or food; spreading offensive gossip; or bringing up controversial subjects that could make others uncomfortable or angry is a bad idea. Keep your tongue in check!

View Article
page 1
page 2