Etiquette: Not just an aristocratic notion


I grew up in a home where perfect manners were considered the norm and were expected of me from the time I could talk. Perhaps this has to do with my control freak of a mother, or maybe my grandmother — the former debutante. Whatever the reason, I am accustomed to proper etiquette as a basic function of living.

College changed my assumptions. This was the first place where I encountered people who couldn’t set a table properly (the knife and spoon go on the right side of the plate, with the knife on the inside, blade facing the plate) or who didn’t know how to make introductions (“Mom, this is my roommate Becky. Becky, this is my mom, Ms. Brown.”)

But why does etiquette matter? Isn’t it just a backwards notion of the snobby upper-class elite intended to make us “commoners” feel less welcome in their so-called “polite society”? Well, no. A basic understanding of etiquette is absolutely essential for all people, not just socialites and debutantes. It comes into play in every possible situation, from acing a job interview to meeting your boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents for the first time.

Since its publication in 1922, Emily Post’s Etiquette has been the definitive authority on social graces. Nearly 90 years later, Emily Post is online at (of course) On the site, the Emily Post Institute has published its “Etipedia” (etiquette + encyclopedia), a reference tool that allows users to type in any keyword to search the site for a corresponding etiquette article.

The site also organizes the articles into four categories — Wedding Etiquette, Everyday Etiquette, Business Etiquette and Home and Family — with each category encompassing smaller subcategories, like “College and Beyond” under Everyday Etiquette.

Perhaps my standards are too high. Maybe perfect etiquette is outdated. I mean, what really is the need for all of those different forks anyway? But having good table manners for a business lunch – among other things — is important. So don’t go out and buy Emily Post’s Etiquette — you won’t need it. Just briefly scan before your next interview, and you’re sure to be fine.

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