Are Your Manners Up to Snuff?

Torrance Grey

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

"Oh, Lizzie, I never saw such happy manners!" This exclamation, from newly-in-love Jane Bennett to her sister in "Pride and Prejudice," sums up the point of good etiquette. It's not about having the salad fork in the right place; it's about letting the best version of yourself shine. Would someone fall in love with your manners? Find out now with our quiz!

Why is it courteous to stand up to greet a person?

Standing puts you on the other person's eye level, and also acknowledges their arrival is important. This is no longer a gender issue: Nowadays, women frequently stand to acknowledge a new person joining a group, just as men do.

On a subway or bus, you should give up your seat to _______.

Time was when all women were considered frail by nature. That's not the standard anymore, but pregnant women often welcome a chance to get off their feet. Also, consider common sense before giving up your seat: If a senior citizen is in athletic clothing and has muscle tone a 30-year-old would envy, give them the unspoken compliment of keeping your place.

When speaking to someone considerably less educated than yourself, you should ....

Just because someone isn't very educated doesn't mean they won't know they're being talked down to if you start dropping g's and saying "ain't." Be yourself, but save the $10 words and Kierkegaard quotes for another conversation.

When is it appropriate not to send a thank-you note?

According the the Emily Post Institute, which carries on the etiquette expert's legacy, people of an older generation tend to expect a note no matter what. But among close friends of a younger age, if the gift was opened in the presence of its giver and heartfelt thanks given at that time, a note is usually not necessary.

Finish the saying: "If you want to be on time, you've got to be _____."

Nothing is more frustrating that person who always leaves at the very last minute, and then expects to be repeatedly excused for being late by saying, "There was traffic!" Besides, getting somewhere early is not a waste of time anymore: With smartphones, you can check email, read an interesting article online, look in on your social media accounts, and so on.

True or false: No one really expects good grammar in emails or texts, and certainly it's not an etiquette issue.

Taking time to check your spelling and grammar is a way of telling the message receiver "You are important to me; I care about how you perceive me." One of the unhappier developments of the 21st century is the email signature saying "sent from my phone, please excuse errors and typos." You're responsible for the quality of your message, not your smartphone!

What is the equivalent of raising your voice in email or online?

Using all caps has come to be understood as yelling, and should be avoided if that's not what you want to communicate. Asterisks before and after words used to be the equivalent of italicizing, when it was rare for email programs or comments sections to allow italics. You'll see it less often today.

As long as you have facts on your side, and can cite sources, is it okay to write lengthy posts about controversial issues?

Having facts on your side is no guarantee you won't give offense. Etiquette aside, studies show that people double down on their beliefs when they are challenged; this is known as "backfire effect."

You've been overweight for some time and warned about Type II diabetes risk. Although you've shared these concerns with a friend, she gives you a box of chocolates for your birthday. What should you do?

Etiquette experts say a gift is always to be received with gratitude. However, if you think your friend is more than just forgetful, if you genuinely suspect her of trying to undermine you, then maybe it's time to start disentangling yourself from a bad relationship.

Which of these is it okay to do at the table after dinner?

Grooming should be done in the bathroom, not at the table. The exception is a re-application of lipstick, which is unobtrusive (and to some men, kind of sexy to watch).

When is it okay to have your elbows on the table?

Though many people believe this is never okay, the rule is there to ensure people don't prop themselves up, right over their plates, while eating. This is ungainly and unattractive. If food hasn't been served or has been cleared, resting an elbow on the table can be part of leaning in and showing interest in a conversational partner.

You're on an airplane, and a child in the row behind you is being disruptive. You should ...

It's not good manners to correct someone else's child. Asking the parent to do so shows respect for him or her -- but also respect for yourself (as opposed to doing nothing). You have a right to a reasonably comfortable flight.

In extremely cold weather, is it acceptable to shake hands with gloves on?

No one expects you to remove your gloves when it's minus 5 degrees out. In fact, in that kind of weather, most people will sensibly move the social niceties indoors.

When driving, it's appropriate to use your horn when _______.

Car horns are jarring to other drivers and contribute to noise pollution. They should only be use to fend off a crisis, like a collision. Or, okay: if another driver really hasn't noticed the light has turned green, a light tap on the horn is okay, just so everybody involved doesn't miss their chance to get through the intersection.

When a passenger in a car, when is it okay to make "backseat driver" suggestions?

Backseat driving is hard on the self-esteem of the driver ... and on friendships. Save it for when things are really going wrong -- the driver is lost, or is about to get into a collision.

A friend of yours has terrible breath, and your other friends are joking about it. You should ...

You might wish to remind your other friends that a medical or dental health issue can cause bad breath that's hard to get under control. If you want to intervene with your friend, don't do it anonymously! This is likely to cause him/her shame and paranoia about who dropped the heavy-handed hint.

At a coffee shop, it's rude to ...

Modern coffeehouses generally expect people to bring work there, and to plug in their devices. But be sure you show your appreciation by always ordering something to eat or drink, tipping for particularly friendly service, and keeping power cords out of the way of patrons and servers.

Where should you NOT turn off your cell phone?

Incredibly, back in the day, people only had telephones in their homes. If they weren't at home, they missed the call -- and the world went on turning! Take your cue from this and switch off your phone in most public settings and anytime you are giving someone else your full attention.

When should you not send a thank-you email after a job interview?

There are several reasons for this. One, it's just a good habit. Two, you might not be right about the interview going poorly or decide you *do* want the job. Three, you never know who you might meet again down the line. It costs nothing to make that good impression.

You've been talking to your seatmate on an airplane for a little while, and then he says, "It's been nice talking to you. I'm going to catch up on some reading now." How should you take this?

Contrary to what some people believe, hints aren't rude or passive-aggressive. They can actually allow an awkward situation to be resolved discreetly, provided the other party recognizes the hint. Then again, maybe your seatmate really did enjoy talking to you. If he re-opens conversation later, you'll know that was the case.

What is the most polite way to turn down a date with someone you're just not interested in?

Few things are harder than turning down a date without some kind of excuse. But inventing a boyfriend/girlfriend or a scheduling conflict is simply setting up a second invitation. If you feel you have to explain that you're not interested, make sure you do it in private so the asker won't feel publicly "shot down."

Who pays for a date?

"The man always pays" or "always pays for the first date" leaves gay couples with no guideline, and having the wealthier person pay would lead to a crass discussion of finances on a first date. Generally, the person who did the asking should be ready to pay, but the other party should carry enough money to pay his/her way if needed.

When is it okay to "re-gift"?

With people increasingly interested in minimalism and simple living, "re-gifting" has become increasingly acceptable. If you can keep the original giver in the dark, and the new recipient will be pleased ... gift away!

Hugging is becoming as acceptable a greeting as handshaking because ...

Few things are more obnoxious than the person who proclaims "I'm a hugger!" before forcing a hug on someone they've only just met. Maybe you are, but is the other person? Citing research about oxytocin or other health benefits doesn't make it all right, either.

You receive an invitation to a birthday party. Is it necessary to bring a gift?

Generally, a birthday party is a trade-off. The guests get food, drink, and probably some entertainment; the birthday boy or girl gets a gift. A modest gift is fine if you don't know each other well or are financially strapped.

If an engagement is broken off, under what circumstances does the bride keep the ring?

If the woman broke off the engagement, she returns the ring; if he did, she may keep it. However, if the ring is an heirloom in the groom's family, it MUST be returned, no quibbles!

Traditionally, who pays for a wedding rehearsal dinner?

This tradition came about because the bride's parents were expected to pay for the wedding. Nowadays, the rules are a little more loose. With people marrying later, after establishing careers, it's not uncommon for the bride and groom to foot the bill themselves, either for the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, or both.

Is it ever appropriate for a woman to have a "man of honor" or a groom to have a "best woman"?

Nowadays, this isn't uncommon. Just be careful, brides and grooms: Choosing an attendant of the same sex can be a source of jealousy or insecurity. Be sure your future spouse knows that he/she comes first in your heart, and your friend is just a friend.

Which of these should not be worn to a funeral?

Bright colors, loud prints, sexy clothing, overly-casual clothing ... all these should be avoided at funerals. Sunglasses should be removed indoors at a religious service, but are sometimes worn elsewhere, like at graveside, to cover up reddened eyes. Finally, all black is a sign of mourning, but don't get yourself up in a film-noir style ensemble complete with a hat with a veil. It's self-aggrandizing and distracting.

Which of these topics is safe for a family gathering, like Thanksgiving dinner?

Politics is probably the first thing people think of when they think about things to avoid at a big family dinner. But only you know for sure what's touchy and what's not. Plus, some families have that one person who can turn any topic into a fight ... it's enough to make you want to feign a cold and stay home watching Netflix!

Which of the following should you NOT say at a funeral?

While the first example is simple and classic, the other two should be avoided. Number two suggests that the bereaved person shares your religious beliefs (they might not) and that the death was actually a good thing (!). Number three puts the attention on yourself at a time when it should be on the grieving person.

You're visiting your great-grandfather at a retirement home full of people from an older, more traditional generation. Which of these would be inappropriate?

Proper etiquette here requires you to watch your behavior, your language (including what's on your T-shirt) and being clean and well-groomed. However, you are not required to pretend to be from a earlier generation -- for example, by covering up tattoos or wearing a dress.

When is it okay to start sending someone your professional e-newsletter without asking first?

No matter how close you are, you should ask a friend or family member before adding them your online mailing list. However, if a stranger has followed one of your professional social-media accounts, it's understood that they like your work and are open to getting updates online. They can always opt out later.

Why is it acceptable etiquette to say "Merry Christmas" to someone without knowing their religious background?

Here's an easy way to understand this one. Even if Mother's Day were the biggest, most ballyhooed holiday in your country, as Christmas is in many western nations, would you go around greeting all adult women in a way that assumes they are mothers? "Happy Mother's Day, Mom!" "Hope your kids get you something great!" Of course not. So you shouldn't make assumptions at Christmas, either.

When is it okay to ignore/reject a rule of etiquette?

The golden rule of manners is that they are meant to put other people at ease, so if that wouldn't be the outcome, then bend the rules! ... Now we're going to display some good manners ourselves, and thank the writers of "Emily Post's Etiquette. 18th edition," which was the most useful of several sources in putting together this quiz. Thanks, ladies!

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