Etiquette Corner: A Primer

By: Erin Newkirk

Dear Erin, 

I have been loving your posts, but I can't help but think I'd love them more if I understood more about what etiquette really is. What is the history and your "take" on etiquette? Seems like the etiquette you write about isn't really about which fork to use -- is that even etiquette?


Dear Lesley,

In a word...yes. And I'd like to think if they were alive, my etiquette idols (Emily PostLetitia Baldridge and Amy Vanderbilt) would also demand that modern times call for modern solutions. 

So it goes, way back when, in the late 1700’s, etiquette was introduced to give people a set of rules to define good behavior and create comfort and mutual respect – a playbook for socializing. But along the way, etiquette has developed a bad rap as something only the rich and snobby have the wherewithal to subscribe to. First world problems, so to speak. So the rules seem outdated, clinging to form over function, and certainly not embracing modern conveniences. The debate goes…with all that's facing society right now, who has time to worry about which fork to use?

But modern etiquette is different. Like society, modern etiquette has evolved into something that's useful and practical. A set of social gestures (not rules) that make it easier to socialize with friends/family/colleagues/acquaintances/strangers because these considerate guidelines are really just a framework to help you think of thoughtful and intentional things to say or do.

The considerations are intuitive.

1. Be Gracious. Channel kindness, always be personal and true. Give as much as you get, preferably more.

2. Be Timely. The quicker you are to say thank you, the more appreciated your recipient will feel. The earlier you ask someone to provide assistance, the more time they will have to prepare and give you quality material.

3. Be Relevant. Consider your audience. What do they need to know? What should they know? What do they NOT need to know. What part of your story will make them feel comfortable and good about themselves? What will excite them?

Lesley, I hope this helps. And thank you for emailing me. Perhaps if I had followed my very own considerations, this would have been my very first post! :)



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