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It seems life has become a lot more casual, but that’s no excuse for forgetting your manners.

Arden Clise of Seattle’s Clise Etiquette, an etiquette school specializing in business and children’s etiquette classes, agrees. Clise said so much communication is through digital means nowadays, the lack of face-toface interaction makes it easier to be rude. Even in our increasingly technological world, the truly stylish know manners aren’t optional.

At the Table

Bad table manners are becoming the norm: clattering forks, smacking lips, talking with mouths full of food. Clise has noticed people tend to talk loudly while shoveling food into their mouths, and seem to have no qualms about asking to eat other people’s food. The dining experience has turned into something resembling a primitive act. But you don’t have to join in. Take small bites, chew thoroughly with your mouth closed, and focus on your own plate.

While in dining establishments, keep your voice and laughter at appropriate levels.

If you’re at a fancy table with multiple utensils and glasses per place setting, know which ones are yours. Check out our table setting illustration for guidance.

Properly butter a roll by tearing off smaller pieces and buttering those. Don’t simply smear butter on the entire roll.

Bite into a piece of gristle or an olive pit? Remove it discreetly with your fingers and hide it on your plate or tuck it into a cocktail napkin. Don’t spit into a dinner napkin, especially a cloth one, because then you won’t be able to use the napkin properly.

Attending a Party

Hostess gifts are always appropriate. They are a way of thanking your host or hostess and showing them your appreciation. Gifts do not have to be extravagant or expensive: a bottle of wine, some flowers, and, for casual get-togethers, some beer or homemade dip is good. The only time you can forego the gift is for potlucks. Since potlucks are a combined effort, your dish is your contribution.

Offer help to a party host, but don’t continue to insist if he or she declines.

During parties carry food or drink in your left hand so you can still shake hands with your right. You’ll enjoy your drink and gracefully say hello.

Top Manners Mistakes We’re Still Making

RSVPing. Guests need to RSVP by the date requested, even if you won’t make it. Otherwise it’ll be a headache for the party planner to have an accurate guest count. Don’t make the planner guess if you’re showing up or track you down to ask. If you say you’ll attend, you are obligated to show unless there’s an emergency. If you say you won’t attend, don’t surprise the host by showing up.

Phone use. It’s easy to talk too loud on a cell phone. Monitor your voice in public places. Turn off your speaker — no one cares to hear your conversation. Don’t check your phone in a dark theater, or while having a conversation, or — ick! — while in the bathroom (not only rude, but unsanitary). Remove your phone from the table while eating — putting it face down does not count. Simply having the device on the table tells your dining companions that their company is not as important as potential notifications. Exception: when the phone is central to the conversation, i.e. you’re sharing pictures with your dining companions, planning an outing, or researching together. Finally, if you’re on a job interview, don’t even think about taking a call or sending a text. Unless you don’t want the job. And if you don’t, why are you there?

Little things. We’ve become accustomed to living in our own bubbles. Clise reminds her clients that it’s the “little things that make a difference.” Greet other people. Even a quick smile to acknowledge their presence will suffice. Saying “thank you” isn’t just for children — it demonstrates your appreciation for someone’s effort. For gifts or kind actions that required a friend to go out of his or her way, a verbal thank you should be followed with an email or handwritten note. You’re expressing gratitude and letting someone know you appreciate them.

For more table etiquette, we asked Bellingham bon vivant Zacchoreli Frescobaldi-Grimaldi, our food and dining expert, for his advice.

Place setting

Your bread plate is at 11 o’clock. Your glass (wine, water, etc.) is at about 1 o’clock.

Which fork to use when?

In general, start from the outside. Far left is generally the salad fork (it’s usually smaller), then the entrée fork, then dessert fork (smaller).

What about that tiny fork at 12 o’clock?

Usually, it’s for seafood.

What spoon should I use?

This is more obvious. The outermost spoon (bigger) is for soup. The other spoon is to stir coffee.

What about a spoon and fork at 12 o’clock?

Use those for the dessert course. Dinner Table Don’ts: When finished, place used utensils on your plate, not on the tablecloth.

How to hold a wine glass

Formal: By the pedestal. Hold it like a saucer. Frescobaldi-Grimaldi rests the pedestal on three fingers.

Informal: By the stem with the fingertips.

Dinner Table Don’ts: Don’t cup the goblet, which is wrong in two ways. Your body temperature warms the wine; you might break the glass.

How to drink from a wine glass

Right: Pick a spot and drink from the same place

Dinner Table Don’t: Drink from all over, leaving lipstick (or lip-prints) on the glass.

Tip: Find the maker’s mark, point it to 6 o’clock each time you drink.

How much wine should I pour?

Fill about 1/3 of the glass.

What to do with a napkin

Right: As soon as you are seated, place the napkin on your lap. Tip: Use the corner and dab.

Dinner Table Don’ts:

• Use it like a washcloth. (You’re eating, not exfoliating.)

• Place the napkin on the table if you leave temporarily. Instead, it’s proper to place it on your chair.



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"We've become accustomed to living in our own bubbles. Clise reminds her clients that it's the 'little things that make a difference'"