13 Etiquette Rules People Break All the Time

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The Kingsman films popularized the phrase “manners maketh man” — but try telling that to the grubby teens who practically shoved granny out of the way to get the next spot in the McDonald's line. Where have our manners gone? 

1. A Missed Call Warrants a Return Call, Not a Text

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Text messaging has been a boon for the socially inept. How many times have you called someone, gone to voicemail, and received a return text minutes or hours later? 

If we call, it's because there's a conversation worth talking about. Texting won't do. Warm up those vocal cords and return the missed call.

2. The Chardonnay You Brought the Host Is Not for You

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It's not uncommon for a dinner guest to bring a bottle of wine in adherence to the “don't come empty-handed” rule, only for the host to immediately pop the bottle and pour some in the guest's glass. Put a cork in it, host, and leave the cork in it.

Proper etiquette is for the host to drink the bottle of wine on their own time rather than share the wine with the same guest who gifted it. You wouldn't give your kid a pack of baseball cards for Christmas and then take back half the pack for yourself, would you?

3. Don't Talk on the Phone in Public

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Unless you can't possibly avoid it, speaking on the phone in the company of strangers is terrible form. Enduring crowds is dreadful enough without poor strangers facing the tedium of your appointment scheduling, gossip, or whatever else you're blabbering on about. 

“Can you hear me now?” Yes, yes, we can. This entire Jersey Mike's can hear you, Fred. Find a secluded spot, send a text message, or just put the phone away. 

4. Pass the Food to the Right

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When you pass the salt and pepper, pretend you're following the first verse of the Cupid Shuffle — to the right, to the right, to the right, to the right. 

According to Reader's Digest, this bit of etiquette is because people are generally right-handed. Passing food to the right helps avoid the dreaded side-dish traffic jam, which worsens the plight of countless starving diners each year.

5. Your Napkin Goes on Your Chair, Not the Table

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While placing a spotless linen napkin on the dining table might seem harmless, you'd never get away with it if you were dining with King Charles or the Habsburgs. The napkin goes on the chair when you get up from the table, especially if you have taken edible shrapnel to the bib during your meal.

6. Avoid Flagging Down the Waiter

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So long as your server is checking on your table reasonably frequently, try to avoid calling them over like your yellow lab. Direct your most laser-focused gaze toward the server's eyes, and they'll eventually catch notice.

This rule goes out the window when your server is oblivious. If you feel ignored or neglected, break the rules and stick a subtle finger in the air. Heck, break out your megaphone if you feel justified in doing so.

7. A No-Show Is Not an RSVP

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Crazy as it may seem to the old timers, some uncultured swine believe an RSVP is only necessary if you're going to attend an event. In fact, a “répondez s'il vous plaît” translates to “respond, if you please”. Whether you're attending or not, just respond… if you please.

8. Avoid All Iterations of “I'm Going Potty”

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When you announce your impending restroom visit, you paint mental images that nobody asked for. Announce that you got a promotion. Proclaim that you're getting married. Keep your journey to the urinal to yourself.

9. Send a Written Thank You

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Author Dale Carnegie advises giving genuine compliments to win friends and influence others. A compliment (and thank you) hits way harder when it's handwritten on personalized stationery. 

Too many people take the gratitude-inal path of least resistance: a verbal thank you. Real ones go a step further, writing a letter of thanks, licking the envelope, sticking the stamp, and mailing that sucker.

10. Remove Your Shades Before Saying “Hey”

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Eye contact is becoming a lost art due to the magnetic pull of cell phone screens, the demise of cotillion classes, and the rise of conditions that make it tough for young people to socialize. Even adults often fail to remove their Ray-Bans when greeting others, including those they're meeting for the first time.

You're not Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, or Maverick from Top Gun. Take the shades off and look people in the eye — at least until introductions are complete.

11. Don't Speak Ill of the Dead…or Living

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Back in the day, it was a big deal if the Montagues and the Capulets uttered a bad word about each other. The French and English worked hard not to speak too hostilely about their sworn enemy. Speaking ill of others didn't just come with severe consequences (namely generational feuds and armed conflicts). People just knew that bad-mouthing others was bad form.

12. Be Five Minutes Early

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It's not enough to beat your haircut time by thirty seconds. Be five minutes early, at least. 

Everyone has an excuse for being late, and none of them are acceptable. If your dog died, wipe those tears and proceed to your appointment. Car crash? Put some gauze on it and get yourself to your lunch date. Those with strong etiquette act as if others' time is always more valuable than their own. They're never late.

13. Answer the Phone Like an Adult

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If you're still blurting out the “whazaaaaaa?” from the late-90s Budweiser commercials when you answer the phone, you're probably someone I'd love to hang with. However, you'd never last in high society.

Proper phone etiquette calls for a simple “Hello” or perhaps a “Hi, this is Dale” when picking up your cell phone. First impressions mean everything, so don't answer your phone like a clown.

Author: Sam Mire

Title: Popular Culture and Film Writer

Expertise: Film and Television, Life Advice, Comedic Writing, Movies, DIY Handiwork, Books, Current Events and Popular Culture


Sam Mire is a freelance writer with over seven years' experience writing about entertainment, global events, American law, and sports. With a Journalism degree from the University of South Florida, Sam focuses on popular culture, film and television, and general life advice in his role for Wealth of Geeks.