What are the Rules of Etiquette?

Jessica Hobby

The rules of etiquette are a set of unspoken rules that have been determined by society as a whole. Etiquette is made up of social norms that evolve with repeated behaviors that are accepted within a society. Although certain etiquette rules are universally accepted worldwide, many socially accepted behaviors vary in different countries because they are influenced by different cultures and customs. It is important for people to be familiar with the basic rules of etiquette that are expected in all cultures.

It is customary for men to hold doors for women.
It is customary for men to hold doors for women.

One of the most fundamental pieces of etiquette is common courtesy. Whether discussing personal or business relationships at home or abroad, it is expected that common courtesy is extended to and among people. This includes, but is not limited to, saying “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and other phrases that portray basic politeness.

Talking on a cell phone in a theater is considered extremely rude.
Talking on a cell phone in a theater is considered extremely rude.

Another basic rule is holding the door for other people. In addition to men holding the door for women, it is expected that all people hold the door when the time is appropriate, including for an elderly person or someone who is carrying groceries or shopping bags.

Individuals are expected to groom themslves in private areas like bathrooms.
Individuals are expected to groom themslves in private areas like bathrooms.

Being on time is one of the rules of etiquette which gets broken frequently. Of course, there are circumstances, such as accidents or unexpected delays, of which people have no control, but it is considered rude and socially unacceptable to arrive late, whether attending an informal meeting or gathering, a meeting, an appointment or a formal social gathering such as a wedding or funeral.

Checking email messages during a play or concert goes against the rules of etiquette.
Checking email messages during a play or concert goes against the rules of etiquette.

One of the most important rules is to avoid any kind of grooming in public. Women who need to file and clip their nails, brush their hair, pluck their eyebrows or adjust their undergarments should excuse themselves to the restroom. Men should be especially aware of scratching or adjusting their genital area in public.

Proper business etiquette may include use of a handshake.
Proper business etiquette may include use of a handshake.

The invention of cell phones has fostered a whole set of etiquette rules surrounding the use of cell phones in public. All people entering any sort of public place should turn the ringer off on their phone and under no circumstances should a cell phone be answered while dining. In the event that an incoming or outgoing phone call is absolutely necessary, the person should politely excuse himself to another room or outside to briefly handle the matter.

The rules of etiquette also dictate appropriate conversation topics for social gatherings. It is considered bad taste to bring up explosive subjects, such as religion, politics, and finances. Opinions about these subjects are very personal and may cause arguments among the closest of friends and family. Sharing opinions about these topics in a business setting is often considered rude unless necessary for a specific job requirement.

Common courtesy involves saying "please" and "thank you".
Common courtesy involves saying "please" and "thank you".

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Bhutan- I totally agree with you. I wanted to add that wedding is important too. For example, proper wedding etiquette dictates that no one but the bride should wear white at the wedding.

In addition, thank you cards for gifts should be sent no later than one month after the wedding. A mention of a gift registry is appropriate but asking for money is not. There are sites that allow a honeymoon registry in which the guests make contributions toward the honeymoon is deemed a bit tacky.

It is never acceptable to ask for money for yourself. It is the guest choice of what they to decide to give you. They may or may not use a gift registry, but you have to be gracious just the same because it is the person’s company that matters not the size of the gift.


Moldova-I also wanted to add that dining etiquette rules dictate that you eat with your mouth closed and do not speak with your mouth full.

Also, you should never brush your hair or touch up your makeup at a dinner table. This show improper form and should be avoided. You should also refrain talking about controversial subjects involving politics or religion or anything emotional charged.

The dinner table should be a place to discuss light issues and have pleasant conversations. Gossip should also be avoided. It makes people feel uncomfortable as they do not know how to respond.

The volume of your voice should be kept low, and alcoholic beverages should be avoided during business dinners.

When in doubt always remember that etiquette should make people feel comfortable in your presence. If people are somewhat embarrassed to be around you it is because you do not follow rules of etiquette.


SauteePan- I know that dining etiquette is essential. Lack of table setting etiquette can damage your credibility because people place a high value on proper etiquette.

In business dinner etiquette, it is important to wait for the host or hostess in order to be seated. In addition, all members of the dining party should be seated before you eat any food.

Once everyone it seated you should use utensils beginning on the outer edge and your drinks should be to your right.

Should you need an item that is further away from you, you will need to ask the person to your left if they could pass the item down. It is unacceptable to reach over someone’s plate in order to get the item. This is very rude and prevents the person sitting next to you to enjoy their meal.

Always remember to keep you napkin on your lap at all times, and place your utensils on your plate in a bridge format to signal to the server that you are done with your meal. Business dining etiquette depends on following these rules.


The rules of etiquette are established to display good manners and taste in social situations. Using proper business etiquette is essential for any business.

For example, when calling a business that caller expects to be received by someone polite and somewhat upbeat. Using appropriate telephone etiquette includes answering the call with a friendly greeting, identifying the place of business, along with the name of the employee.

The employee’s voice should show proper inflection and cadence so that they caller feels welcomed. Displaying a voice in one tone demonstrates lack of enthusiasm that provides a poor impression of the business.

In addition, before a call is transferred to another employee, the employee receiving the transferred call should be given a brief heads up as to what to expect. This allows the second employee to be better prepared for the phone call which also demonstrates proper business etiquette.

Post your comments
Forgot password?