What is the Difference Between Etiquette and Manners?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Etiquette and manners are both critical to functioning in society. While both of these concepts involve rules of behavior, they are slightly different, and they involve different types of skills. They also vary from culture to culture, as standards of conduct are heavily based on cultural tradition and heritage. The primary distinction between etiquette and manners is that the first includes specific rules of conduct, while the other is more generalized.

Proper etiquette dictates that phones should be shut off at a movie theater.
Proper etiquette dictates that phones should be shut off at a movie theater.

Manners involve general behavioral guidelines, such as treating the elderly with respect and courtesy. Etiquette is a specific code of behavior, with an example of etiquette being knowledge of the proper mode of address for a queen, which is, incidentally "Your Majesty." In some societies, people regard etiquette as elitist and unnecessarily refined, but this is actually not the case. Many of the rules of etiquette are already practiced by people with good manners, and a demonstration of familiarity with good manners will mark someone as cultured, polite company.

Etiquette is often practiced by people with good manners.
Etiquette is often practiced by people with good manners.

People are typically taught manners from a very young age, so that they grow up accustomed to the basic rules of conduct about appropriate behavior in social situations. Children learn, for example, that it is not polite to stare, to make personal comments, or to cast aspersions upon the selection of food at a dinner. In childhood, people usually absorb lessons about how to treat others and how to behave in a variety of situations. Manners often become second nature when they are taught at a young age.

Etiquette involves specific rules in social interactions, while manners are more general.
Etiquette involves specific rules in social interactions, while manners are more general.

In order to learn etiquette, people must take specific lessons, as opposed to learning by example or through gentle correction. Rather than learning general rules about how to behave at a dinner, someone would learn specifically about which silverware to use when, how the table of precedence works, and how to politely dispose of undesirable food items. Etiquette training also involves how to deal with introductions, and how to behave in numerous environments, from funerals to shooting parties.

Using a tissue when sneezing is considered a good manner.
Using a tissue when sneezing is considered a good manner.

Both etiquette and manners rely on basic underlying principles which include treating people with respect, being sensitive to social situations, and making other people feel comfortable. People cannot learn etiquette without being schooled in manners, which lays the underlying groundwork for the rules of etiquette. Formal training in etiquette can be obtained through finishing schools, in which an instructor takes people through the rules of etiquette, or by reading texts which deal with etiquette and manners in particular societies.

Manners involve saying "please" and "thank you".
Manners involve saying "please" and "thank you".

Knowledge of etiquette and manners is never wasted. Someone with an awareness of manners and formal etiquette will be remembered, and this may come to his or her advantage in the future. Employers, for example, are more likely to be impressed by well mannered candidates who are familiar with the forms of business etiquette for a job opening. Good etiquette training also prepares someone for any situation, allowing him or her to deal with anything with aplomb.

It is considered good manners to show respect to elders.
It is considered good manners to show respect to elders.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Either this article is plagiarized from another website or someone has plagiarized this website. Better get it fixed!

Check Susie Wilson's blog post on the Difference between Etiquette and Manners.


Good manners is about "please" and "thank you".

Etiquette is about knowing which fork to use.

You can have good manners without knowing much about etiquette.


suntan12, I agree with your point. On the other hand, while this gives children of the already well off class additional advantages, it drags a deeper rut for those less fortunate. If we care about etiquette and manners, and believe them to be helpful in all manner of situations, why not have classes in public schools?


Sorry moldova, but I think you are getting etiquette and god manners confused with naked salesmanship. think again!


Self-directing article. Indeed, etiquette and good manners both make a difference among individuals. Human beings are equal, but never the same. These differences are brought about by the way we behave and interact with another in homes and at public gatherings.

I therefore appeal to societies worldwide to think about child rearing and education, and to concentrate particularly on both manners and etiquette. Both are complementary. If you eat in a respectful manner, but do not address the members of your family in honesty, you are still in a mess.

Regards, John K.


Moldova-I agree and I think that children should be taught proper etiquette. There are courses for manners and etiquette for children in Key Biscayne.

The Sonesta Beach Resort offers etiquette classes for children aged 7 and up. It is really important because this is something that not a lot of people think about but it makes a world of difference.

If all things are equal and two people have the same qualifications and education, the one with the best etiquette will always have the upper hand.

Polite people stand out and are always appreciated because so many people lack basic etiquette.

For example, telephone etiquette is important. I have called businesses where I did not even get a proper greeting or was asked how I could be helped. Telephone etiquette begins with an upbeat greeting that includes your name.

This is in case the customer needs to ask you something they have a way to address you. Also, a customer should be addressed by name whenever possible. This is a simple gesture that would go a long way, but many people forget to do it. Etiquette and good manners are required to make people feel at home.


Subway11-I think that proper business etiquette requires eye contact and positive facial expressions.

In addition, moving toward your client to show interest is also appropriate etiquette. Really business etiquette and manners requires that your client feel comfortable.

That means that you may have to schedule a business meeting at their favorite restaurant and pick up the tab. It also requires you to keep alcohol to a minimum because proper etiquette means that you are polite and in control of your manners.

You can not be in control if you are drunk. Also, dining etiquette might include talking about light subjects that area not too controversial.

No one wants to go to a dinner in which people are arguing about their point of view on a subject. Everyone feels uncomfortable which the opposite of what true etiquette is.


Sunny27-Table etiquette and manner are really important because dining etiquette can make or break a relationship.

Etiquette table manners require that no one sit until the host has had a seat. It also requires one to place a napkin on one’s lap and begin to use utensils from the outside first and then continuing on with the courses to the interior utensils.

In addition, it is improper table manners and etiquette to reach over someone, instead you should ask the person next to you if they can pass something to you.

It is also never appropriate etiquette table manners for someone to either eat with their mouth open, or speak with their mouth full.

This is really unseemly because people do not want to look at your mouth while you are eating.

I have to say that that it my biggest pet peeve. I also dislike when people make noises when they eat. If your mouth is appropriately closed this should not be a factor.


Great article- I agree that manners involves general behavior while etiquette is more specific. For example, a person eating with their mouth open displays improper manners, but not sending a thank you card when offered a gift shows improper etiquette.

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