Can You Pass This Proper Etiquette Quiz?

Jennifer Post

Image: Ralf Nau / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Not every aspect of etiquette is drawn out and complicated like the proper way to address someone on an invitation or how long you should wait to get up after the hostess has left the dinner table. There are simple things, like which hand you cough into, that are considered rules of etiquette too, and it's more than just good manners. But a lot of these rules are rooted in a time when achieving social standing was the most important thing, coming out to society at a debutante ball and holding garden parties in your spacious backyard were the norm. But as the times change, so should etiquette rules. 

While the rules have not officially changed, there are some things that have taken on a more lenient meaning or have become irrelevant altogether. However, it's still fun to know these rules, and important in case you find yourself marrying into a family that is of old money and old society. There are rules about writing invitations, responding to invitations, chaperoning a ball and even hosting guests in your country home. These might not apply to you directly, but knowing them will definitely be a good conversation starter. Can you pass this etiquette quiz? Take it now to find out!

When walking on the sidewalk with a lady, where should a gentleman always be situated?

No matter if a gentleman is walking with one or two ladies, he is to always stand closest to the curb. He is to never sandwich himself in between the two ladies. Standing closest to the street protects the ladies from traffic mishaps.

In this day and age, is it OK to have your phone on the table during a dinner?

Having your phone out on the table, even in this age where people are addicted to their phones, shows that you care more about what's happening in your phone than the present company and the dinner.

In a group of people, if you are trying to indicate a specific person to someone else, what's the appropriate way to do that?

You can certainly point at things, but you must never point at people. It gives the impression that they are being talked about, and people usually assume it's in a negative way. Gesturing with an open palm is more welcoming and positive in nature.

What is the telltale sign of a female social climber?

If a woman makes a point to talk about all of the prominent people, especially men, that she knows, it's because it took her a lot of effort to get to know them, something someone already in society wouldn't have to do.

When visiting someone, is it imperative that you call them first?

People like to be prepared for people to come over. You wouldn't want someone to just show up while you still had your curlers in, now would you? Give the person a chance to get presentable.

Can men smoke whenever they want?

If there are no ladies present, there aren't many rules about smoking other than the laws. But, if there are ladies present, gentlemen must receive the permission of the ladies in order to smoke.

Is it OK for a gentleman to borrow money from a woman?

It is very straightforward that it is never OK for a gentleman, or a man who aspires to be one, to borrow money from a lady. For that matter, he really shouldn't even borrow money from another man.

What should you do if you're walking with someone who runs into someone they know and greets them?

It's just polite to greet the person your companion has greeted. Don't wait to be introduced, as that might never happen and then you look awkward just standing there not knowing who the person is.

What is usually the first step in wedding preparations?

Before the couple can choose a date, the mother of the bride is to check with the church to see when the clergymen are not otherwise engaged and when the church isn't occupied with any other events.

Are candles appropriate on the table for a luncheon like they are for a dinner?

A luncheon is a much more casual event than a dinner. The whole point of candles is to bring light to the room and table when there is no daylight. But since luncheons are during the day, that renders candles useless.

How can a stranger to the community acquire social standing?

Joining things like the church or local club is a great way to meet other ladies, but no one will secure status without being invited places. Once a lady secures that first invitation, that could be the start of her standing in society.

If the family a bride is marrying into has social status, does that bride inherit that same status?

It is said that the social status of a bride's family or family in law is hers to take. Upon marriage, she will take on the social status of her new family as well as her own family. It is usual that nothing will really change for her, socially.

How long should dinner guests wait before responding to a formal invitation?

Engraved or written invitations must be answered and put back in the mail immediately, but if it was a telephone invite, the call must be returned right away. Don't expect to get out of it, either. Only death, serious illness or an extremely unforeseen accident will excuse you.

When getting into the limo, if you're the boss, where should you sit?

The back and farthest right seat in a limo is considered the "power seat." The next person in power line claims the back left seat, and the most junior in power gets the middle. Maybe it's a safety thing, or maybe that seat is just the furthest away from everything else going on.

If at a restaurant or formal dinner gathering, when is it appropriate for guests to start eating?

This is something that most people still do but maybe didn't know it is deeply rooted in etiquette. It is not proper to start eating until everyone has been served their food, even in a passed dish or family-style type of dinner.

In letter writing, is using big words, wordy descriptions and flowery vocabulary a sign of elegance?

Writing a letter should portray simplicity and come from a natural place. If language is used that is not normal for the writer, it comes off as forced and like they're trying too hard to be something they're not.

If a dinner guest asks for the salt, must you pass the pepper as well?

In etiquette rules, salt and pepper are like a couple; you should never send one without the other. Even if the person doesn't ask for it, chances are they'll end up wanting it, or someone near them will.

What age group of people can be invited to a formal ball?

The main difference between a ball and a dance is that people of all ages are welcomed at a ball, whereas at a dance it's usually only one age group of guests. A dance can also be held in someone's home, while a ball is almost always held elsewhere due to the sheer number of guests.

Would one hold an afternoon tea outdoors?

Of course one would! An afternoon tea held outdoors is simply called a garden party. It can be as formal as a wedding reception or as casual as a sampling of finger sandwiches. It's really up to the host.

If a woman applies perfume, should she apply enough to make sure it can still be sensed in the evening?

Aside from just being common courtesy, a woman should never apply so much perfume that it can still be smelled into the evening. The appropriate amount will wear off sometime throughout the day.

What's the proper way to move to your seat in a theater?

When moving to your seat at the theater, you don't want your backside in the faces of the other seated guests. Hopefully they will stand up to let you by, but even then you should be facing them.

When you put your purse over your shoulder, which shoulder is the proper one to put it over?

Since the right hand is considered the social hand, that extends to the shoulder as well. It's poor etiquette to have to switch sides when you go to greet someone, so always having your purse on your left shoulder is proper.

How should one set the table for dinner when no guests are expected?

Emily Post clearly states that whether or not guests are coming for dinner, the linens should be spotless, the silver should be at its most polished and the service must be impeccable. Each place setting should be set as well, even if people aren't sitting there.

At the dinner table, should you enter your chair from the left or the right?

To enter your chair, you should do so from the left, but to exit your seat, doing so from the right is proper. There's no reason for this other than if everyone follows the same pattern, there won't be guests bumping into each other trying to sit down.

Is it proper etiquette for a man to carry the handbag of the lady he is with?

It's actually not proper etiquette! A man can carry her coat and carry it to its holding place during an event, but according to etiquette, a man should never carry a woman's handbag.

At a passed plate dinner party, which direction do the plates get passed?

The general rule of etiquette is that dishes get passed in a counterclockwise direction. The only exception to this is if someone in the other direction asks for something after everyone has gotten some. Then the dish can go right to them.

Is it appropriate for gentleman to wear his day clothes to dinner?

Even if there is no one coming to dinner, a gentleman is expected to change for the meal. However, he is not required to wear a tuxedo, but rather something more comfortable that he can also lounge in after dinner.

Are women expected to keep up with fashion trends?

They are expected to know the latest styles, but they should only wear them if the style fits them and coordinates with their standing in society. It's better to wear something older that fits and flatters than something new that makes them look silly.

Who is the best chaperone for a young girl?

It might be an old-fashioned way of thinking, but in etiquette, a young girl's best chaperone is herself. She is the only one who can stop herself from doing things and treat herself with respect.

What are close family members and friends expected to do once they hear news of an engagement?

The bride is not accepted into the groom's family until she receives their cards and notes telling her so. She is then expected to return the calls and notes as quickly as possible thanking everyone.

If you're the one inviting people to a restaurant, does that mean you have to pay?

It depends on how you word the invitation. If you literally say "I'm inviting you," then yes, you are expected to pay. But it if it's a more general, "Let's go out to eat," then everyone pays for themselves or figures out a payment situation.

Which hand should you be coughing and sneezing into?

The right hand is considered the social hand, the one you'll be shaking hands and waving with. The left hand is considered the personal hand and the one you use for coughing, sneezing, scratching, etc.

If someone is in your way, is it proper to say "excuse me"?

It's important to be aware of your tone when saying "excuse me." It can come off very sarcastic, rude and patronizing if said in a certain way. It can also come off as very confrontational, so be aware.

If you're looking to get into a sport but don't know much about it, is it appropriate to ask someone more advanced to play with you?

This rule is to avoid the novice acting like they are somehow superior because they are playing with an expert. If the expert asks, the novice may accept as long as they maintain the attitude of a novice.

When a host's guests arrive for the weekend, how does he greet them?

No matter how many guests are staying at your home for the weekend, as the host, you are to greet each one of them by shaking their hand and asking if they want to be shown to their room.

How formal should christening invitations be?

Given that no one but family and extremely close friends are invited to the christening, the invitations are kept simple and casual stating the pertinent information of the time, place and if there's a luncheon to follow. A telephone call or verbal invitation is also acceptable.

Are people who live out in the country burdened with hosting formal dinners?

Emily Post said that formality and the country don't go together. Therefore, those who primarily reside in the country versus in the city are not obligated to throw formal dinner gatherings.

In proper society, what is considered a weekend?

This mostly applies to an occasion where you are hosting weekend guests at your home. That guest is to arrive either Friday afternoon or Saturday at lunch and is welcome and expected to stay through Monday morning.

Is a man always expected to open the door for others?

Door opening actually doesn't depend on the gender, it depends on who gets to the door first. Normally, a gentleman will walk ahead of a lady so he can open the door for her, but it doesn't always have to be the man.

What is a best man's first duty to his groom?

Making sure that everything the groom will need for the wedding is organized, folded and packed is the first duty of the best man when it comes to wedding time. He's also responsible for loading the car or other means of transportation with the groom's bags.

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