12 etiquette rules you might be breaking

old time photo of man kissing woman's hand
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You say 'please' and 'thank you' and don't talk with food in your mouth, but how much do you know about minding your manners?

Question 1 of 12

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RSVP invitation
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It's OK not to respond to an RSVP if you're not going to the event.

Unless an invitation says "regrets only," you should reply promptly whether you're going or not, says Emily Post. Not RSVP-ing is not the same thing as declining. When you don't RSVP, your host will likely assume that you are coming — and she may take the additional step of following up with you to make sure. (Doesn't she have enough to do?)

Question 2 of 12

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wine being poured into glass
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If you don't want wine, you should turn your wine glass upside-down.

Turning your glass over definitely is a clear signal that you don't want wine. But according to the International Butler Academy, it's also rude. You're calling attention to yourself and your dislike of your host's chosen beverage. Instead, quietly say "no, thank you" when the wine is being poured or just don't drink it.

Question 3 of 12

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people in an elevator
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Who should enter or exit the elevator first?

It's not gender, it's location: Whoever is closest to the doors goes in or out first. Etiquette International sums up any door etiquette rule this way: "You hold the door open for a woman if you would hold it open for a man in the same situation. Doors are held open for superiors, for clients, for peers following close on your heels and for anyone who is loaded down with packages, regardless of your gender or theirs."

Question 4 of 12

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If you have to cough or sneeze, use:

Some people say you shouldn't cough or sneeze into your personal hand, which is the one you shake hands with. But the CDC says hygiene trumps etiquette — choose your sleeve over your hand. By sneezing or coughing into the inside of your elbow, you're doing the most well-mannered thing by not passing on any germs with your next handshake.(And maybe go wash your hands anyway.)

Question 5 of 12

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red napkin in a holder
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When you're finished eating, what should you do with your napkin?

Your napkin should be placed on your lap as soon as you sit down, according to British etiquette arbiter Debrett's. If you have to get up for any reason before the meal ends, put it on your chair. When you're finished, leave your napkin unfolded on the table, to the left of the place setting.

Question 6 of 12

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people texting at the table
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What should you do with your phone when you eat?

We know you're worried about missing an important call or text, but the Emily Post Institute says keep your smartphone off the table and set it to silent or vibrate. Wait to check calls and texts until you're finished with your meal and are away from the table. (You can do it. We have faith in you.)

Question 7 of 12

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girl with elbows on table
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It's never OK to put your elbows on the table.

It's never OK to put your elbows on the table while you're eating. But if you're just chatting between courses, it's perfectly fine to prop your elbows on the table for a bit. Not only is it OK now, says the Emily Post Institute, it was even fine way back in Emily's day. It's just the eating-and-elbows part that's taboo.

Question 8 of 12

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It's acceptable to wear white after Labor Day.

There may be some older women who raise their eyebrows if they see you in white shoes late into fall, but it's perfectly fine to wear white after Labor Day. The Emily Post Institute says it's more about fabric choice than color. You can wear white wool, cashmere, denim or down all winter long. "The true interpretation is 'wear what’s appropriate — for the weather, the season, or the occasion'."

Question 9 of 12

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baby shower presents
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In today's digital age, how should you thank someone for a baby or wedding present?

Emily Post's great-great-granddaughter Lizzie told Slate's Ruth Graham that she gets a version of this question multiple times a week. If you typically are in touch via text with the gift-giver, she may think it odd if you don't acknowledge the present as soon as you get it. Post's idea: Go ahead and text a simple acknowledgement right away if it feels natural. ("Your gift just arrived!") Then in your written note, give a more detailed thanks.

Question 10 of 12

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Facebook logo
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It's OK to unfriend someone on Facebook.

“You don’t need to make an announcement about it,” Jodi R. R. Smith, the author of "The Etiquette Book: A Complete Guide to Modern Manners," told Real Simple. “Your lives have grown apart, and if they ask, simply explain that you needed to reorganize.” If there's someone you don't feel like you can unfriend, just hide him or her from your feed instead.

Question 11 of 12

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In email, it's occasionally OK to use:

Using all caps is considered yelling by most people. Studies show that although it might be easier to search for certain words in an all-cap message, it's more difficult overall and takes longer to read. You're losing speed and comprehension ... and making your reader cranky. All lower case just looks like you didn't care enough to get it right.

Question 12 of 12

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statue of people shaking hands
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Which is an unacceptable handshake?

If your hand is wet (either from nerves, sweat or a cold drink), wipe it off surreptitiously behind your back before shaking hands. Otherwise, the rules are simple, says Modern Manners Guy Richie Frieman: "When you shake someone’s hand, you only bend at the elbow. Do not put your shoulder into it like a running back trying to break through a defensive line. Grip their hand, palm on palm, lay your fingers out naturally, and give it two shakes moving only your forearm up and down. It should be smooth and methodical. Then let go, and move on."

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old time photo of man kissing woman's hand
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