Etiquette: Wikis


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In High-Change in Bond Street,—ou—la Politesse du Grande Monde (1796), James Gillray caricatured the lack of etiquette in a group of men leering at women and crowding them off a pavement.

Etiquette (pronounced [,eti'ket]) is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. The French word, signifying ticket (of admission, etc.) first appeared in English in 1750.[1]



Like "culture", etiquette is a word that has gradually grown plural, especially in a multi-ethnic society with many clashing expectations. Thus, it is now possible to refer to "an etiquette" or "a culture", realizing that these may not be universal. In Britain, the word "etiquette" has been described as the one word that aptly describes life during the reign of queen Victoria.[2]

Rules of etiquette

Rules of etiquette encompass most aspects of social interaction in any society, though the term itself is not commonly used. A rule of etiquette may reflect an underlying ethical code, or it may reflect a person's fashion or status. Rules of etiquette are usually unwritten, but aspects of etiquette have been codified from time to time.


"Etiquette tells one which fork to use. Manners tells one what to do when your neighbor doesn't"

Manners involve a wide range of social interactions within cultural norms as in the "comedy of manners", or a painter's characteristic "manner". Etiquette and manners, like mythology, have buried histories especially when they seem to have little obvious purpose, and their justifications as logical ("respect shown to others" etc.) may be equally revealing to the social historian.

In America, the notion of etiquette, being of French origin and arising from practices at the court of Louis XIV, is occasionally disparaged, especially by those unfamiliar with etiquette's social foundations and functions, as old-fashioned or elite, a likecode concerned only with apparently remote directives such as "which fork to use". Some such individuals consider etiquette to be an unnecessary restriction of freedom or of personal expression; others consider such a philosophy to be espoused only by the unschooled, the unmannerly and the rude. For instance, wearing pajamas to a wedding in a cathedral may indeed be an expression of the guest's freedom, but also may cause the bride and groom to suspect that the guest in pajamas is expressing amusement, disparagement, or disrespect towards them and their wedding. Etiquette may be enforced in pragmatic ways: "No shoes, no shirt, no service" is a notice commonly displayed outside stores and cafés in the warmer parts of North America. Others feel that a single, basic code shared by all makes life simpler and more pleasant by removing many chances for misunderstandings and by creating opportunities for courtesy and mutual respect.

Western business etiquette

The etiquette of business is the set of written and unwritten rules of conduct that make social interactions run more smoothly. Office etiquette in particular applies to coworker interaction, excluding interactions with external contacts such as customers and suppliers. When conducting group meetings in the United States, the assembly might follow Robert's Rules of Order, if there are no other company policies to control a meeting.

Both office and business etiquette overlap considerably with basic tenets of netiquette, the social conventions for using computer networks. These rules are often echoed throughout an industry or economy. For instance, 49% of employers surveyed in 2005 by the American National Association of Colleges and Employers found that non-traditional attire would be a "strong influence" on their opinion of a potential job candidate.[3]

Adjusting to foreign etiquettes is a major complement of culture shock, providing a market for manuals.[4]

Cultural differences

Hunting Lice by Candlelight, Andries Both (Dutch, ca.1612/13–1641)

Etiquette is dependent on culture; what is excellent etiquette in one society may shock another. Etiquette evolves within culture. The Dutch painter Andries Both shows that the hunt for head lice (illustration, right), which had been a civilized grooming occupation in the early Middle Ages, a bonding experience that reinforced the comparative rank of two people, one groomed, one groomer, had become a peasant occupation by 1630. The painter portrays the familiar operation matter-of-factly, without the disdain this subject would have received in a nineteenth-century representation.

Etiquette can vary widely between different cultures and nations. In China, a person who takes the last item of food from a common plate or bowl without first offering it to others at the table may be seen as a glutton and insulting the generosity of the host. In America a guest is expected to eat all of the food given to them, as a compliment to the quality of the cooking.

Etiquette is a topic that has occupied writers and thinkers in all sophisticated societies for millennia, beginning with a behavior code by Ptahhotep, a vizier in ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom during the reign of the Fifth Dynasty king Djedkare Isesi (ca. 2414–2375 B.C.). All known literate civilizations, including ancient Greece and Rome, developed rules for proper social conduct. Confucius included rules for eating and speaking along with his more philosophical sayings.

Early modern conceptions of what behavior identifies a "gentleman" were codified in the sixteenth century, in a book by Baldassare Castiglione, Il Cortegiano ("The Courtier"); its codification of expectations at the Este court remained in force in its essentials until World War I. Louis XIV established an elaborate and rigid court ceremony, but distinguished himself from the high bourgeoisie by continuing to eat, stylishly and fastidiously, with his fingers. An important book about etiquette is Galateo, overo de' costumi by Monsignor Giovanni della Casa; in fact, in Italian, etiquette is generally called galateo (or etichetta or protocollo).

In the UK, Debrett's is considered by many to be the arbiter of etiquette; their guides to manners and form have long been the last word among polite society. Traditional publications such as Correct Form have recently been updated to reflect contemporary society, and new titles Etiquette for Girls and Manners for Men act as guides for those who want to combine a modern lifestyle with traditional values.

In the American colonies Benjamin Franklin and George Washington wrote codes of conduct for young gentlemen. The immense popularity of advice columns and books by Letitia Baldrige and Miss Manners shows the currency of this topic. Even more recently, the rise of the Internet has necessitated the adaptation of existing rules of conduct to create Netiquette, which governs the drafting of email, rules for participating in an online forum, and so on.

In Germany, there is an "unofficial" code of conduct, called the Knigge, based on a book of high rules of conduct written by Adolph Freiherr Knigge in the late 18th century entitled exactly Über den Umgang mit Menschen (On Human Relations). The code of conduct is still highly respected in Germany today and is used primarily in the higher society.

Etiquette may be wielded as a social weapon. The outward adoption of the superficial mannerisms of an in-group, in the interests of social advancement rather than a concern for others, is considered by many a form of snobbery, lacking in virtue.

See also

Etiquette and language

Etiquette and society

Worldwide Etiquette


  1. ^ OED, "Etiquette".
  2. ^
  3. ^ Grab bag - OOQ Online, Fall 2006
  4. ^ Boye Lafayette De Mente, Chinese etiquette & ethics in business , 1994

Further reading

  • The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette: 50th Anniversary Edition, by Nancy Tuckerman, Nancy Dunnan, and Amy Vanderbilt, Doubleday (1995), ISBN 0-385-41342-4, 786 pages: originally published in 1952, this and Emily Post's book were the U.S. etiquette bibles of the 50's-70's era.
  • Debrett's Correct Form, by Debrett's Limited (2006), 192 pages.
  • Eye to Eye: How People Interact, by Peter Marsh, Salem House Publication, ISBN 0-8816-2371-7, 256 pages.
  • From Clueless to Class Act, series of books on etiquette, by Jodi Smith deals with proper etiquette for men and women.
  • The Little Book of Etiquette by Dorothea Johnson, Protocol School of Washington, Philadelphia/London, Running Press (1997)ISBN 978-0-7624-0009-6, 127 pages. A pocket-sized, take-along reference book for the user's convenience.
  • Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated, by Judith Martin, illustrated by Gloria Kanem, W.W. Norton & Co. (2005), ISBN 0-393-05874-3, 858 pages.
  • New Manners for New Times: A Complete Guide to Etiquette, by Letitia Baldrige, New York: Scribner, 2003, ISBN 0-7432-1062-X, 709 pages.
  • The Power of Handshaking for Peak Performance Worldwide by Robert E. Brown and Dorothea Johnson, Protocol School of Washington, Capital Books, Inc., Herndon, Virginia (2004), ISBN 1-931868-88-3, 98 pages.
  • Secrets of Seasoned Professionals: They learned the hard way so you don't have to, by Kelly A. Tyler, Fired Up Publishing (2008), ISBN 978-0-9818298-0-7, 146 pages.
  • Town & Country Modern Manners: The Thinking Person's Guide to Social Graces, by Thomas P. Farley, Hearst Books (September 2005), ISBN 1-58816-454-3, 256 pages.
  • Manners That Sell: Adding the Polish that Builds Profits, by Lydia Ramsey, Longfellow Press (2007), 978-0967001203, 188 pages.
  • Socially Smart in 60 Seconds: Etiquette Do's and Don'ts for Personal and Professional Success", by Deborah Smith Pegues, Harvest House Publishers (2009), ISBN 978-0-7369-2050-6.
  • The Britiquette Series: The Must-Have Guide to Posh Nosh Table Manners (66 pages) and The Slightly Rude But Much Needed Guide to Social Grace & Good Manners (101 pages), by Elaine Grace, (2007), (EBooks).

External links

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

This learning project is about exploring modern etiquette and manners in the context of Wikiversity.

Common practices

This section lists common practices. Why do these common practices work? When do they fail and why?

  1. Think before you act. Think about whether each action is going to make things better or worse. If an action might make things worse, give active consideration to not doing it.
  2. Take care writing on topics you are passionate about. Create learning resources in a way that does not argue for one point of view. Remember that it is difficult to be unbiased when you are biased.
  3. Avoid drama. Focus on content, not on people. Look for common ground. Your free time could be better spent to improve Wikiversity's content.
  4. Don't take Wikiversity too seriously. Remember that Wikiversity is a hobby and not an obligation or commitment. Keep a good community spirit up and make good edits as a community.
  5. Listen to other people and acknowledge that you understand other people's point of views. Text communications can be ambiguous and often more difficult to interpret than speech. Text comes without facial expressions, vocal inflection, or body language. It is easy to misjudge other editors' moods and intentions. Make your proposals and responses clear. If someone disagrees with you, make sure you try to understand why. Try to see where they are coming from. Take the time and effort to explain why you think your suggestion(s) might be preferable, and answer their questions politely. Don't ignore them (unless it's for a very good reason, i.e they themselves are being unreasonable.) Respect them. Restating people's view fairly and accurately, like "You seem to be saying [paraphrase of opposite opinion or suggestion]," or "As I understand you...," acknowledges that you are paying attention and not just waiting to interject with points of your own. Even if you are sure you haven't misunderstood what someone is trying to say to you, listening carefully and communicating effectively will help keep you from missing something important.
  6. Acknowledge and apologize when you are wrong or being unfair. You are only human. Sometimes you make mistakes and are not always right. In the heat of the moment you might sometimes say things that were better left unsaid; the least you can then do is make amends and admit your mistakes. Why argue infinitely when you can apologize?
  7. Say something nice. People typically only bother to comment or use talk pages when they have a problem or complaint. Unsurprisingly this can create a negative atmosphere that leads to heated arguments, annoyance and people taking offense, whether or not that was your intent. If you like what you read say so! Do not assume that by not complaining that people ought to know their work is appreciated. A few compliments can proactively smooth things over and make people less likely to simply take offense at your criticism. A safe approach is to "sandwich" your complaint between compliments, with something positive at the beginning and end with your commentary.
  8. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. If you're in a situation where you can't think of anything nice to say and saying something is likely to just anger people, then don't say anything at all. Often times someone else shares the same views. Allow someone who's more level headed to discuss the issues instead.
  9. Assume the best about people whenever possible. Assume good faith. Wikiversity has worked remarkably well so far based on a policy of openness. This suggests that most people who visit do want to help and do succeed in trying to do so.
  10. Take it slow. There is no time limit for a discussion. If you're angry, take a break from posting or editing. Come back in a day or a week. You might find that someone else has made the change or comment you wanted while you were away.
  11. Limit and qualify your statement and try posting comments as questions, especially if you're not totally sure. Blanket statements or statements asserting the truth of opinions that can inflame the reader and sometimes, if you identify it as your own personal point of view, it can help make it seem less insulting to those who disagree. In this way, you can still emphasize your strong feelings on the topic, and communicate exactly the same opinion, but do so in a less inflammatory way.
  12. Help moderate other people's disagreements when you come across them. This is the same concept as pulling apart the two people engaged in a fist fight. Sometimes it is best to just state that the discussion is too heated (in a metaphorical sense).
  13. Remove or summarize old complaints. Once you are fairly certain that the person you're critiquing has seen your complaint (e.g., they've responded to it), be honorable about removing or summarizing it. The participant will sometimes feel reluctant to remove criticism out of fear that it will make them appear fearful of evaluations from others. You can go even a step further and thank them for addressing (or at least considering) your issue.
  14. Avoid deleting things as a matter of principle. When you amend and edit, it is remarkable how you might see something useful in what you might be about to remove. Almost everyone – including you – has something useful to say. Deletion upsets people and makes them feel they have wasted their time; at the very least leave some indication of your rationale in an edit summary, if not in an entry on a talk page or in a message to a user or users you think might be perturbed by your action.
  15. Go play in a Project:Sandbox, especially one you've created yourself in your userspace. It gives you a chance to ease discipline and get a few things off your chest -- go ahead, you probably won't frighten the punters too much, but consider others and resist using anything likely to upset or distress a random visitor.
  16. Sometimes you just need to walk away. There are a countless numbers of users who can take over for you. If you are not making progress, do not waste your personal time. Take a time out and work on other resources, or take a break from Wikiversity in general. Go get some fresh air or cook up a nice snack in the kitchen. You can bookmark the learning resource and return in a week or two. Allow some other Wikiversity participants to handle the situation.
  17. Always be welcoming to people. Everyone has something of value to contribute. Encourage people and welcome their ideas, even ideas you disagree with or from someone you are in conflict with. When people are allowed to be heard and to participate, they are less likely to feel neglected or alienated. If people feel neglected or alienated valuable contributions may be lost.

See also

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ETIQUETTE, a term for ceremonial usage, the rules of behaviour observed in society, more particularly the formal rules of ceremony to be observed at court functions, &c., the procedure, especially with regard to precedence and promotions in an organized body or society. Professions, such as the law or medicine, observe a code of etiquette, which the members must observe as protecting the dignity of the profession and preventing injury to its members. The word is French. The O. Fr. estiquette or estiquet meant a label, or "ticket," the true English derivative. The ultimate origin is Teutonic, from sticken, to post up, stick, affix. Cotgrave explains the word in French as a billet for the benefit or advantage of him that receives it, a form of introduction and also a notice affixed at the gate of a court of law. The development of meaning in French from a label to ceremonial rules is not difficult in itself, but, as the New English Dictionary points out, the history has not been clearly established.

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Simple English

Etiquette, one aspect of decorum, is a code that rules how everyone is expected to behave, according to the social conventions and norms, in society, in a social class, or group. It is usually unwritten, but it may be put in written form. Because they are a product of the society's culture and history, the rules of etiquette are very different from time to time, and from one place and social group to another.

Other websites

The English Wiktionary has a dictionary definition (meanings of a word) for:

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