The Washington Post
Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th Editionby Peggy Post
For nearly a century, one name has been trusted above all others when it comes to proper decorum: Emily Post. In this completely updated 18th Edition of the classic Emily Post’s Etiquette, the mantle is picked up by the great-great-grandchildren of the First Lady of Etiquette, who tackle the latest issues and demands of the twenty-first century—from texting and tweeting to iPhones, Facebook, and all forms of social media. The perfect guide for Millennials living on their own for the first time who wish to establish themselves properly in the workplace—as well as for Baby Boomers in the midst of planning their children’s weddings, entering retirement, and helping to care for elderly parents—Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition, remains the essential handbook to proper social behavior.
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Q. My parents are divorced and unfriendly to one another. I am at a loss to know how to include everyone in special events such as my children's birthdays and holidays. How do I know which one to invite? When they both invite us for the same holiday, what do I do so that I don't hurt either one's feelings? They make me feel that I'm abandoning them. We also have my husband's parents to consider.
A. Your sensitivity is admirable, but your priority is with your own family and the creation of holiday traditions that will become your children's own. You cannot make your parents' hostile relationship your problem. Be frank with each, telling them that you want special times to be relaxed and happy for your children. This means that you cannot spend Christmas, for example, driving to one's home and then the other's, and then to your husband's parents. Consider taking turns celebrating an event on its real date with one, and then have a second celebration on another day with the other.
Do not allow them to put you in the middle. Remind them that you love them both but insist that your children be able to spend time with all their grandparents in peace, happiness, and harmony.
Assuming that both your parents are otherwise lovely people, ask your in-law's if your mother or father could be invited to a holiday celebration at their house.
For those once-in-a-lifetime events that cannot be duplicated (a christening, graduation, recital, or wedding) ask your parents if, for the sake of their grandchildren, they couldn't "bury the hatchet" for that day so both could be present.
Q. My ex-husbandand I live in the same town. Our son lives with me, but his stepmother, who has children from a previous marriage, is involved in the same school activities. Her children use their father's last name while her last name is the same as my son's and mine. How do we avoid confusion?
A. There is no way to avoid confusion except by explaining. Eventually, people will figure out who's who. When someone unfamiliar with your situation gets confused, simply say, "Timmy is my son. His father is now married to Sally Anderson. Her children are Janet and Jackie Smith."
Q. I have been married for less than a year. My husband has a fourteen-year-old son from a previous marriage. I think we have established a good relationship. He has a mother who lives nearby. I'm not sure what my role is supposed to be with her. We do meet every so often. Do you have any advice?
A. Good manners dictate that you are at least civil and polite, at most friendly. Good sense dictates that you don't discuss the state of your marriage. As for your stepson, don't give unsolicited advice, although you could offer help: "I know Jason has an orthodontist appointment on Friday. . . would it help if I drove him?" If your stepson lives with her most of the time, you can ask her advice about when he visits with you. Questions about his regular bedtime, a curfew she has established, medical care, or other things having to do with her house rules would reassure her that you respect her philosophy and are seeking to support it. Naturally, you would share any discussions of this nature with your husband.
Q. Whom do you tell about a divorce?
A. Tell those to whom it makes a difference. Tell your parents and close family and good friends. Tell your business associates only if they are good friends. Tell the landlord or superintendent and doorman if one of you is keeping the apartment. At times it is necessary to tell doctors and dentists if your children's bills are to be sent to the parent not in custody of the children, and it is wise to notify the school office and your children's teachers. It is important that they know of any situation that may have an impact on your children's behavior and school performance. Otherwise, it is not necessary to tell anyone. The situation will become public knowledge very quickly when one member of the couple moves out. The one who moves may have change-of-name and -address cards printed, and of course his or her Christmas cards will serve as announcements. A note may be added to them: "As you can see, Bob and I are divorced. Hope to hear from you at my new address."
Under no circumstances should printed divorce announcements be sent out. It is in the worst of taste.
Q. What name does a divorced woman use?
A. A divorced woman does not continue to use her husband's first name and is addressed as Mrs. Margaret Thune, not Mrs. Andrew Thune.
Q. Does a married woman's name differ from the form a widow uses?
A. No. A woman who is currently married and a widow generally use the same form, "Mrs. George Yost." A widow may use her first name if she wishes, but then she may be mistaken for a divorc‚e. Many older women prefer to continue using their husband's name.
Q. Besides one's parents who should be told about a living-together relationship?
A. Relatives need be informed of your new situation in life only as they are involved with your life: siblings whom you see or correspond with--yes; aunts, uncles, and cousins with whom you are in close contact--yes; but the "funeral and wedding relations"--no need.
Of course you tell the friends you see frequently and those to whom you write often. In short, tell anybody who will meet your partner on more than a casual basis and anyone with whom you regularly share the news of your life. You need not announce your relationship to business associates unless you see them socially, but if it comes up in conversation, do not hide it.
It is a good idea to tell the letter carrier that Victor Mangin or Susan Gleason will also be receiving mail at your address from now on. There is no need for further explanation.
Tell your landlord, the superintendent, and the door attendant if you have them, so that they will treat your new roommate as another tenant, not as a visitor.
Unless you know your neighbors well there is no need to say anything to them, other than a casual introduction if you meet. Nor is there any need to alert local shops. When your partner orders something to be delivered, the address given will be adequate.
Q. What do you call your living-together partner?
A. I have come to the conclusion that the best form of introduction is to use no word of definition at all. Merely say, "This is Natalie Desreyaud," or "I'd like you to meet Chet Nevins." It is simply not necessary to indicate the relationship between two people when you are at a gathering where relationships make little difference. In a small group where who relates to whom has more importance, all you need add to the introduction is "the man (or woman) I live with."
Q. It has been a long time since I have been on a date. Now that I am single again, I need a refresher course on who pays for what, or whether I should just pay my own way, and on whether I can issue an invitation or must wait to be asked.
A. Fortunately, dating etiquette has changed. Women don't have to sit by the phone hoping someone will call, and men don't have to carry the entire financial burden. When two people meet and sense that they would like to spend more time together, either may initiate a date. As to who pays, the guidelines are the same as they would be for two friends of the same gender. When an invitation is worded "would you have dinner with me on Saturday night?" the person inviting expects to pay, whether male or female. When two people decide, jointly, to buy tickets to an event or to meet for a meal, each would pay his or her own way, unless one insists on the other being his or her guest.
If a relationship develops and one feels that the other is paying most of the costs of their dates, he or she should initiate plans and firmly say, "this evening is my treat," or "I'd love to go, but I'll pick up the tickets this time."
Q. When walking down the street are men expected to walk closest to the curb or to the buildings?
A. The practice of men walking nearer the curb began as a way to protect women from runaway or obstreperous horses and splashing mud from carriage wheels on unpaved roads. Although the reason no longer exists, the pattern has been established and still is followed. If a man chooses to ignore the curbside rule, he should always walk on the woman's left.
Q. Does the "ladies first" rule always apply?
A. In most circumstances, indoors or out, a couple walks side-by-side. When necessary to walk single file the woman precedes the man, to follow a waiter to a table for instance. There are times, however, when a man goes first:
Over rough ground, he walks beside her and offers his hand if she needs assistance.
He steps ahead of her to open a car door for her to enter.
He gets out of a car first and holds the door for her when they arrive, unless she doesn't want to wait.
Meet the Author
Peggy Post, Emily Post’s great-granddaughter-in-law, is a director of The Emily Post Institute and the author of more than a dozen books. Peggy writes a monthly column in Good Housekeeping and an online wedding etiquette column for the New York Times.
Anna Post is the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, and a co-author of Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th Edition. She is also the co-author of Great Get-Togethers and Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette, 6th Edition, and the author of Do I Have to Wear White? Anna conducts business etiquette seminars across the country.
Lizzie Post is the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, and a co-author of Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th Edition. She is also the co-author of Great Get-Togethers and Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette, 6th Edition, and the author of How Do You Work This Life Thing? She has spoken across the country sharing etiquette advice about technology, finance, and lifestyle.
Daniel Post Senning is the great-great-grandson of Emily Post and a co-author of Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th Edition. He is also the author of Manners in a Digital World: Living Well Online. Dan conducts business etiquette seminars across the country and internationally.
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Everyone should show respect to others all the time. Good manners equal prper etiquette. Proper etiquette is being lost in our culture. This guide helps us to know what actions show respect to others.
I grew up with Emily Post, taught to me by my grandmother. Now that I'm a grandmother myself, it is nice to have a reference which helps guide us in the changing etiquette of the modern world.