Again, it is surprising how many mistaken ideas of etiquette have gained currency among people, who, while not “in society,” certainly ought to know better. For instance, in churches, you often see the occupant of the end of a pew next the aisle putting his own collection into the plate before passing it on. This is quite wrong; he should pass it first and add his own contribution last. Again, take the question of “seeing a friend to the door.”
I know one woman of exceedingly modest menage who labors under the delusion that her growing social importance demands that her good-byes must be said in her parlor, even if the has no other guest at the time! Both common sense and courtesy surely demand that the solitary guest should be escorted to the door by her hostess— and even to the front gate if there be one. A large establishment with servants waiting in the hall— a drawing room full of guests, or a man caller— make it right for the hostess to remain in the drawing room, but in the absence of these conditions she must assuredly escort her guest herself, if she has no daughters to do it for her.
I once heard a man criticized because he was sufficiently courteous to pull out his fellow boarders chair at table before she sat down and later helped her on with her coat — this without previous acquaintance except, the usual conversation and courtesies of a small boarding house table of six. Of, course he was right — and showed not only his good breeding but his knowledge of the world. It is only the man who cannot be courteous without being familiar, who cannot help a woman with her coat without giving a suggestion of “tucking” her into it — it is only this kind of a man who need fear a snub on such an occasion from a well-bred woman.
In answer to the every day apology, “I beg your pardon” — many persons are wont to reply “certainly”— or more vaguely “not at all.” Both answers are out of place –the first, because it implies that pardon was needed; the second—because it means absolutely nothing. “Don't mention it” is the proper answer, although punctilious people are still heard to reply in courteous tones “The fault was mine.” If you do not hear aright a question asked you, do not ask “What is it?” Say, “Excuse me?” Or, colloquially, “I did not catch that.” If someone comes to ask you something never bluntly demand “What do you want?” Rather say “What can I do for you?” Do not say plain “yes or no,” nor embellish your conversation with “yes sir” and “no ma'am.” “Yes indeed,” “no, I think not” are preferable. – Los Angeles Herald, 1906
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia