Few can claim to be an expert on etiquette; however, some people are simply better than others at navigating the rules of social conduct. Jane is one of these lucky gals who manages to charm her way through any social occasion and always knows what the more genteel find appropriate and not. If you have an etiquette question related to the categories you see on our site and you cannot find the answer below or in FAQ, contact Jane at email@example.com and she will endeavour to provide you with best practices in communication etiquette in the modern age. You will receive a response within 24 hours.
While adhering to etiquette guidelines can sometimes be boring, they do help make our personal and professional relationships more comfortable and effective. The fact is that we tend to feel more at ease when we understand what others expect of us.
Courtesy, Common Sense, Usage and Style are the core components of our etiquette philosophy. As one of our favourite ladies of modern etiquette says, "Let common sense be your guide and graciousness your goal."
Courtesy: Courtesy is at the heart of etiquette and does not discriminate. No matter the age, social standing, or income of the recipient, courtesy imposes on us an obligation to be considerate of others. It is just as appropriate to send your daughter's nanny a thank you note to acknowledge the receipt of a birthday gift as it is to send a note to your mother-in-law. Being polite often takes extra time out of our day and can even be personally inconvenient but it is always greatly appreciated by others and is the basis for a harmonious society.
Common sense: If you are sending an invitation, think about the information you would want to receive if you were invited to an event. Your guests need to know who is inviting them to what function as well as the date, time, and place. A properly worded invitation presents all of this information succinctly and coherently. If you are sending out a change of address announcement, for example, provide all of the details that have changed including phone, email, post address and fax number. If you don't know the rule, just err towards doing something (sending a thank you, invitation, regrets, etc.) instead of doing nothing at all.
Usage: Social rules come in and out of fashion and one must be open to changing with the times while respecting those who might not be as far ahead. Technologies such as text messages, email and social networking sites such as Facebook have become common forms of communication. While there are those traditionalists who might cringe at the thought of listing your email address at the top of your engraved correspondence card, we advocate listing the information that will be most useful to you. If you want to put your skype address on a calling card, then do it.
Style: Subscribing to a certain code of social etiquette shouldn't limit your creative spirit. Following these rules blindly will reek of insincerity, while conducting yourself with style is what people will remember. For example, while some etiquette pundits may dictate that wedding invitations should be engraved in palace script with black ink on heavy cream paper, if you prefer a letterpressed invitation with orange ink, then this is what you should do. The important thing is that the quality of the invitation represents the quality of the event you are producing and that it respectfully and concisely provides the information necessary for your guests to attend the event. Jane Press lets you create your own style.
The stationery you choose makes a statement about you. When you select your stationery wardrobe you should keep in mind the impression you want to make. Your stationery should reflect both your personality and the type of correspondence that you are sending.
Your wardrobe should offer enough variety for different occasions. Imagine you are writing a groveling letter to the headmistress of the school to which you are desperate to secure a place for your little Nigel. You want that headmistress to think he comes from a "good home", therefore, writing on a more traditional engraved 100% cotton white writing paper sends the proper tone. When you are sending a thank you note to your girlfriend for hosting a fab dinner party, you might want to write on a personalised folded notecard with a modern design; this sets a friendly, trendy tone.
At Jane Press you create your own style - choose your paper, font, ink colour, printing process. Everything we have is within the realm of good taste, or at least we think so. Following are the list of items to consider as a starting point for your bespoke stationery wardrobe.
Writing paper is the most formal paper in a stationery wardrobe. Blank, unadorned writing paper is used to reply to formal invitations and for letters of condolence. Because of their simple elegance, writing paper may be used for any type of correspondence. Letter sheets may be adorned with a coat of arms, a monogram, a name, an address, or simply left blank. Only the front of a correspondence sheet is written on, never the back. If you need additional space, use blank second sheets. This can come in a variety of sizes, with the A5 size (148 mm x 210 mm ) the most common.
Monarch sheets, also known as "executive stationery", are used for longer personal letters and for personal business letters. Monarch sheets are A4 size and fold into thirds to fit their envelopes. A name and/or address appears at the top of the sheet. Only the front of the sheet is written on, never the back. If you need additional space, use blank second sheets.
Correspondence Cards are one of the most useful items in a stationery wardrobe. Less formal than a note, these increasingly popular cards are used for thank-yous, informal invitations, and short notes. Correspondence cards are flat, heavy and usually measure 10.5 cm x 15.5 cm (and Jane Press also offers a slightly larger size 11.5 cm x 17 cm) with matching envelopes. They can be plain or bordered, depending on one's tastes. A name, small monogram or motif may appear at the top of the card. Only the front of the card is written on, never the back. If you need more space, use a different type of stationery such as writing paper.
Fold-over Notes are used to write thank-you notes, extend informal invitations, and to send short messages to friends and acquaintances. These are the most casual of the notes you may send. Your monogram or your name may appear or you may choose a pattern or motif that reflects your style. It is common to have personalised notecards for every member of the family.
Fold-over notes may begin on page 1 when the imprint is at the top of the note. The note may continue on page 3. When the imprint is in the center of the note, the entire message is written on page 3. Pages 2 and 4 are not used. If you need more space, use a different type of stationery, perhaps writing paper.
House Stationery may be properly used by any resident of your house or by any guest staying at your house. Many people keep house stationery at their country and beach homes so that stationery is always available for their guests and for themselves. Only the name of your house or the address appears on the stationery.
Calling cards are steeped in the ultra-formal Victorian code of social etiquette and have made a fashionable resurgence in our fast-paced 21st-century lives. They are the perfect personal introduction for those occasions when a business card is too business-like. Our calling cards are great for the socially active stay-at-home mum or the recent university grad who is job hunting. They are also useful for nannies when arranging playdates with other nannies and mums. Job seekers also find them to be more discrete to use during a job search than their current business cards. Calling cards are also becoming fashionable on the dating scene as a wonderful way to say "Be sure to stay in touch!."
Calling cards may contain as little as your name or as much as your name, phone number, email address and postal address.
SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT WRITING ETIQUETTE
With the emergence of electronic communication, are people still writing letters or sending paper invitations any more?
Receiving anything interesting in the post is always a rare treat. In fact, perhaps a reaction to the impersonality of electronic communication, letter-writing is enjoying a comeback. The fact remains that a written note is held onto and a birth announcement gets put up on the refrigerator door for all to see. These mementos last longer than text messages and emails that can be deleted at the press of a button.
What makes a good letter?
Real ink, only in blue or black, is the traditional medium, and although is still considered the finest, other colours are acceptable to those with contemporary tastes. Stay away from red, however; it can be interpreted as aggressive. , but red is thought of as aggressive. Some more exotic colours can be difficult to read. Biros, felt tips and pencils can appear sloppy unless they are artfully employed.
Good paper sets the right tone in either wood or cotton and in a light weight such as 100gsm for writing paper and heavier weight such as 300 gsm for cards. We prefer 100% cotton paper because it feels lush and soft and is more environmentally friendly than wood based papers. Cotton paper is made from the husk of the cotton ball which would typically be thrown out after harvesting the cotton.
Letters should read as if the writer is sitting beside the reader: bubbling over with conversation. Order your thoughts before committing them to paper and watch your spelling and grammar. A thorough proofread is crucial.
Letters should include your address, the date, and a warm greeting such as 'Dear' or 'Dearest'. Don't ever use 'To', as it is much too impersonal. The sign-off should match your relationship with the recipient. For older generations, bow to formality, i.e., 'Best wishes'. 'Yours sincerely' and 'Yours faithfully' should be left for business correspondence.
Presentation is important. Letters are keepsakes, so a little bit of neatness will give a letter that chance of permanence. A doctor's scrawl is not acceptable. Though it doesn't have to look like the handwriting of a headmistress, take time to write neatly. This goes for the outside as well. The complete address should be handwritten in the correct postal form.
What information should be included?
Of course the full name of the baby and, if the baby has a nickname, provide it in quote marks underneath his or her name. Also include the date, the time, the weight, the names of the parents , even if they're not married, and perhaps the town in which the baby was born. If you'd like to add more information, you can include the name of the hospital in which the baby was born and your address. Do not mention a gift registry as this would be in terrible taste. Leave it in people's hands to decide if they want to give a gift and what they want to give.
It is traditional to include birth weight on an announcement, but what happens if you've had a premature child or an extremely large child?
If your child is extremely large or premature, there is no reason to draw attention to it. But most babies come between 6 and 9 pounds and people are just sort of curious. Really only the parents care, but it's good to put down.
When should the announcements be sent out and by when?
As soon as you can manage, as close to the birth date as possible. Choose the design several weeks before your due date. Decide on your wording and get your addresses together. If you are feeling really organized we will send you the envelopes in advance so that you can address and stamp them. Then all you have to do is deliver the baby and provide us with the final details for printing. Once they are printed all you have to do is to pop them in the envelope and into the post box. The latest you should get them out would be six months. You don't want the baby growing up and getting married before you announce its birth.
Is there a special way of writing announcements for twins?
There are two ways to go about this. One is to include them both on one announcement, putting them on both sides of the announcement so it is clear that there are two people. The other way is to send two announcements. Either way, everyone will be surprised!
Is it necessary to write a personalised note on each announcement?
No. Anyone who has had children can tell you that you and your husband will barely have enough energy to lick stamps those first few months, let alone write thoughtful notes to the recipients. If you can muster the energy to write a personal note on those sent to the grandparents, this will be much appreciated, but not necessary.
Is it necessary to include a photograph with my birth announcement?
While this has become more common, it certainly is not necessary. In fact, babies rarely look picture perfect those first few weeks, so if you do choose to send a photo you may want to wait a couple of months, or at least until the baby acne has faded. Jane Press has a selection of announcements with and without photos. We can also recommend child photographers throughout the UK to assist you in capturing the perfect image of your newborn.
Are people who receive birth announcements expected to send gifts?
No. While it is typical that people send baby gifts upon the receipt of the announcement, it should not be expected. The announcement should, however, be acknowledged by a note or call from the recipient. If you have already given gifts at a baby shower it is not expected that you will provide an additional gift. Speaking of gifts, stationery makes a great gift for babies and Jane Press happens to have a wide selection of beautiful personalised stationery for children. Jane Press also carries a cheeky set of thank you cards written from the baby's perspective.
I kept my maiden name, how can I best word my child's birth announcement?
Both parents' names should be listed and the child's name should clearly indicate which surname she/he will take. "Edward Lees and Kelly Schneider announce with great joy the birth of their daughter, Lilly Casimir Lees". etc., etc.
Does my baby need stationery?
Your baby and children will receive many gifts, particularly the first year of their birth, which should be acknowledged with thank you notes. Having notecards personalised with your baby's name that match the design of the birth announcement is a stylish touch. Jane Press offers a wide range of children's stationery to fit all budgets.
We have adopted a child. Is it appropriate to send out announcements, and what is the best wording?
An announcement is always appropriate to let people know about a new member of your family. "Mary and Nigel Hawley are happy to announce that a wonderful young man has joined our family, George Louis Hawley, born on (and you put down his birth date, even if it is two or three years previously). You might also want to add: '...who came to us from China'.
I am worried about offending friends of different faiths by sending my Holiday cards.
You have two choices: Find a card that is neutral, non-specific without any religious connotation in the greeting, or have two sets of Christmas cards made. One set of cards can say, May the Joy and Holiness of this Season Be With You Always, May the Lord Bless You in the New Year, or something like that. Then another set made for all your business friends and so forth that should say something relatively agnostic such asas Another more agnostic set can say Seasons Greetings and Happiest of New Years. When you say Seasons Greetings or Happy Holidays or Happy New Year, you won't offend the people of any faith.
Who should be on my Christmas card list?
Go wide. Holiday cards are a wonderful way of reaching out to those you have not seen or spoken with during the year - why limit the number of lives you can touch? It is a great time to think of all of the people you know and have met and acknowledge that relationship, even if you haven't seen them in 20 years. Don't just blindly follow tradition; this is a time to put some thought and care into the message you are sending.
Is it necessary to sign each and every card?
Yes. It is insulting to have a printed card come with only a printed name. It says to the recipient that nobody from that family saw the card or signed it. We know this is a mass mailing but don't make your recipient feel like one of many. If you're a celebrity, you write Simply write "Hope this is a great year! love Harry" - very simple, but do not let it go through the mail without some sort of personal signature and brief note. While addresses should ideally be handwritten, they can also be printed on mailing labels.
What about beyond the signature, must I write a note?
You should be able to squeeze out a "cheers" to your family or "hope all goes well in 2009". You don't have to make specific names. You are sending a holiday card, not a letter. You could write a hundred of them while you're on the airplane and not worry about what you're writing, just make them personal.
When should I plan to mail out my holiday cards?
Get on the ball and order them by September, early October. They're appreciated when they come early and they're not lost in the barrage of catalogs. First Christmas cards always make an impression. The earliest card could be sent the 1st of December. At the latest, cards really should be sent by the day before Christmas. Because so many people travel over the holidays you have a bit of grace period in between Christmas and New Years to get them out. If you want people to get them before Christmas have them in the post by 15 December. After January 1st becomes a bit of a joke, if you cannot make it by then maybe you should focus on Valentine's Day cards.
How quickly do thank you notes for holiday gifts need to be sent, and is a note always expected?
A note should always be expected. Writing thank you notes is a dying art amongst people of all ages, but particularly children. Generations are being born without anyone teaching them that notes are important and they think email will do it. Well the email will do it for the little presents. If you got a present from your bank, a key chain with the bank logo on it, and it is sent by the person who handles your account, you send an email back and say "Doug, thanks a lot for the key chain, it's already in use." That's fine. If Doug, who handles your account, sends you a case of South African wine, you write him a letter, you do not send him an email. And you say "...that wine was just what we needed to get through the holidays with the in-laws...thanks for thinking of us over the holidays." Just two sentences, that's all you have to say. Just acknowledge the gift because otherwise that person is going to wonder, did you get it. (One of the most embarrassing tasks is to call someone to enquire whether or not they actually received your package in the post.)
With the emergence of text messaging, emails and online invitation services do I really need to send a printed invitation?
Receiving anything of interest in the post is always a rare treat. A printed invitation kick starts a bigger sense of anticipation. For an impromptu get house party or get together at a local pub, texting and emails are ok. However, if you want people to treat this event as an ocassion that goes in the diary then an invitation with an expectation of an RSVP is sure to garner a higher participation rate.
What information should be included on an invitation?
An invitation must seem inviting (ie, great occasion, promising location) but it must also be informative. It lets guests know what's involved, who the hosts are, the nature of the occasion, the venue, the timings, what to wear, what to expect, what to bring, if they can bring an ally and how to RSVP.
How far in advance should invitations be extended for a more informal party?
While spontaneity can be fun it compromises turnout. Two weeks for a drinks or dinner party. More warning for summer or Christmas parties and catered events - at least six weeks. At least three weeks in advance is best for birthday parties. If you are expecting people to spend a weekend away for a 40th birthday party, or other event, then six weeks is the absolute minimum required, we would suggest 2-3 months notice so babysitters and travel plans can be organized. For children's birthday parties that take place in September, it is always smart to get it on the calendar in July before everyone leaves for the holidays.
How is the best way to word an invitation if there more than one host for an event?
An event hosted by a business, you have to list the hosts in order of rank. The CEO or MD's name comes first, the Director's comes second, the Manager, etc., the Board of Directors underneath that. If it's just informal, if four people are hosting a going away party then list them across the top alphabetically - George Abbott, Mary Barnes, David Edison - across the top. If you have to explain their titles or the companies they are with, do it vertically. List them alphabetically and put George Abbott, Western Electric Company. Mary Barnes, Sears and Roebuck...that kind of thing so they all know who these people represent.
What if one of the hosts if having it at their home?
The hosts would still appear alphabetically though the host where it is taking place appears first.
Is there a certain way the date and the time should be written on an invitation?
On a formal invitation you write out "Four O'clock". You don't use p.m. and a.m. With a more informal occasion you don't need to send an invitation with "Four p.m." written out, everyone's going to know it's not four in the morning.
How do we correctly word the date?
Write out the month, don't abbreviate it. Put the numbers, and forget the year. That's for formal invitations, unless it's a New Year's Day Party or a Wedding - then you want to make that year stand out.
Is it rude to put an end time on an invitation?
No, it is not rude, to put 4:00 to 6:00 pm is completely acceptable. If time is an issue, you must absolutely do it and plan to turn the bar off 30 minutes later. People need to know that so they can arrange their dinner dates, their pick up times for the children, everything. It's helpful for everyone.
Does one use RSVP or regrets only on the invitation?
Our preference is RSVP, it is just more positive and more likely to get a response. Most times people who are not going to show aren't going to bother to contact you either. With an RSVP you get to hear the good with the bad and get excited about your event.
What about having nothing at all, just an invitation with no RSVP?
While this has been more of a trend it is a bad idea. RSVP takes the guess work out of the planning for the party. It also provides a way to contact the host should there be any additional information needed by an attendee. While the best way to RSVP is via writing, using email or text messaging may be the most efficient and realistic method. Unless this is a formal event, in which case you can provide a self addressed, stamped return envelope for ease of use. This is frowned upon by traditionalists, but this is where it is important to consider the habits of modern society and adapt to that.
How do I address an invitation to a couple that is not married or just dating, do I send two different invites?
Couples if married engaged or living together should be invited as a pair. If they are just dating and living apart then two separate invitations should be sent.
When is it appropriate to cancel when you have RSVP'd yes to an event?
One can never cancel once you have offered or accepted hospitality. The only reasons considered acceptable for cancelling are 1) illness, 2) death in the immediate family, and 3) an intervening social invitation from the Queen or President (in the U.S.). These are the traditional reasons, and were codified for people with high social standing. Currently however, extremely important work obligations may intervene and it is understandable that some people are unable to honor a social commitment if it means losing one's job. In any case of cancellation, notification to the host or guest must be immediate, with profuse apologies.
I have been given a complete wardrobe of stationery and don't know how best to use it. When is the appropriate time to use letter sheets versus note cards versus flat cards or calling cards?
Depending on the information on your calling card they can be used as gift enclosures or as personal business cards. These are very useful when you meet someone and want to set up a date but don't they don'[t have your contact details. These are also very useful to give out when you have recently moved, changed names, mobile number etc. Correspondence cards or "Flat cards" are incredibly versatile and can be used for anything. You can use them for a thank you note, you can turn them into invitations you can even stick a stamp in the corner and send them as a postcard.. Fold over notes are better as thank you notes for gifts. Writing paper is good for when you have a lot to say. When you're going to write a long letter with an update of the family, use writing paper.
Should a mother write thank you notes for her newborn?
A mother or a father must definitely write thank you notes on behalf of their children until they are able to write by themselves. Whoever is at home, not working, should undertake the social correspondence chores. If both are working this is a task that should be allocated amongst the two parents.
When is the latest you can send a thank you note? It is never too late, but within a week of a dinner party or two weeks of receiving a gift is best. I've known people who've sent a thank you note for a wedding gift three years later and the people who received it were so thrilled, so surprised. It's never too late. However, if you have waited three years, it best be a clever note!
At what age should children write their own thank you notes and what are some guidelines for how to get my child to write them?
Children should write thank you notes from birth (or have them written for them unless they are a child prodigy and can write out of the womb). Mom or Dad or even a nanny can do it. Mom can leave a list of people who have to be written thank you notes. "Dear Michelle, Georgie loves his porcelain cup. He most enjoys putting milk in it and then pouring it on the floor. It was very nice of you to think of him." And that's all you have to say, you've done it. You've written for him.
Then, when the child is four, you guide his hand over the notepaper. "Dear Mary, I thank you for your birthday party. Love, George." Guide his hand over the paper, it looks weird and jerky but they'll know it came from the child. The child knows it, the child is aware of it. When he's 7 or 8, you write it down and then he painfully prints it out, makes mistakes, runs up and down the page, it doesn't matter. "Dear Mary, I really had a good time at your birthday party. Thank you very much, George."
When he's 9 he should write the note and you will have to nag him. You have to sit down with him, hand him the stamps and address the envelopes for him. But make him write the notes out and promise him all kinds of rewards - we'll go to the football game when you finish. By the time they are 12 you should not have to say, have you written that thank you note Aunt Louise? (You probably will have to, but you shouldn't have to!) By the time the child is 14, definitely he or she should be in a regimen where it's an automatic response the day after and mom should keep giving him boxes of stationery and note cards as a reminder that sits there on his bureau. Send him a new beautiful fountain pen and cute personalised stationery and say I'm expecting you to use this for your thank notes.
When is the appropriate time to send a sympathy note?
Immediately, and if you missed out on "immediately" because you didn't know the person died, whenever you hear the news and if you don't hear it until a year later, write then. "Dear Cynthia, I didn't know about George's passing. I'm so sorry and would have called you. I hope you're doing alright, etc." It's never too late. It's like thanking somebody for a gift.