Random Issues, Vol. 4, Issue 19

Dear Etiquetteer: When going out as a group for lunch, how much do you pay when you know you only ordered a small salad but everyone else had drinks and appetizers, too? And how do you politely, firmly refuse to pay more? Sometimes avoiding the lunch is not an option. Dear Lunched: What Etiquetteer does like to avoid, especially in a group larger than six people, is the bickering of the who-ordered-what variety, which can keep people at table longer than the lunch itself and get accountants whipping out their cell-phone calculators. Dividing the bill equally does solve that problem, but if you always eat sparingly at lunch, that plan won’t work for you in the long haul. When you find yourself in a group and the last person with the check announces that everyone needs to put in more money to cover the bill, and you’ve calculated that you’ve already put in your share and a little bit more perhaps, you need only say "I’ve already covered my portion of the bill; I just had a small salad." It would be ill-bred of anyone at the table to contradict. But if the difference is only one or two dollars, Etiquetteer encourages you to overlook it. Otherwise, it will help you to be the first person to get your hands on the bill, quickly total what you owe (always including tax and tip), insert your contribution into that little leather portfolio thing, and hand it to the next person saying "I’ve included what I owe for my lunch."

Dear Etiquetteer: Is it possible to thank someone TOO much? Dear Grateful: When someone either a) comes to expect your gratitude or b) believes you’re insincere, you’ve thanked someone too much.

Dear Etiquetteer: What precautions can one take to make sure e-mail--whether its tone or content--will not be misconstrued? Dear Misunderstood: Proofread! When composing an e-mail, Etiquetteer frequently finds it helpful to read the first draft as a recipient. Put yourself in their desktop, as it were. Etiquetteer tends to include more explicitly words like "Please" and "thank you," and to write in complete sentences rather than shorthand. Reviewing your e-mail is also helpful as you don’t want anyone to misconstrue you as a dolt or an idiot. This is the time to proofread from a spelling and grammar point of view as well as tone and content. The difference between "We will not be meeting at 2 PM" and "We will now be meeting at 2 PM" says it all.Including a specific subject line will help your recipients enormously. For instance Etiquetteer receives a lot of e-mail with the subject line "Etiquetteer," or "Question for you." It would be more helpful to write "Question About Invitations" "Tipping Dilemma" or "Gift-Giving Advice Needed" instead. Etiquetteer is sure that we all have rafts of e-mail messages headed "Hi," "Hello," or the very helpful "<no subject>". What more need be said?

Find yourself at a manners crossroads and don't know where to go? Ask Etiquetteer at query@etiquetteer.com!

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