Which method do you use when cutting your foods, American or European style?

American style: when cutting food, place fork in your left hand, fork tines down. Place knife in right hand with serrated edge facing plate. After cutting one piece of food, lay knife across the top of your plate (sharp edge facing you), transfer fork to your right hand and consume food with tines facing up, repeat steps.

European style: cut your food with knife in right hand and bring food to your mouth with the left hand, tines down. This method prevents you from switching hands each time you cut.

No need to saw your food when cutting, and keep elbows close to your side. When you’re taking a break, use the resting position. Cross fork with tines up, over knife, as with the shield. This indicates you’re not finished with your meal, but only resting.

When finished eating, don’t push your plate away; lay fork and knife side by side diagonally across your plate. Knife and fork are placed as if they are pointing to 10 and 4 on a clock face. Any unused utensils stay on the table untouched.

If you’re a smoker, never ask if you can smoke. If you don’t see any ashtrays, that’s your “no smoking” indication. Only smoke in designated areas.

Once everyone is seated, place a half-folded napkin on your lap if it’s large. Some may disagree on the placement of a napkin when you leave the table during the meal. It is suggested to either place it on your chair, over the back of your chair or to the left of your place setting.

Your napkin is placed folded to the left of your plate when finished eating.

Glasses are lined above the plate and to the right. Your water glass is just above the tip of your knife. To the right of the water glass is the red wine glass and to the right of the red wine glass is the white wine glass. Hold the stem of your glass when drinking to preserve the chill.

When eating soup, dip the soup spoon from the edge of the bowl to the center, moving away from you. Only fill three-fourths of the spoon to avoid spilling. Sip from the edge of spoon and do not insert the entire spoon in your mouth. Never bring the soup bowl to your mouth and don’t blow on hot soup, allow it to cool in the bowl.

Do not ask for a doggy bag at a formal dinner. Refrain from blowing your nose at the table – excuse yourself from the room.

If you have to cough, cover your mouth. If a cough continues, excuse yourself and wash your hands before returning to the table. If you’re a slow eater, pace yourself with others so you’re not at the table 30 minutes after everyone has finished.

Traditionally the host, hostess or person in charge offers the first toast. At a military ball, toasts are generally before dinner and for military personnel, guests and leaders. Toastees do not stand or drink to their toast; a smile and thank-you is an acknowledgement.

For questions or comments, e-mail etiquetteforu@yahoo.com.