Etiquette is a code of behavior, based on kindness and consideration. Manners have been proven to be the most attractive, most practical, or least objectionable way of doing things. Manners have advantages; you can establish a pleasant relationship, give yourself confidence and make yourself more attractive.

During the holidays, you will exercise a higher level of formality for military balls, dining in and more. Always remember to follow the host’s lead in any social situation.

When you’re waiting for dinner to begin and between courses, hands should stay in your lap. You may rest your wrists on the table between courses but not your elbows.

Whether you’re invited to a public establishment or to someone’s home for a formal meal, there are guidelines to follow. Before you arrive at the table, you should not have gum in your mouth and hands should be cleaned. When attending a ball, you will wait for the person in charge to give the okay to begin eating. When invited to an in-home dinner, your indication to begin eating is when your host picks up his or her utensil and begins to eat.

Ladies should place their purse on their lap and not on the table regardless how pretty it is. If the chair next to you happens to be empty, you may place it there. You can expect to use fine linen at a formal dinner, therefore ladies should not wear heavy lipstick as the oil from lipstick stains and many times doesn’t come out when linen is dry cleaned. As soon as you’re seated, your napkin is placed on your lap. Blot your lips with a napkin, do not wipe. If you have to get up during the course, place your napkin on your seat and push your chair in.

A service plate serves as an underplate for the plate holding the first course, which will be brought to you. When you have more than one fork placed to the left of your setting, you always start from the outside and work your way in. Larger fork or dinner fork is for the main course. The dinner knife is to the right of the plate, cutting edge facing inward. Spoons are to the right of plate and right of the knife, farthest spoon (soup spoon) is used first.

All glasses are placed to the top right of the dinner plate. Salad plate is to the left of forks or it may be placed on top of dinner plate. A bread plate goes above the forks, with butter knife resting on edge.

A dessert spoon or fork can be placed horizontally above the dinner plate, spoon on top with handle to right and fork below it with handle to left. If there is a fish course, a small fork is placed farthest to the left since this would be the first course. If shellfish is being served, the oyster fork will be to the right of spoons and will be the only fork ever placed on the right.

Cut your food into bite sized pieces at a time. Never cut the entire meal up then consume it. Always taste your food before seasoning (especially at an in-home dinner.)

When eating bread, use your fingers to break it into pieces as you go along and butter one piece at a time.

For questions or comments, write to etiquetteforu@yahoo.com.