The Etiquette Quiz

by Diane Lofgren Mangum

Print Share

    Knowing the social graces can help you feel comfortable in just about any situation.

    Etiquette refers to standards of acceptable social behavior. It is made up of the little rules in society that make it easier for people to enjoy each other’s company. Knowing some of those little rules will make you and the people around you more comfortable in social situations. Some situations, like a formal dinner party, may occur only rarely, but etiquette becomes important in many daily situations as well.

    Here is a little quiz about some manners that matter. Mark each of the following statements as true or false and then rate your etiquette quotient.

    1. Your mom says that a neighbor you often baby-sit for has left a message for you to call her. You have too much homework this weekend to do any babysitting, so you don’t need to return her call.

    2. When you receive an invitation to a party that includes the letters “RSVP” you should always write or call to say if you will or will not be attending.

    3. Jill calls on the telephone to invite you to a party. You have other plans and don’t really want to go anyway. Don’t hurt her feelings. Just tell her “maybe” and then afterwards you can make up some excuse.

    4. Uncle John mailed you a baseball mitt for your birthday. He’s your favorite uncle and will know you appreciate it, so you don’t have to make a big deal about it and write a thank-you note. Besides, you can just tell him thanks when you see him next month.

    5. Restaurants just put out a lot of silverware to impress people. You can use any fork or spoon at your place whenever it’s convenient.

    6. As you walk down the sidewalk you pass a person in a wheelchair. It is most polite to just look the other way and to pretend you don’t notice the person or his handicap.

    7. These days no one expects you to give up your seat on the bus or the subway to an older person or a woman carrying a child.

    8. You are in a crowded elevator. It is better to ask the person closest to the control buttons to push the button for your floor than it is to reach your way through the crowd.

    9. Before you leave a party you need to seek out the host or hostess to express your appreciation for the party, even if you think the host might be busy with other guests.

    10. After a formal dinner you should fold the cloth napkin back exactly the way you found it and set it back on the table before you stand up.

    11. “RSVP Regrets Only” means the hostess will plan on you coming to the party unless you call to say you will not be there.

    12. When you are served with a fancy water goblet with a tall stem, you may properly pick the goblet up by its bowl rather than try to just balance it by the glass stem.

    13. Corn on the cob, fried chicken, and pizza can almost always be picked up with the fingers and eaten even if you’re at the home of an etiquette expert.

    14. Introductions are a bother. You can just let people tell the others in the crowd their own names.

    15. It is all right to call your parents’ friends by their first names if you’ve known them for a long time.

    16. When you eat in a restaurant you only need to tip when you can afford it and you think the service has been good.

    17. It’s usually best for young people to stand when grandparents or other older people enter the room as a sign of respect. Young people should stand up when being introduced to older people.

    18. During dinner you somehow end up with some inedible object in your mouth, like a stray piece of bone or an olive pit. It happens to everybody, so just spit it back out on the plate.

    19. When someone gives you a compliment on your new clothes, just ignore it or make fun of it. It looks vain to take a compliment too seriously.

    20. Accidents happen to everyone, but a polite person apologizes for bumps, spills and mishaps to friends, family, and even to strangers.


    1. False. Return all telephone calls promptly. Your neighbor may be hoping for your services and might not call someone else until she hears from you, or the call may be about something entirely different. Even receiving a no answer is better than being avoided.

    2. True. RSVP means “Please Respond” in French. You need to call or write the hostess to respond with a yes or no to the invitation. A host very much appreciates a speedy response so that the appropriate plans for food, etc. can be made.

    3. False. A dishonest excuse is a poor way to decline an invitation. A vague “maybe” leaves a host in a very awkward spot. You don’t need to list all the details of your life. A simple, “I’m sorry but I can’t make it,” is usually best.

    4. False. Everyone who sends a gift to you deserves a thank-you note, especially close friends and relatives. A gift received by mail should be acknowledged soon after it arrives so the sender will know that it arrived safely.

    5. False. The silverware in a restaurant is put out for your convenience, but there is also a proper order in which to use the pieces. Usually there is one knife for the entire meal and a spoon or fork set for each course you will be served, such as soup or salad. Start with the spoon on your farthest right or fork on your farthest left and work your way in to the pieces next to your plate. Leave your salad fork on the salad plate when you are finished with that course for the waiter to pick it up, as there will be another clean fork at your place for the main course. But set your knife, if you have used it, on your dinner or bread and butter plate to keep it for the rest of the meal.

    6. False. While it’s rude to gawk or stare at a person’s handicap, it is also inconsiderate to ignore an individual entirely just because of a handicap. Someone in a wheelchair or with any other physical limitation enjoys a friendly smile, nod, or “hello” as much as anyone else.

    7. False. Kindness and consideration for others is always good manners on a bus, subway, or anywhere.

    8. True. Whenever there are more than a couple of people in an elevator, ask the person closest to the door to push the button for your floor.

    9. True. A thoughtful guest always thanks the host before leaving a gathering. Expressing appreciation at the right times is one of the most important parts of etiquette.

    10. False. You shouldn’t wad a dinner napkin into a ball after you’re done, but you don’t need to worry about folding it just the way you found it either. Just set it casually back on the table, (and not your plate!).

    11. True. “RSVP Regrets” means you must respond only when you are not going to the dinner, party, or activity to which you have been invited. No response tells the hostess you will be there.

    12. True. You don’t need to worry about balancing a goblet by its tall spindly stem. That usually only invites spills. Hold it firmly by the bowl of the glass instead.

    13. True. “Finger foods” are almost always served in casual eating situations like picnics and barbecues where you are expected to eat with your fingers. When in doubt, watch what your hostess does and follow suit.

    14. False. It is very uncomfortable to be in a crowd where you don’t know anyone’s name. At church, school, or parties a gracious person will introduce any new members, guests, or visitors to the other people around them. If you are in a situation where no one introduces you, you may freely introduce yourself, however.

    15. False. Adult friends will usually tell you if they prefer you to call them by their first names. Courteously wait until they do before you assume a first name basis.

    16. False. Plan on paying a tip as part of the expected cost of eating out. Tips are not arbitrary rewards; they in fact often pay the wages of those who wait on your table. A tip of 15 percent of the food bill is standard. An easy way to figure 15 percent is to estimate 10 percent and then add half more of that. (For example: for a $10.00 meal, think 10 percent is $1.00 and half more is another 50¢ so the tip is $1.50.)

    17. True. Young people do stand for elderly people as a sign of respect.

    18. False. It does happen to everyone. But please, discreetly retrieve the object from your mouth in the same manner it was placed there (with fork, spoon, or fingers), and set it on your plate.

    19. False. Acknowledge compliments with a simple “Thank you.” When you ignore a compliment or make fun of it, you put down the person who gave it. It’s not vain to be gracious.

    20. True. Make sincere apologies, without excusing yourself or placing blame elsewhere. Just stop at “I’m sorry.” Don’t add, “I’m sorry I tripped over you but you stuck your big foot in my way.” When there is a spill or mishap, try to show you really are sorry by helping to clean up the mess. Remember, your family deserves courtesy as much as friends and strangers.

    Scoring: If you got 19–20 right, you really have a high E.Q.! A score of 17–18 correct answers is still quite good. A score of 15 is only fair, and below 15 you’d better check out a manners book at the library!

    Photography by Welden Andersen