15 Table Manner Rules That Will Never Go Out of Style

The rules of polite dining change throughout the eras, but the ability to dine politely with others matters–even in the digital age. As writers Gus Lubin and Kim Bhasin highlight, your ability to dine politely is closely connected with your image. Appropriate behavior can ensure you’re not called out in an embarrassing manner and, more importantly, can secure your invite back in the future. Here are a mix of rules from business etiquette consultant Barbara Patcher, manners maven Emily Post, and others that should be followed today, tomorrow and beyond.

  1. Don’t Be Late Whether you’re a guest or the host, make an effort to arrive on time, serve the meal as scheduled, and be gracious when others don’t.
  2. Avoid Messy Foods If you’re selecting from a varied menu, avoid spaghetti, crab or anything else that can easily land on your jacket.
  3. Keep Your Phone Off the Table Unless it’s an absolute emergency, Emily Post recommends avoiding your phone entirely while dining.
  4. Converse Politely Avoid politics, religion and other hot button issues, but politely engage those dining around you.
  5. Wait for Others Never dig in until everyone has been served and the host begins, unless you’re given express permission to start.
  6. Limit Your Drinking While social situations can be challenging, Lubin and Bhasin recommend limiting yourself to one cocktail, beer or glass of wine.
  7. Pace Yourself Try to pace yourself while dining to match the speed at which other guests are eating.
  8. Outside Fork First If you ever encounter a place setting that involves numerous forks, start with the farthest outside and work inwards.
  9. One Bite Per Forkful Avoid layering multiple dishes on a single fork. Similarly, try to finish each forkful in one bite.
  10. Cut One Food at a Time Avoid cutting multiple foods simultaneously, which can be sloppy.
  11. Elbows Off the Table Your mother’s advice to keep your elbows off the table is still invaluable wisdom today.
  12. Napkin on Your Lap Until you are finished with the last course or leaving the table, your napkin should remain on your lap.
  13. Try New Things Even if a new dish isn’t quite to your liking, make an effort to try it and take several bites.
  14. Thank the Host Always give gracious words of thanks. Better yet, send a thoughtful card.
  15. Place Utensils on Your Plate After finishing, your silverware should be placed gently on your plate.

Great manners are timeless, and leave the impression of a modern, stylish and together you at the same time. So, smile and enjoy the party.

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