"If you think business and manners don’t mix, try talking with your mouth full.” - Diane Gottsman, Modern Manners & Etiquette Expert, Author, Media Resource

Ask the Etiquette Expert

Etiquette Expert Diane Gottsman answers your most pressing etiquette and modern manners questions on this page. We take all etiquette questions into consideration, but due to volume not all questions can be addressed. Simply fill out the contact form and we’ll do our very best to answer it here for you.

Ask the Etiquette Expert: 5 Traits of a Great Virtual Assistant

March 20th, 2017 by

Dear Diane, I am considering hiring an extra set of hands for my company. I have been told by many of my business colleagues that a virtual assistant is the way to go for my particular needs. I don’t know the first thing about what to look for when considering an employee that would not… Read More »

Ask the Etiquette Expert: How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

March 9th, 2017 by

Dear Diane, I am interviewing for a new job and am finding it difficult to write a cover letter without it sounding self-impressed or boastful. I know a good letter is a way to introduce myself and appeal to the employer. How do I get my point across in a clear and concise way? Jen… Read More »

Ask the Etiquette Expert: How to Address Names in Emails

February 24th, 2017 by

Dear Diane, I recently received an email from someone who addressed me as Mr., when I am a female with a name that is admittedly a little confusing. It is clear she didn’t take the time, or cared enough, to do a little research before she fired off her note where she is asking me… Read More »

Ask the Etiquette Expert: How to Thrive in the World of Online Dating

February 16th, 2017 by

Dear Diane, I am 23, recently out of a two year relationship and looking to put myself back out there. I am head first into my career and don’t have time to go meet someone. Everyone keeps talking to me about online dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and Match, but I have no idea how… Read More »

Ask the Etiquette Expert: Helping a Friend Through a Breakup

February 3rd, 2017 by

Dear Diane, One of my best friends has been dating a guy for almost three years. They recently broke up and I am having a difficult time getting her out of her funk. I’ve tried taking her out for a night on the town and even helped decorate her new apartment so she has a… Read More »

Ask the Etiquette Expert: Valentine’s Day Gifts for Him

January 18th, 2017 by

Dear Diane,   I’ve been dating a guy for almost three months, and I’m curious about Valentine’s Day which is right around the corner.  I’m at a loss as to what I should get him as a gift. We’ve agreed to date each other exclusively, but our relationship is still brand new. He hasn’t given… Read More »

Ask the Etiquette Expert: Accepting Criticism

December 15th, 2016 by

Dear Diane, I recently started working for a company that offers an extensive training program. During the training, we were given feedback from superiors. I understand how constructive criticism is intended to help, but I feel like my boss can be extra harsh. How do I handle this so early in the game? Sincerely, T.G.… Read More »

Ask the Etiquette Expert: Wedding Gift Etiquette

March 31st, 2016 by

Dear Diane, After tying the knot several months ago, my husband and I are finally getting around to organizing the wedding gifts in our new apartment. We have limited space so are forced to “get rid of” a few items that we do not like or cannot use. What is the best way to handle… Read More »

Easter Dining Etiquette: Gravy Boat Dilemma

March 25th, 2016 by

Dear Diane, Easter is in a few days, and I always get stumped when I serve gravy from my grandmother’s gravy boat. It seems like it turns into a dripping mess by the time it gets passed around the table. Should I put a plate underneath? Do I offer a spoon? I’m so confused; I… Read More »

Office Etiquette: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

March 15th, 2016 by

Dear Diane, I was recently brought in to assist the accounting department for a large manufacturing business. Since joining the team, I have noticed one of my colleagues isn’t so happy with this new change. Whenever I make suggestions or have questions about an existing plan, he is quick to criticize or rule out my… Read More »

Wedding Etiquette: Can I Opt for a Cash Bar?

March 7th, 2016 by

Dear Diane, My fiancé and I are in the process of reviewing several catering options for our wedding this summer. We have decided on serving a buffet style dinner but haven’t been able to agree on how to approach the alcohol issue. I would prefer an open bar while my fiancé believes a cash bar… Read More »

Formal Dress Attire: The Definition of Black Tie

February 5th, 2016 by

Dear Diane, My wife and I are excited to attend the annual spring business gala hosted by my legal firm. The invitation describes the event as a “Black Tie” affair, but most of my coworkers familiar with the gathering have assured me a tuxedo is not necessary. As a relatively new employee, I am wondering… Read More »

Dinner Invitation Etiquette

January 29th, 2016 by

Dear Diane, We were recently invited to a longtime friend’s home for dinner. As soon as we arrived, we found ourselves being whisked off to a spur-of-the-moment dinner reservation instead. Since we were the guests, I felt certain our host would be paying for the meal. However, my husband was uneasy. He asked the host… Read More »

Airplane Etiquette: How to Deal with a Talkative Seatmate

January 26th, 2016 by

Dear Diane, My job requires weekly travel, providing me with the opportunity to meet some very interesting people. During my last business trip, I sat next to someone who quickly introduced themselves and did not stop talking the entire 3-hour flight. My hectic schedule does not afford me a lot of time to wind down,… Read More »

Destination Wedding Etiquette

December 7th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, Next spring, one of my friends is having a rustic country wedding at a scenic, California ranch. I am delighted to attend and have carefully budgeted for the airfare from Boston to show my support. I’ve heard that if you are traveling out of state for a wedding, you are not obligated to… Read More »

Making a New Holiday Gift Giving Tradition

December 3rd, 2015 by

Dear Diane, During the holidays, my siblings and I typically purchase presents for each other’s children. In the early years, I could easily find small gifts that matched everyone’s interests and were within my budget; now that my nieces and nephews are getting older, it is becoming a little more difficult and expensive. I am interested… Read More »

Office Happy Hour

December 2nd, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I am a part of a collaborative co-working space that has many perks. For instance, every Friday our community director coordinates a happy hour with light hors d’oeuvres and music. As a non-drinker, I often shy away from attending as I fear I will potentially make others feel uncomfortable. However, by not being a part of… Read More »

Losing a Gift: Friendship Etiquette

November 11th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, One of my friends, who does not have a lot of expendable cash, gave me a gorgeous pair of gloves right before I left to New York City for an internship program. Soon after I arrived, I left one of the gloves in a taxi during my commute to work! Although I want… Read More »

Making a Career Change

October 29th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, After a brief hiatus, I’m eager to jump back into a career in the tourism industry, but on a slightly different track. I am caring for an elderly parent and have been applying for part-time front desk positions instead of the more familiar management roles. What is your professional opinion on how I… Read More »

Social Media Etiquette – Your Online Image

October 26th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I have two children in college who spend a large part of their free time connected to social media. I understand and appreciate that the norms for interacting with their friends have evolved. However, my hope is to inspire them to use the various platforms within reason and with sound judgment. I want them to… Read More »

Travel Dilemma

October 19th, 2015 by

  Dear Diane, Six months ago, I agreed to attend a family reunion my sister is planning. When she asked me to participate, I had no other conflicting engagements. However, our office retreat has recently been scheduled at the same time. Not only is it important to attend from a professional standpoint, but it is an all expense paid trip to… Read More »

Interview Etiquette: Tattoos

October 14th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, As a recent college graduate, I am in the midst of the job search process. With an interview in the coming weeks at a reputable law firm, I have a concern. In college, I got multiple tattoos. They are not visible when I dress professionally, but I have been told that I should mention them to the… Read More »

Office Etiquette: What to Do When You Stain Your Clothes

October 5th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, Last month I was chosen to lead a team-building presentation for my entire department. While working through my nerves during lunch, I happened to spill tomato basil soup on my gray slacks! I rushed to the restroom to remove as much of the stain as possible without making it more noticeable. Unfortunately, I… Read More »

Business Etiquette: When Colleagues Give You a Nickname

September 28th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I have been trying to resolve an office predicament regarding my name. I began a new job several weeks ago and almost immediately others started calling me Alex, an abbreviated version of my name, Alexandra. My coworkers continued to introduce me as Alex, and now it has stuck. I prefer using my full name as I think it is… Read More »

Dining Etiquette: Splitting the Bill

September 21st, 2015 by

Dear Diane, Recently, a few friends of mine planned a weekend retreat in Chicago. Our local host recommended we visit a fun, upscale sushi restaurant to kick-off the festivities. Before we were able to browse the menu, she ordered multiple dishes for the group to share that I did not particularly care to eat. At… Read More »

Bathroom Etiquette

September 17th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I need your to help settle a bet. Ever since my husband and I got married, we haven’t been able to resolve the issue of whether or not the toilet paper should be folded under or over. It drives me nuts when he puts the roll with the paper facing underneath! I am… Read More »

Baby Shower Etiquette

September 3rd, 2015 by

Dear Diane, My friend has moved from Florida to California, and I will be flying in for her baby shower. She has received what I believe to be bad advice from another friend regarding the guest list. She is planning to mail approximately 100 invitations knowing that the majority of the invitees will not be… Read More »

Dinner Party and Entertaining Etiquette

August 25th, 2015 by

Hello Diane, My wife and I are big on etiquette and entertaining and have made a real effort to include a core group of friends in our monthly dinner parties. We treat our guests in a manner that we would like to be treated in return. While we are a very close-knit group, I can’t… Read More »

Dinner Party Etiquette

August 17th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I recently attended a housewarming dinner party for one of my coworkers and had a wonderful time. I thought it appropriate to bring a bottle of wine and a homemade dessert for guests to snack on after our meal. When the event was close to winding down, I noticed the wine I brought… Read More »

Business Attire Advice

August 10th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I am a recent college graduate and find myself in new territory when it comes to putting together my career wardrobe. I am not sure what pieces are most important to build around, or where to start. My budget is modest, but I want to look the part. Thanks in advance for your… Read More »

Baby Shower Etiquette

August 4th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, My son and his wife are expecting a baby and asked to use our home for their baby shower as we are centrally located with space to entertain. We happily agreed and let them know by text that our home can accommodate up to 35 people comfortably. They responded back right away that… Read More »

Job Interview Etiquette

July 10th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I recently landed a job at a corporation that has been on the top of my list since my graduation. I successfully made it through the first and second interviews, and just finished my third in-person meeting with an executive associate. It has been two weeks since we last connected, and I have… Read More »

Birthday Etiquette

July 6th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, Every year I start to receive birthday cards and gifts from my family as early as one month ahead of time. I appreciate their thoughtfulness and always look forward to reading their birthday greetings. Is it polite to immediately call to say “Thank you” for the gifts, or better to wait until after… Read More »

Business Travel Etiquette

June 26th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I am new to my company and recently attended an out of town business meeting with some colleagues from work. The few associates I knew were aware of my attendance, as well as my boss, but I was excluded from an invitation to join them for dinner. I ran into one of my… Read More »

Father’s Day Etiquette

June 17th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, My father is 85 and unable to leave his house without requiring extensive effort to accommodate his wheelchair and health challenges. As much as my wife and I enjoys taking him out to eat, we’ve noticed that by the time we arrive at our destination, he is often tired and ready to return home… Read More »

Job Interview Etiquette

June 11th, 2015 by

Hi Diane, I interviewed last Tuesday with the HR Director of a University for a position in an academic department. The Director told me she would be conducting interviews the rest of the week and sending the names of qualified candidates, perhaps all of them, to the specific department chairperson. She also indicated that department… Read More »

Friendship Etiquette

June 4th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I recently reconnected with a high school friend and we met over lunch to catch up on each other’s lives. I was taken aback by her abrasive personality. I remembered her to be quiet and soft-spoken, but I found myself struggling as she interrupted me over and over again mid-sentence. Additionally, while she… Read More »

Business Etiquette for Late Employees

May 26th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I have an employee who is constantly late to work. On average, he arrives tardy to the office about 2 to 3 times per week. It’s hard for me to discipline him since he is one of my top performers, and he also opts to work later hours when he arrives past our… Read More »

Client Texting Dilemma

May 15th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, With a career in sales and marketing, it’s standard to include my cell number on my business card (company policy). That said, I have a hard time managing client texts and much prefer they send the information over email instead. I find myself copying and pasting their messages into an email to myself… Read More »

Baby Shower Etiquette

May 7th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, A close friend is expecting her first child and has asked me to kindly host her baby shower. While I’m honored she came to me with this request, I have deep concerns because I am a student and fear I won’t be able to afford the costs associated with the party. What is… Read More »

Kentucky Derby Etiquette

April 30th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, Every year my friends and I plan at least one big trip and a few smaller outings together since we’re spread around the US and love staying in touch. Last week a friend in our circle unexpectedly was able to score incredible seats to the Kentucky Derby. Though I’d love to join, I… Read More »

Graduation Etiquette

April 22nd, 2015 by

Dear Diane, What is the rule of thumb when it comes to exchanging gifts between graduating seniors? My daughter was recently invited to a graduation party, and I’m not sure if I should encourage her to take a gift. We aren’t planning a formal celebration in her honor and I don’t expect her friends will be stopping over to… Read More »

Business Attire Etiquette

April 17th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, What is your take on sandals with hose? Our corporate policy states that sandals are allowed in the office, but hosiery is also mandatory. A few of my coworkers, let’s call them “seasoned” ladies, have come into the office wearing hosiery with their toes peeping out of the toe box of their shoe… Read More »

Graduation Etiquette

March 31st, 2015 by

Dear Diane, What is the difference between a graduation invitation and a graduation announcement? I received a card from my nephew announcing his graduation, but it’s not even the end of the year. There was no formal “request” to attend so I’m confused. Do I send a gift, wait for a call, or just sit… Read More »

Wedding Shower Etiquette

March 9th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, My daughter is having a small, private wedding with only a few friends and family members invited. She would like to have a shower to celebrate her wedding with all of her friends. Is it okay to invite guests to a shower that aren’t on the wedding guest list? K.B.

Job Interview Etiquette

March 6th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I am currently interviewing for a job with a large company and am confused about the difference between greeting a male and female interviewer. What is the proper way to greet a man versus a woman? J.B.

Houseguest Etiquette

March 5th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, Is it too much to ask a houseguest to clean their hair out of the drain? After their stay, I was left with a stopped up pipe and had to call a plumber to resolve the issue. I hate to bring it up to my guest, but it was a somewhat costly fix.… Read More »

Dining Etiquette

February 27th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I was recently at a New York deli (visiting from a small town in Oregon) and ordered a simple BLT. It arrived with three layers of bacon and a tower of lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo. I was with friends, and we had a debate on whether I should use my fingers or a fork.… Read More »

Wedding Etiquette

February 17th, 2015 by

Dear Diane: Is it okay to exclude my friends’ husbands when sending out invitations to my daughter’s wedding? Most of the husbands do not know my daughter and it would cut down on our expenses. LM

Travel Etiquette with Friends

February 11th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, My friend and I recently took a trip, each of us bringing our one daughter. She chose the hotel but asked me to use my credit card to make the reservation and pay for the tickets to the show we were attending the first night. I used my credit card to buy the show… Read More »

Thank You Note Etiquette

January 6th, 2015 by

Dear Diane, I am getting married in a few months and have received several shower and early wedding presents. I am not sure if I should wait until after I am married to send the thank you notes on personalized stationary. Any suggestions? Thanks, RP

White Tie Etiquette

December 29th, 2014 by

Dear Diane, I was invited to an event that didn’t specify the dress code clearly. What is the true definition of “White Tie”? Thanks, CG

Family Holiday Etiquette

December 22nd, 2014 by

Dear Diane, My son is coming home from college and is bringing his girlfriend. I still have teens in the house and do not want them to stay in the same room. My son says if I refuse to let her stay with him they may not come home. What to do? Is he being… Read More »

Holiday Restaurant Tipping Etiquette

December 15th, 2014 by

Dear Diane, Is it customary to tip my restaurant server additional gratuity because it’s the holiday season? I’m always so confused when it comes to tipping etiquette. I.

Holiday Etiquette: Where to Stay

December 10th, 2014 by

Dear Diane, My family consists of two small children and we spend every holiday shuttling from one house to another to make sure that no one gets their feelings hurt.  What’s the best way to change this pattern? -P.

Gift Giving Etiquette

December 8th, 2014 by

Dear Diane, Do I have to give a present to everyone who gives one to me? I am having trouble deciding what the proper gift giving etiquette for this particular situation would be. B.

Polite Holiday Etiquette

December 4th, 2014 by

Dear Diane, My brother is bringing his new girlfriend to my home on Christmas Eve. We generally all open our presents together since everyone has different places to go on Christmas Day. I’m not sure if it would be too forward to buy a gift for someone I have never met. Should I or shouldn’t… Read More »

Cyber Monday Office Etiquette

December 1st, 2014 by

Dear Diane, Today is Cyber Monday, the first day back after an extended Thanksgiving break. I can’t help but notice several of my colleagues are distracted on the internet ordering their holiday gifts on company time. Do I tattle or do the same? R.

Holiday Table Setting Etiquette

November 26th, 2014 by

Dear Diane, I am confused as to which side the soup spoon is placed on the table. Left or right? L.

Holiday Greeting Card Etiquette

November 24th, 2014 by

Dear Diane, I am getting ready to send out my business greeting cards in a couple of weeks and I am unsure as to where is the best place to send them. Do you suggest I send a business holiday card to the office or to the home of my client and business associates? T.

Email Thank You for Job Interview

October 27th, 2014 by

Dear Diane, Should I email a thank you note after a job interview? Thank you, J

Boyfriend’s Greeting Etiquette Stumps Girlfriend

October 14th, 2014 by

Dear Diane, I have a large group of single girlfriends and a wonderful boyfriend. We often get together for dinners and drinks.