Etiquette | Troy University


Mrs. Hawkins teaching TROY Leadership students and others upon requests.

Greetings, Troy University family and friends, and welcome to the etiquette website of Troy University.

We have such wonderful students at TROY! In the early 1990's, the Honors Leadership class requested an etiquette lesson so it would be better prepared for business luncheons. I have since given a version of this lesson to other campus groups and classes. The following are a few of the students' frequently asked questions, as well as some dining do's and don'ts we've discussed. We also talk about such topics as thank-you notes, R.S.V.P.'s, handshakes and proper dress. We have fun at these sessions and learn a lot. The food served at the luncheons has been delicious and different. We have served pate, caviar and sorbet, so we can learn which utensils to use and experience new and different foods as well.

I hope the information provided in our website will answer some of your etiquette questions. 

Janice Hawkins
Troy University First Lady


“Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It is ethics. It is honor.”

Emily Post  |   


What is etiquette ? 

Etiquette is defined as the forms, manners, and ceremonies established by convention as acceptable or required in social relations, in a profession or in official life.


Why is it important to learn proper etiquette? 

Displaying a knowledge of proper etiquette helps make a wonderful first impression, whether in a business or personal setting. Also, having good manners makes you more confident of yourself in situations that may otherwise be more difficult to relax in.


Be prepared for anything

Frequently Asked Questions by Students

If your boss enters the room when you are meeting with an important client, how do you handle the introductions? 
You should introduce the more important person first. Address the client first and introduce your boss.

You are entering a cab with an important business client. You position yourself so the client is seated curbside. Is this correct? 
Yes. When your client steps out of the cab, he or she will be on the curbside and not in the traffic or sliding across the seat.

When you greet a visitor in your office, should you tell them where to sit? 
Yes. Indicating where your visitor should sit will make him or her more comfortable.

You have an appointment to meet a business associate for a working lunch and you arrive a few minutes early to find a table. Thirty minutes later, your associate still has not arrived. What should you do?
Order your lunch and eat. You have waited long enough. You should expect an apology from your associate later.

You are greeting or saying good-bye to someone. When is the proper time to shake their hand? 
It is rarely improper to shake someone's hand.

You are talking with a group of five people. With whom do you make eye contact? 
Try to make eye contact with each of the five, moving from person to person.


  • Business can be summed up "It's all about people." Be sure to talk and visit with people, and arrive early sometimes to do so. Keep notes or a database on people with names, phone numbers, etc. And always try to personalize your connections with people and try to be thoughtful. Always return phone calls.
  • Employers look for a sense of self-worth. Believe in yourself. If not, how can your employer expect you to do a good job in representing a company? Credit your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
  • The most important thing to remember in business etiquette is to be courteous and thoughtful to the people around you, regardless of the situation. Always consider the other person's feelings, and stay with your convictions as diplomatically as possible.
  • Always return phone calls even if you do not have an answer yet. Call and inform the person what you are doing to get the requested information, or direct them to someone who can get the information.
  • First impressions are important. The first twelve words you speak should include some form of thanks if appropriate. If you are meeting someone for the first time, express your gratitude.
  • One of the greatest fears people have is speaking in front of a group. If the group is twenty or two hundred, be prepared, be confident, and be yourself!

Four ways to feel comfortable in a room full of strangers:

  1. Approach individuals who are standing alone.
  2. Treat everyone you meet as through he or she were the most important person at the gathering.
  3. Listen more than you speak.
  4. Stay within arms-length distance of the individuals whom you have just met.

Rules of introduction:

  1. Stand up
  2. Smile
  3. Always shake hands, firmly
  4. Make eye contact
  5. Repeat the other person's name

When professional criticism comes your way, follow these guides to gain benefit:

  1. Listen closely
  2. Take responsibility
  3. Ask for specifics
  4. Recognize your feelings
  5. Think about your response
  6. Thanks for the feedback

Leadership students learn dining etiquetteFrequently Asked Questions by Students

You are invited to a reception and invitation states "6:00 to 8:00 pm." When should you arrive?
You may arrive exactly at 6:00, after 6:00, but not before. It is terribly impolite to arrive early.

You are the host of a dinner party at a restaurant. Included are two other couples and your most valuable client and his wife. You instruct the waiter to: 
To serve your client's spouse first, and you and your spouse last.

When is it proper to remove your napkin from the table, and what do you do with it when you are finished? 
Place your napkin on your lap after everyone at your table has been seated. When you are finished, place the napkin on the right side of your plate.

When is it proper to begin eating?
Begin eating after everyone at your table has been served.

How should you hold your utensils? 
There are two acceptable ways to hold the knife and fork. The first way is continental style. The diner cuts the food usually one bite at a time and uses the fork in the left hand, tines pointing down to spear the food and bring it to the mouth. The second style is called American. Usually a few bites are cut, the knife is laid across the top of the plate, sharp edge toward you, and the fork is switched to the right hand, if right-handed, tines up to bring the food to the mouth.

When you are dining out, if you have multiple utensils, how do you know what to choose? 
Start on the outside and work your way in.

What do you do if you drop a piece of silverware? 
Pick it up if you can reach it and ask the server for a clean one. If you cannot reach it, tell the server you dropped a piece of your silverware and ask for a clean one.

Should the salt and pepper be passed if only one was requested? 
Always pass the salt and pepper together.

What is the correct way to eat soup? 
Always spoon the soup away from you then bring around to your mouth and back to the bowl. Think of making a circle.

What is the correct way to eat rolls or bread? 
Eat rolls or bread by tearing off small bite size pieces and buttering only the piece you are preparing to eat. When you are ready for another piece, repeat the same process.

The waiter is coming in your direction to serve wine. You do not want any. Your turn your glass upside down. Are you correct?
No. Do not call attention to your dislike of your host's choice of beverage.

Someone has proposed a toast in your honor. You say "thank you" and take a sip of your drink. Are you correct? 
No. If you do, then you are toasting yourself.

When is it acceptable to place your elbows on the table? 
Only between courses, not while you are eating.

If you need to leave the table during a meal, where do you place your napkin? 
Place your napkin on your chair as a signal to your server that you will be returning. 

Place Setting Tips

There are many things to remember when dining. If you are with a perspective employer, remember it may look like lunch or dinner, but it is still business. The way you conduct yourself during a meal will have impact on an interviewer's hiring decision and on your future.

  • Rules of introduction:
      Stand up
      Always shake hands, firmly
      Make eye contact
      Repeat the other person's name
  • The meal begins when your host unfolds his or her napkin. This will be your signal to do the same. Do not open your napkin in mid-air. Open your napkin below the table level and place on your lap. Your host will signal the end of the meal by placing his or her napkin on the table. You should also place your napkin on the table to the right of your plate. (Do not refold your napkin)
  • Choosing the correct silverware is not as difficult as it first seems. Start with the knife, fork, or spoon that is farthest from your plate and work your way in. Use one utensil for each course of the meal. The salad fork is on your outermost left, followed by your dinner fork. Your soup spoon is on your outermost right followed by your beverage spoon, salad knife, and dinner knife. Your dessert spoon or fork is usually placed above your plate or brought out with dessert. Remember the rule to work from the outside in and you will be fine.
  • If an individual at your table who has not been served encourages you to begin eating, you may do so. However, eat slowly while waiting for their food to be served.
  • Always taste of your food before using any seasonings.
  • Food such as the breadbasket, salt and pepper, and salad dressing are always passed to the right. When passing items such as creamer, syrup, or a gravy boat, pass it with the handle pointing toward the recipient.
  • Soup is taken from the side of the soup spoon. It is not inserted into your mouth. If your soup is too hot to eat, let it sit until it has cooled. Do not blow on it.
  • Engage in table conversation that is pleasant. Avoid controversial subjects.
  • When you are not eating, you should keep your hands on your lap or resting on the table (with wrists on the edge of the table).
  • Only in case of an emergency should you leave the table during the meal. If you must leave, simply excuse yourself. Later apologize to the host by saying you did not feel well.

In today’s technologically advanced society, it’s important to understand the proper ways to communicate online. Netiquette is a collection of tips and instructions helping men and women navigate the proper way to communicate in this digital age. Feel free to use the resources listed below in your quest to navigate personal-, academic- and business-related exchanges online.

Netiquette Home Page from

This website has been created as a reference to Troy students preparing to enter the professional world. We hope it will be found useful in answering some common etiquette questions. The following is a list of references used when created this guide: 

  • Business Etiquette- More Than Just Eating With the Right Fork, Paula Gamonal

The contents of this reference guide are copyrighted by their original author(s).



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