Monday, January 26, 2015

It used to be that you could consult Emily Post or your own grandmother on the ins and outs of manners.  But the Internet, social media and other aspects of modern life have opened up new areas where the old rules no longer apply.  The book Modern Manners gives advice on how to navigate your way properly through society -- both IRL and online.  The book is written by Dorothea Johnson, founder of The Protocol School of Washington (which teaches "Etiquette and Protocol Intelligence"), and her granddaughter, actress Liv Tyler.

The book is divided into sections such as "On the Job," "Electronic Communications" and "Dining Skills."  Each area is covered in detail, and there are plenty of "dos" and "don'ts" and lots of illustrations.  It seems as if Ms. Johnson, the etiquette expert, has written the bulk of the book, with occasional comments from Ms. Tyler on the topics, usually put at a bubble at the end of a page.

I really liked the detailed information and illustrations on such things as what constitutes "business dress" and how handshakes should be offered in different countries.  All the same, most of the "advice" falls into the blindingly obvious category.  For instance, in the section on traveling on public transportation, we are reminded to keep up with our children, not to smoke, not to allow luggage to block the aisle and to offer a seat to pregnant ladies.  If people need to be told these things, I doubt they'd take much heed of etiquette advice!  Some of the social networking rules are a bit strange, too.  For instance, "don't provide a running commentary of an event you're attending" on Twitter.  Since most conferences I've attended encourage this very thing, that advice seems questionable.  The author also advises against "watching or searching for porn on YouTube" as "it might prompt a visit from the police."  I would think that anything objectionable would be first of all removed from YouTube by the site administrators, and secondly if the police visit anyone, surely it would be the one who was responsible for posting it (if it contained illegal images).

Still, there is some good information in the book, particularly the section on how to properly eat various foods in public.  If you've ever wondered whether or not you should be dunking your donuts, this book will provide the answer!  In these days of increasing informality, it's good to sit back and review the rules of civility.  Everyone can use a lesson in how to conduct oneself in social settings from time to time, and if you follow the advice in this book, you'll save yourself some embarrassment!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Modern Manners from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review


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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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