Answers to your random etiquette questions

Over the last few weeks I’ve been asked by friends, colleagues and my Facebook page Likes various etiquette questions. So this post is a recap of the questions I’ve gotten and my answers.

Are there guidelines on tipping for takeout?

When you purchase something at a counter, like coffee or take out, it’s not necessary to leave a tip unless you are so moved. It’s a nice gesture but not required. If you’re handed a receipt where you can write in a tip you don’t need to write in a tip, but if you choose to do so usually 10% is just fine.

For the pizza delivery person, a $1 or $2 tip is appropriate.

Is text speak OK to use on social media and email?

Text speak (“u’, “grt”, “b4”, etc.) is not appropriate for posting on social media and writing emails. Really the only appropriate place for text speak is when you’re texting. It doesn’t look professional and it looks like you’re in a hurry or can’t speak proper English. So, nix the text speak in every form of communication except texting.

If someone invites me to coffee or lunch, who is responsible for suggesting the time and place?

When you invite someone to join you for coffee or lunch, it is polite to suggest a few dates and times and a couple of meeting place options. You could say in the email, “These are some dates and times that work for me, do any of them work for you? If not, please feel free to suggest some times and dates that do work.”

As for a meeting place, you could ask what part of town they are in so that you can suggest a meeting place that is near your guest. Or, if you don’t know the area your guest is in you could ask, “Do you have a favorite spot near your office/home?”

Avoid saying “Where do you want to meet?” This puts the onus on your guest to suggest places, and s/he may feel they should find a spot near you.

Also, when you are the inviter, you shouldn’t ask your guest to come your way unless you want to treat them to a special restaurant. It should always be convenient for your guest.

Lastly, if you are the guest being invited to lunch or coffee and you aren’t free during any of the times the inviter suggested, don’t just respond, “Sorry, those don’t work for me.” Instead say, “Those times don’t work, but here are some dates and times I am available. Do any of those work for you?”

Should I ask permission to sit down at a partially occupied bench or table?

A friend of mine shared that she was at a conference and before sitting down at a table she asked the two people sitting there if she could join them. The woman at the table thanked her for asking first because a few minutes earlier the woman and her friend were having a personal conversation when another woman had sat down at the table without asking permission first. It made it uncomfortable for the two original people to continue their private conversation for fear of being overheard.

It’s always polite to ask permission first of the people sitting at “public” tables or benches to ensure you aren’t intruding. Plus, if the person/people sitting there don’t seem occupied it’s a good opportunity to introduce yourself and make a new connection.

That’s it for this post. What are you etiquette questions? Your questions always give me great blog and social media fodder. Keep them coming.




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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Isidra Vega on February 13, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    I have a strange etiquette question. When giving a book as a gift is it rude to inscribe the last page? If so where is the correct place to write a personal message in a book that is a gift? Or is it rude to write in it at all as it is soon to be someone else property?
    Thank you

  2. Arden on February 19, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    Hello Isidra,

    You typically inscribe the title page. It’s not rude. Many times a book with an inscription from a friend becomes a treasured gift.

  3. John Wu on March 19, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    My son is 25 years old and done with college. Every time he was in the car with me or in public places he liked to discuss life issues, family problems, sensitive political topics and race. However, when we stopped the car and got out he continued to comments about family matters that were personal and issues about race and religion that can create wrong impressions if someone were nearby. He did that even in the restaurant and the public places. He even spoke louder so everyone can hear. I begged him to lower his voice or to postpone the discussion, he spoke even louder that “I’m chicken and afraid of people” and continued to remarks about sensitive personal matters about our family or politics and race.

    He thinks it is proper and he has all the right to do. My wife and his siblings were embarrassed and all of them told him that was not proper and rude but he kept doing it. At home, he talked to me like I’m his child. When he said something that I said I heard him, he told me to repeat what he just said. I cannot ask him or greet him when I come home from work. When he cooked chicken today and I said it looked good, he immediately rebuked me for saying it. I was so disappointed with him. He is smart and thinks that he is smarter than me and everyone else. I am worried about him.

    I cannot stop him but hopefully he will listen to you. Thank you.

  4. Arden on March 20, 2019 at 8:07 am

    Does he live at home? If so, time to raise his rent!

  5. Beth Deffenbaugh on May 16, 2019 at 8:34 am

    I have a long time friend who lost their spouse 3 months ago Is it too soon to give them my phone number and suggest they call to get together sometime for a bite to eat or a drink?

  6. Lyn Rannou on May 23, 2019 at 5:18 am

    I recently returned early from an invited vacation to a friend’s house in Florida. I ran out of money as it became clear from the moment she picked me up at the airport that she was expecting me to pay for everything during my stay; groceries (her household items and dog food included), gas and any other incidentals. There was no mention of her reimbursing me. Was I wrong to leave early?

  7. Arden on May 23, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    Hello Lyn, on the face of things, no you weren’t wrong to leave early. However, did she ask you to pay or did you offer? If you offered then perhaps you should have stop offering when it became clear she would have you pay for everything. Typically house guests pay for a few things such as dinner out, groceries, if you’re shopping for food while you visit, and perhaps gas if you go on a trip in your host’s car. Anything beyond that would be excessive. And, it’s polite to bring a gift to the host when you arrive or during your visit. Dinner out could be that gift.

  8. Arden on May 23, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    Hi Beth, no, I think that’s a lovely thing to do. i might suggest you go even farther and reach out to your friend to invite her/him out. Sometimes a grieving person has a hard time reaching out to others. S/he will tell you if s/he isn’t up for socializing.

  9. Paul Thomas on December 14, 2019 at 8:13 am

    I’m debating whether or not to give my therapist a Christmas bonus. Specifically I had some wine and chocolate in mind because despite that I never turn cash down, I find it to be an impersonal gift. I also realize that our relationship is not that of personal friends but she has been the most anchoring influence in my life for the past five years. I try to be careful about respecting the line but I’d also like to show my appreciation. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

  10. Judith Reid on September 24, 2020 at 8:16 am

    How is a card addressed to an unmarried couple, just prior to their marriage? Also, how is a check made out to the two individuals prior to their marriage?

  11. Arden on September 24, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    Hello Judith, thank you for stopping by. Traditional etiquette states that you address an envelope to an unmarried couple by putting the names stacked like this:
    Ms. Jane Doe
    Mr. John Smith

    However, while not traditional etiquette, I think it’s nicer to put Ms. Jane Doe and Mr. John Smith on one line. Write the name of the person you know best first. Gender no longer matters. As far as the check, make it out to one person. They may not have a joint bank account so if you put both names on the check it may create all sorts of problems. So, just put the name of the person you know best on the check.

  12. Grace Montalbano on October 24, 2020 at 9:19 am

    I want to ask a question on proper manners Am I just being used ???? I have a new friend about 1 year . They had to move and they needed my mini van to move . I was there EVERY day helping them and let them use my van for trips of stuff they were moving. I filled my gas tank up twice …. and they offered to put gas in my van and I said ok … but they never did.
    I was there from 20am until about 6 pm and they never offered to give me anything to eat yet they went and got McDonalds for themselves !
    The very heavy furniture was going to have to be moved by men being they are military a group of military men were coming to move the last items from the house I heard going to order a bunch of pizzas and soda for them helping . HELPING ??? They only helped 1 time. I was there EVERYDAY ! For over 2 weeks helping only to be told I’d have to leave because they weren’t them say they yet I was not good enough to offer food or gas ! t sure where. I could park my mini van because of the the military friends coming with their trucks to finish up the move ! They did not even say stay for pizza for helping all that time ! I am totally heart broken . Then I heard that the military was paying them for the move . Yet they didn’t offer me gas money . I lent them my dolly to move stuff that is still sitting in their front yard and planning today to go get it. They can’t even offer to bring it back to my home …. I got to go get it ! I asked about today … I guess they were going to the beach to relax after this hard move which I worked right along with them but just like the lunches and dinners I was not asked to go along. It really hurts to see the true person who you thought was a friend ! I’m going to get my dolly while they are at the beach and I’m not going back .
    I also have to move from my home and I told them I was going to start my packing … they said they would help but just like the gas for my mini van I can’t let myself to continue to be let down so I won’t expect them to help me and my husband who is in complete kidney failure or called End Stage Renal Disease and is on oxygen 24/7 !
    I went to my doctor ratifies in both my legs are completely blocked , I can only use 1 hand my left hand my fingers are locked closed and my right hand has gotten carpal tunnel from over working it. I have no feeling in those fingers either . They know o was going to start my move but as they said. We have other plans !

  13. Paul Thomas on October 22, 2022 at 9:38 am

    I am inquiring about a Christmas gift idea for my therapist. For the past few years, I have given her a haul of Christmas candy for her and her family. I previously consulted with another etiquette coach and she told me this would be fine. I had to check about that first because I acknowledge that this is not a personal friendship and I always try to respect that line.
    With that said, she has been the most anchoring and grounding influence in my life since we first started working together. I owe her an unpayable debt. I want to do something special for her this time. She was openly admiring the jacket I wore to my last session with her, so I thought if she was really wowed by it, I could get her one this year. My reluctance on the matter are based on the expense and if this would be too intimate of a gift. Regarding the cost, it is by a top-tier designer brand (Moncler). I don’t believe I’ve ever seen her wear anything by them, but she is familiar with the brand and their price range. If she sees that label, she will immediately know what kind of money I spent. In Korea, as one example, it is considered insulting to give someone a gift that they themselves would be unable to reciprocate, and I think that’s true in some cases for Western culture as well. The other thought that occurred to me is if this would be too intimate of a gift because it is an article of clothing. Lastly there is the issue that some people are uncomfortable wearing expensive things (clothing, jewelry, etc).
    By the flip side of the coin, my contention on the matter is that if she wants one of these jackets, there is no reason she shouldn’t have one. She has done everything and more to deserve this. The monetary value of this or any other possession is irrelevant. The difference she has made for me is priceless.
    Gifts really are tricky gesture, aren’t they? I am stuck between the age-old stigmas and my own mentality (which makes sense to me, if not anyone else). Thanks for taking the time to read this and I will look forward to hearing from you.

  14. Arden on November 22, 2022 at 11:24 pm

    Paul, I would not give your therapist a jacket, because it’s very personal and it sounds like it would be a very expensive gift. It would likely make her uncomfortable. If you really want to give her a gift, stick to something neutral and modest in price like a gourmet food basket or a lovely candle holder (I personally love giving Glassy Baby candle holders for gifts) or a nice journal, if you think she is a writer. A relationship with a therapist needs to stay at a more formal and professional level, so be sure your gift fits those parameters.

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