(Probably well-mannered) debutantes in London, 1957 (via Getty)
(Probably well-mannered) debutantes in London, 1957 (via Getty)

10 Etiquette Rules You're Probably Breaking

(Probably well-mannered) debutantes in London, 1957 (via Getty)
(Probably well-mannered) debutantes in London, 1957 (via Getty)

You leave your elbows off the dinner table and understand the importance of a nice, firm handshake. Congrats! You’re a generally well-mannered person. But do you know which hand you should wave with? Or which seat to offer your boss in the back of a town car? There are tons of little-known etiquette rules that most people break every single day. Etiquette expert Joy Weaver, author of How to Be Socially Savvy in All Situations, lets us in on the 10 most common blunders—and provides a crash course on being proper.

1. You’re coughing into your right hand.

Covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough is good manners. Using your right hand to do it? That’s bad. “Your right hand is your social hand,” Weaver says. “It should be available for shaking hands, waving, and blowing kisses.” Your left hand, meanwhile, is what she dubs your “personal” hand: “That’s the hand you use for coughing, scratching, sneezing, whatever it is we don’t want to talk about.” The reason for the distinction, she explains, is simple politeness—you don’t want to sneeze into one hand, then absentmindedly use that palm to shake hands with a new colleague.

2. You’re wearing your handbag on your right shoulder—and slinging it over the back of your chair.

To keep your “social” hand free for greetings, it’s best to keep your handbag — or cocktail! — in your left hand. That way, says Weaver, “you don’t have to take the time to switch it over to the other arm when you’re reaching out to shake someone’s hand.” (Of note: Queen Elizabeth always keeps her tote on her left.) While you’re at it, never place your handbag on the back of a chair when you’re seated at a table. The proper spot, says Weaver, is on the floor to your right.

3. Also, you’re calling it a “purse.”

That term is reserved for any clutch, tote, satchel, etc. that costs less than $100. “A purse is something that is relatively inexpensive,” notes Weaver. “A handbag is more expensive. You should never go into Neiman Marcus and ask for their purse department. They don’t have one.”

4. You’re sitting down wrong.

To avoid collisions at the dinner table, always approach your chair from the left-hand side and exit on the right, says Weaver. And if you need to use the restroom during the meal, never announce your intentions to the group. Suggests the pro, “Just say, ‘Excuse me,’ and step away.”

5. You’re passing the salt without the pepper.

“They’re like a little couple,” Weaver says of the salt-and-pepper shakers. “You never want to separate them.” The theory: even if one diner asks only for the salt, the person next to them may want both, so they should be kept together. And remember—always pass to the right!

6. You’re applauding incorrectly.

Study celebrities at any major awards show: not everyone is properly recognizing the winners. The correct way to applaud is just slightly to your left, about chest height. Says Weaver, “You never want to clap in front of your own face and you sure don’t want to clap in front of someone else’s.”

7. You’re claiming the best seat in the car …

The power seat in any limo is to the back and the right. That’s the one you should leave for your boss “or whomever is the person of prominence or honor,” says Weaver. The next person in line gets to claim the seat to the left, while the junior person usually gets the middle. (Note: the same does not apply to riding with your siblings.)

8. … And you’re climbing in wrong.

When entering a vehicle, first sit down, then swing your legs in. “It’s the appropriate way to do it,” says Weaver. “And it’s classy.” As an added bonus, it prevents any skirt-wearing ladies from accidentally flashing their companions.

9. You’re pointing at your friend.

“We can point at something,” says Weaver, “but we never point at someone. If you must point out across the room to your pal, you may gesture, but be sure to use an open hand."

10. You’re using a revolving door improperly.

Holding the door? You’ve got that one down. But when faced with a revolving door, it's polite to enter first. Explains the pro, “You never want your client or date to have to push while you’re behind them just prancing in. It’s about making the other person feel special and making it easier on them.” What it isn’t about, she says, is showing off. “It should never be, ‘How about me, I know all of these things,’” notes Weaver. Because being a braggart—well, that’s just rude.

8 Expert Tips and Tricks for Hanging a Picture Right the First Time

Framed pictures are an inexpensive way to make a house feel like a home, and they can take a room from empty to finished-looking in minutes. They can be customized easily to your space and decor, and swapped out if your tastes change. But there is an art to hanging a picture the right way—without destroying your walls. Here’s what you need to know.


There are several steps you need to take before you get anywhere near a drill or hammer. First, consider two factors: the state of the wall you want to decorate, and the weight of the picture. Your wall may be supported by studs, which are pieces of wood or metal that run vertically behind the wall every couple of feet. Screwing directly into a stud can provide more support for hanging items.

If you have a reinforced wall, you could use a basic nail or screw to hang the frame, as long as you insert the nail or screw firmly into a stud. But you should only ever use a nail if you're hanging on a stud, according to Simon Taylor, owner-operator of T&C Carpentry in Whitby, Ontario. Otherwise, the weight of the picture could rip the nail out of the wall.

No stud? No problem. "If the picture is light, then a product like Monkey Hooks"—a kind of cantilevered hook for unreinforced walls—"work great," Taylor says.

For medium to heavy pictures, use wall anchors, which are plastic or metal inserts that provide more support for screwing into an unreinforced wall. There are many styles and strengths available for different materials and weights. “Using a product like E-Z Ancors is an easy way to fix a screw to drywall where there is no stud to screw into. They are strong and easy to install,” Taylor tells Mental Floss. “You can then thread a screw into them to hang your picture, providing it has a hook on the back or a string. A good rule to follow is not to use anything other than an anchor if you are not screwing directly into a stud or backing.” (Plastic wall anchors are fine for most lightweight projects, but for a really heavy picture, or a wall made out of something besides drywall, you'll need a different type of anchor.)

If you’re renting and don't want to damage the walls of your apartment, or you’re not 100 percent committed to the picture's placement, Taylor recommends a non-nail option like the extremely popular 3M Command adhesive hooks. They provide temporary, hole-free hanging and hold strong without peeling paint off the wall when it comes time to remove them.

Others argue that stick-on hooks can be unreliable, especially for heavier frames. “All picture-hanging hardware should really include some type of component that punctures the wall,” says Claire Wheeler, design and project coordinator for Montreal-based Sajo Inc. “This provides a much more secure hanging system than a hanging system that is surface-applied.” The adhesives on these types of products are more likely to fail than any sort of nail or anchored hardware, she tells Mental Floss.


Wheeler says your hanging hardware depends on the size and weight of the frame. Fortunately, most frame manufacturers include some form of hanger on the back of their products.

While she finds that hook tabs (small triangular hangers on ready-to-use frames) work for hanging lighter pictures, a wire system—two anchor points on the back of the frame and a strong wire strung between them for looping over the wall screw or hook—is the better choice for hanging large and/or heavy pictures. The wire system setup allows the weight of the frame to be distributed evenly along the wire for more secure hanging, rather than placing all the weight of the frame on one small hanger point.

“You will notice that most frames, whether you have purchased them in a store or you've had them custom-made, have hardware already installed at the back. It’s usually a pretty safe bet to use what the manufacturer has provided,” Wheeler says.

To hang a picture without the need for advanced math, start with a center hanging point: a hook tab affixed in the appropriate spot, or, if your frame has two tabs on either side of the frame, a wire strung slackly between them.


Assemble all of the gear before you spring into action. In addition to your framed artwork, you'll need the proper hanging apparatus for your project (see #1) and a hammer for pounding in the wall anchor or nail. Use a power drill or screwdriver to insert screws in the wall anchor, if you're using one. A tape measure makes it easier to calculate the right spot for hanging. A sturdy wire for the back of your frame is optional (see #2). And the best way to ensure your picture will be level is to, well, use a level. “A level is a basic tool everyone should have,” Wheeler says. “If you own a hammer, you should own a level.”


Wheeler says you should play around with the height at which you plan on installing the frame: “As a general rule, eye level should land within the bottom half of the frame,” she says.

From a designer’s perspective, Wheeler finds people often choose pictures that are either too big or too small in proportion to the wall area. “You want the picture to have some space to 'breathe,' so to speak, meaning a wall large enough that it doesn’t feel as though the picture is overcrowding the wall," she says. "On the flip side, you also don’t want a picture to look completely lost on a big wall."

She adds, "Proportion is important, but there’s no specific ratio" of picture size to wall area that could be considered a rule of thumb. Ultimately, you're the best judge of your space.


Place the frame against the wall where you want it to hang. "It’s a good idea to have someone with you to judge if it is in the right place," Taylor says. "Having a view of it in place before it’s 'fixed' to the wall will help you decide if it looks right."

After you've picked your spot, draw a short line with a pencil along the center of the frame's top edge as your reference line. If you're hanging a really large picture, get your assistant to hold it in place while you draw.


Lay the frame face-down on a flat surface. Place your wall fastener, such as the wall anchor or Command hook, in the appropriate hook tab or on the wire on the back of the frame and pull the wire taut. With a tape measure, measure the distance from the top edge of the frame to the center of the fastener.


Now back to the wall: Measure the same distance from the center of your penciled reference line down. Mark that spot with your pencil: That's where you're going to install your fastener.

If you're not using a wall anchor, simply affix an adhesive hook, hammer in a nail, or insert a Monkey Hook.

To install an anchor, drill a hole into the wall at the penciled point with a screw that is narrower than the anchor itself. (You don't want the anchor to be too loose in the wall.) Don't screw it too tightly. Next, reverse the drill's direction and pull the screw out. Insert the anchor, hammering it flush against the wall. Finally, drill the screw into the anchor—this action makes the anchor expand slightly and press against the drywall's innards, creating a more secure fit. Be sure to leave a bit of space between the screw's head and the wall so the picture's wire can be hooked over the screw. Hang the picture.


To make sure your picture is straight, rest the level along the top of the frame, against the wall. Then, adjust until the air bubble within the small tube of water is in the center of the tube, which indicates that the bar is parallel to the floor—and, therefore, that your picture is level.

Taylor says that not using a level and assuming the hanging hardware is set evenly on the back of a frame are the two biggest mistakes he sees people make. Pros often use laser levels, but Taylor says a water level will work just as well for most people.

Need some inspirations to get started? Consider hanging a few classic movie posters, printed patents for famed inventions, or a guide to cats.

Live Smarter
How to Rescue a Wet Book

Water and books don't usually go together. If you're one of the many sorting through waterlogged possessions right now—or if you're just the type to drop a book in the bath—the preservation experts at Syracuse University Libraries have a video for you, as spotted by The Kid Should See This. Their handy (if labor-intensive) technique to rescue a damp book features paper towels, a fan, some boards, and a bit of time. Plus, they offer a quick trick if you don't have the chance to repair the book right away.

The Kid Should See This also notes that literary magazine Empty Mirror has further tips on salvaging books and papers damaged by water, including how to clean them if the water was dirty (rinse the book in a bucket of cold water, or lay flat and spray with water) and what to do if there's a musty smell at the end of the drying process (place the propped-open book in a box with some baking soda, but make sure the soda doesn't touch the book).

Of course, prevention is the best policy—so store your tomes high up on bookcases, and be careful when reading in the bath or in the rain. (That, or you could buy a waterproof book.)

[h/t: The Kid Should See This]


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