Easy Etiquette for Preteens: Minding Your Manners
Your parents probably often remind you to say "Please," "Excuse me" and "Thank you," but did you know that there are lots of other social rules that you should be aware of? Here are some of them to help you out. By far, the most important thing to guide your manners is the "Golden rule": Treat others as you would want to be treated. By minding your manners, your friends and other kids will look up to you, and adults will be impressed with your maturity.
- On the Telephone
- Cell Phone Etiquette
- In Public
- On the Computer
- At the Table
- When Playing Sports
- Thank You Notes and Invitations
- At Other People's Houses
- Greeting or Introducing Someone
- In Other Parts of the World
On the Telephone
When you answer the telephone or call someone, it is important to remember the tips listed below.
- Never call before 7 a.m. on weekdays, before 9:30 a.m. on weekends, or after 9 p.m. any day to make sure you don't wake someone up.
- Don't call during dinner time.
- When you call up a friend and someone in their family answers the phone, introduce yourself and say:
"Hi, this is Julia. May I please speak to Katie?" And always remember to say thank you!
- If you leave a message, wait until after the beep, and make sure you leave your name, your phone number and your reason for calling.
- If you accidentally dial the wrong number, just say that you dialed incorrectly and apologize, and then hang up.
- Even though it can be funny and entertaining, don't make prank calls. They are disruptive and annoying to others.
- If you answer the phone, just say, "Hello," and wait for the speaker to introduce himself or herself.
- If you answer the phone when no one else is in the house, don't tell the caller you are home alone. Simply say the person with whom they wish to speak cannot come to the phone.
- If the caller asks to speak to someone who is not home, ask if you can take a message or if he or she would like to be called back. If the caller asks to be called back, make sure you ask for his or her phone number.
- Don't interrupt someone while they are talking. This goes for all conversations, not just on the phone.
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Cell Phone Etiquette
Sometimes, people talking on cell phones forget that they are around other people. The same guidelines for talking on a regular telephone also apply to cell phone users. Below are some extra rules for talking on your cell phone.
- If you are going somewhere quiet, set the ringer volume low or put your phone on vibrate.
- Turn your phone off at school.
- If it is not appropriate to be on your cell phone but you are expecting an important call, set the ringer on low or vibrate, and politely excuse yourself when it rings. Explain that it is an important call, and apologize.
- Never shout into your phone. Not everyone around you needs to know that you are mad at your mom or what time you need to be picked up. Be respectful of those around you.
- If you are around other people when you answer your phone, move away and take the call in private. You do not need to involve others in the call.
- If you are at home or with your family, set boundaries on when you'll talk on the phone. If you are at the dinner table, don't answer your cell phone.
- Never take pictures of people without first asking their permission.
- Don't send picture messages before asking the recipient first.
- Never take pictures on airplanes. Even though you are not making a call, your phone still searches for a signal, and it can interfere with electrical equipment on the plane.
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This means anywhere not in your house, including at school, out with your parents or just on the street.
- If you are with a group of people, don't take up the entire sidewalk.
- If someone bumps into you or if you hit someone, say "Excuse me" or "Sorry."
- Remember that everyone is different, and no one deserves to be made fun of, so never point or stare at people.
- Never throw your trash on the ground. Use the public trash and recycle bins.
- If someone says "Have a nice day," respond with, "Thank you. You too."
- If you are on a busy street and need to stop for a moment, step off to the side so you are not in the way of other people.
- If you meet someone for the first time, shake his or her hand and say "Nice to meet you."
- When someone holds a door for you, remember to thank him or her. It is also polite to hold doors for others, especially people in wheelchairs or on crutches, or someone with a stroller.
- If you are on a bus and someone comes on who might need a seat (for example, if they have a baby, are elderly or are injured), offer your seat to him or her.
- Before you get into an elevator, let the people who have arrived at their floor get off first.
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On the Computer
When you are talking to someone in person or on the phone, they can see the emotion on your face or hear it in your voice. When you type something, the person reading it does not know the attitude behind the words on the screen, so it is important to follow these e-mail guidelines.
- Never type in all capital letters, as the other person might think you are shouting or being mean.
- Always proofread your work to check for typos or grammar mistakes, especially if it is an important email.
- If it is a formal email to an adult or someone important, capitalize at the beginning of a sentence, and do not use abbreviations.
- Be respectful. Do not share other's personal information or your own personal information. Make sure you are safe (link to internet safety article).
- Keep your note brief and to-the-point.
- Fill in the subject section at the top of the e-mail.
- If you get junk email, just delete it. It is probably not best to forward it to others, because it can be annoying and clog up their e-mail.
- Hand-written notes are more personal than emails, so if possible, don't use e-mail for something such as a thank you note or an invitation.
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At the Table
Practice these tips whenever you are at the table.
- Do not put your elbows on the table.
- Help set the table. A traditional table setting has the napkin and fork to the left of the plate, and the knife (the blade facing the plate), the spoon and the cup to the right of the plate.
- Fancier table settings can include many different forks and knives and spoons for different courses. Just remember that the utensil furthest from the plate is for the first course, and moving towards the plate for the later courses.
- Finish chewing and swallowing before you start talking. Try not to chew with your mouth open.
- Eat with your silverware, not your hands (unless it is finger food).
- If you cannot reach something, politely ask someone else at the table to hand it to you; don't reach for it.
- Put you napkin on your lap.
- Don't play with your food.
- If you have to sneeze, cover your mouth with your napkin and say, "Excuse me."
- If you notice someone has something in his or her teeth, let him or her know quietly, but do not make a big deal out of it.
- If you spill something, help clean it up.
- Sit tall and interact with the other people at the table.
- If you are at home or a guest at someone's house, help clear the table once the meal is finished.
- Before you leave the table, make sure the meal is finished and it is appropriate to leave.
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When Playing Sports
Sports can bring out the competitive side of people. Manners are important in sports to make sure that no one's feelings get hurt.
- Never be more aggressive than is necessary.
- If you hit someone during the game, apologize after the play is over and ask them if they are OK.
- If someone falls down, help him or her back up.
- Don't be a sore loser. Think about what you could do differently next time, and stay calm and polite. Congratulate the other team or players, and tell them they played well.
- If you do win, don't brag. It is fine to be happy that you won, but don't celebrate in a way that hurts anyone's feelings.
- Always thank your coach and the referees.
- Shake hands with your opponent at the end of the game.
- If the national anthem plays, stand up, take off you hat and turn towards the flag.
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Thank You Notes and Invitations
Every time you receive a gift, it is important to write a thank you note, and the more personal the note is, the better.
- Write a thank you note as soon as possible after receiving a gift.
- Thank the person who gave you the gift, even if you did not particularly like it. You don't have to lie, just thank the person for thinking of you.
- Always make the note personal. You should start by thanking the person for the gift, and then mention why you like it.
- Always end your note by saying, "Thanks again."
- If you are thanking everyone from your party, do not write them all the same note. It is perfectly fine to repeat lines, but everyone gave you a different gift and deserves a personal note.
- It is always better to mail the invites than to e-mail them.
- Always include the following information in an invitation: the type of party (for example, a birthday or surprise party), who the party is for, where and where the party is taking place, and to whom and by when the invitee should RSVP. Also, include any other information the invitee might need to know, such as directions to the party.
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At Other People's Houses
Although your family may not be strict about matters, you never know how other families feel, so follow these guidelines when you are not at home.
- Take your hat off when you enter a house or building, unless it is part of your outfit and is more formal and dress-up.
- If no one else in the house is wearing shoes, take your shoes off, especially if they are really dirty or wet.
- When at a friend's house, don't leave your friend and go off on your own.
- Unless you know the family well, wait for them to offer you something to eat or drink; don't help yourself.
- After dinner, bring your plate into the kitchen.
- If you sleep over at a friend's house and you and your friend stay up late, keep quiet so you do not wake others in the house. If they hear you all night, they might not invite you back.
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Greeting or Introducing Someone
A first impression is a lasting impression. Every time you greet adults, you should follow these rules.
- Look them in the eye.
- Stand up, even if it is not your first time meeting them.
- Shake their hand (always put out your right hand).
- Say some sort or greeting, such as, "Nice to see you, Ms. Smith."
- When introducing two people to each other, say the person's name and how you know them.
- When addressing someone, call a man "Mr.," a woman who is married "Mrs." and a woman who is not married "Miss."
- Unless an adult tells you to call him or her by just his or her first name, address this person as Mr. or Mrs.
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In Other Parts of the World
What is polite in your country may not be respectful in another country. Here are some world manners in which to be aware.
- People always use silverware in Holland, sometimes even to eat bread.
- In Asia, instead of greeting people with a handshake, people bow to each other. The person with a lower status bows lower.
- In America, it is polite to look someone in the eye when they are speaking to you, but in some other countries, it is seen as rude to stare someone in the eye when they are speaking.
- In America, it is common to whistle while you are applauding, but in other parts of the world, this whistling is seen as rude and like booing someone.
- In America, shaking your head up and down means "yes" and shaking it side to side means "no." In parts of the Middle East, it is the other way around.
- In Japan, you are supposed to use chopsticks when you eat. Meals usually consist of several larger platters for sharing, instead of individual meals for each person. If you have used your chopsticks, serve yourself food using the opposite end from which you ate.
- It is considered rude to burp after your meal in Japan, but in different parts of Asia, it is not rude to burp.
- In England, people are more respectful of others in public. They do not push their way through lines and do not make rude comments about others. They also drive on the left side of the road, whereas in the United States, people drive on the right side of the road.
- In Ghana, it would seem rude if you did not greet and ask the person how they are doing. In many societies, we are taught to not be so friendly with strangers. However, in Ghana, it is rude not to make contact with strangers.
Holyoke, Nancy. Oops! The Manners Guide for Girls. American Girl Library. Pleasant Company Publications, 1997.
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Reviewed by the Web Content Committee of PAMF
Phone etiquette, Oracle Foundation: ThinkQuest. Accessed December 2008.
Manners around the world, Manners 2000. Accessed December 2008.
Table manners in Japan, Japan-guide.com. Accessed December 2008.