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Etiquette expert serves lessons of propriety with dinner

By Fiza Johari
On April 23, 2010

  • Katherine Mason, the president of Jon D. Williams Cotillions Social Education Program, speaks to students Wednesday at the Student Public Relations Network Etiquette Dinner in the University Center.

Success in business relationships may depend on manners and etiquette. Because of this, UNC's Student Public Relations Network organized an etiquette dinner Wednesday for attendees to enjoy a three-course meal while they learned about business etiquette. 

Katherine Mason, president of Jon D. Williams Cotillions Social Education Program, began her keynote presentation with a brief definition of manners and etiquette. She said manners refer to how someone acts and etiquette is a fancier word for rules on what we should and should not do.

"What is the very first thing you do when you sit at the table?" Mason asked. "You take your napkin, fold it diagonally in half and it stays on your lap until the end. There can be up to 10 utensils on your place setting, and if you are not sure which utensils to use, work your way outside in."

Mason said etiquette is a lot like language and also a part of our everyday culture. The key is to be comfortable and make people who are nearby comfortable as well. She said it takes about seven to 10 seconds for an impression to be made. In that time frame, about 11 assumptions are deduced.

"Don't do anything at the table that you don't want to see others do yourself," Mason said.

Mason also demonstrated how silverware should be held in ones' hands and the different styles of eating: European Continental and American. European Continental style involves using the same hand to cut and the fork's tine is facing down when eating; the American method, on the other hand, sets the knife down and switches the fork to the other hand to eat, with the fork's tine facing up.

Mason provided some specific tips when practicing dinner etiquette. She said some dining rules have exceptions, such as always passing to the right, unless the person is sitting directly to your left and how it is customary to rest your elbows/forearms on the table when there is no food on the table.

"The SPRN wanted to do something big for students from business and journalism and mass communication," said Chelley Knight, secretary of SPRN and a junior journalism major. "It was definitely fun to meet new students and for them to network — very helpful and informative."

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