Monday, December 31, 2012

Here's to 2013

Happy New Year!

A new year is like a clean slate, appealing for all of the promise and mystery it holds. Are you thinking of resolutions today - maybe better food, more exercise, a different job? Travel, home improvement, quality time with friends? Finally tackling that big project? 

May we suggest a very simple one? Let's make 2013 a year in which we truly think of others first.

Now is a great time to re-read our guest blog post  by Jay H. Remer, Jr., International Protocol and Corporate Etiquette Consultant, columnist, and the blogosphere's "Etiquette Guy." His call for compassion, kindness, and civility still rings true, and we love what he has to say.
Here's to a fresh start - or a continuation of your success - in 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Home stretch

In the parking lots, post offices, department stores, highways and while waiting in line for a photo with Santa...

Take a deep  breath. Or several. Preferably 10, slowly.

Where we live, final preparations for the holidays are presenting themselves in the usual ways: bad traffic, long lines, and watching fellow customers have public meltdowns over not finding the gifts they need. 

This is the perfect time to find a little extra kindness for others and to be gentle on ourselves. To slow down in parking lots and simply let it go when someone cuts you off for a space. To keep things cheerful when the customer in front of you in the checkout has taken frustration out on a clerk. To offer a smile to random stranger—the worst that can happen is you'll be ignored, and the best is that you might be the unexpected comfort the other person needs the most at that moment. 

There's a lot of darkness in the world. The Winter Solstice - not the end of the world, after all - just gave us the longest night on the year. This is the time to be a light for others and ourselves. Heavy stuff to think about, maybe, but it might get you in and out of the grocery store in a better mood.

Need a tiny bit of help? 

Deep breathing exercises 
Video of silent, falling snow 
Cute puppies

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Secret Santa, we have help for you!

Last-minute shopping for a White Elephant party at work? Or maybe you're doing Secret Santas? Perhaps your whole extended family decided to draw names this year, which sounds like it would be easy until you realize you barely know your giftee. 

We know that shopping stress is an ingrained part of the holidays for so many. But maybe our tips will help get the job done!

• Set a price limit across the board. If you're a crafter, consider time and materials that would roughly equal that dollar amount.

• Invite everyone to send out a public wish list to give others a clue.

• Instead of gifts, consider a special event - ornament decorating, cookie baking, even a scavenger hunt for adventurous types - that yields equal treasures for all.

• Before baking holiday treats, find out if your person has any food allergies or extreme dislikes.

• For the person who truly does have everything, find out his or her favorite charity and make a donation.

• On a similar note, donate a toy that best represents your person to a local hospital.

• If you're still at a loss, seek out those who do know your person well and have a confidential chat to get ideas.

Happy gifting!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Budget Holiday

Let's be blunt. The holidays can be really hard if one can't afford to give gifts, a position that many people are in these days. And then there are folks who, for a variety of reasons, want to simplify their lives by avoiding gift-giving.

What if you're in that situation? What if you aren't, but want to respect those who are? We have solutions for you!

Be proactive in making others feel comfortable. If you know someone is hurting financially, make things easy and be the first to suggest that this year, you give each other the gift of not exchanging gifts!

• Consider low/no-cost presents that are fun for you both, whether it's a cookie or soup exchange, a hike in the woods, a book club based on library finds, a night devoted to driving around and looking at Christmas lights, or just getting together for silly TV and snacks.

Get crafty. Decorations from greenery in your yard, old wool sweaters felted in the dryer and cut into ornaments...even if you don't think you're crafty, search the web (Pinterest is a good start) for easy ideas, and enlist friends for help if you need courage in trying something new!

• Encourage friends to bring unwanted items like clothes, books, games, and movies, and host a swap party—everyone brings home something gently loved and new-to-them! (Donate what's leftover.)

Help others. Purge closets and donate to a charity. Serve in a soup kitchen. Figure out a chore exchange. Find ways to volunteer in the community as a team. 

A cup of coffee or tea with good conversation goes a long way in the gift department.

Remember that gift-giving doesn't have to be grand or expensive—it's the memories you'll make that will last! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sending holiday cheer

Time to send out those holiday cards! But before you do, check out these tips from Cindy...take it away, Cindy!

Before You Mail Those Greeting Cards...

Sign the card even if it is a photo/picture card and even if the names are pre-printed. It means you care enough to take a moment and sign in your own handwriting. And, while you are at it, add a short handwritten note for a personal touch. People who are receiving your card want to connect with you, especially since most cards are a once-a-year connection with some far-flung friends.  

Every year, I look forward to receiving a card from a family of four, with all of their signatures included. I picture them seated with hot cocoa around their breakfast room table at Thanksgiving signing each card.  I have not a clue as to how they do this as a family, but I know they spent time working together on their Christmas card. It warms my heart!

When you sign your card, just your name is perfect—no titles, etc.  Many times, people list first the father's name, then the mother's name, and then the children, oldest to youngest. But, I have a friend who lives with her nine children in China, and she always identifies the children in the photo itself and I love that! These are dear friends who I do not get to see and watching them grow up through the Christmas card is something I look forward to each season.

Use your handwriting whenever possible—that includes on the outside of the envelope.  Make sure you have the correct amount of postage, so that the recipient of your holiday greeting is sure to receive the card! Remember that postage depends on the size, not necessarily the weight of the envelope.

And, always include your return address, which allows Type A people (like us!) to check addresses each year for accuracy!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S., let's take a few steps to make sure we can genuinely give thanks for our loved ones gathered around the table — instead of counting the minutes until they go home! 

Avoid drama. Save talk about politics, religion, and money for another day (or never, if you expect some major arguments). 

Unplug. Keep phones and other electronic devices tucked away, and especially off the table. 

Go outside, if you can. Playtime outdoors is just the thing for children needing to blow off steam, and adults will appreciate a post-meal, pre-nap walk around the block.

For basic table manners, remember THANKS:

T: Treat everyone with respect
H: Hands in your lap when you aren't eating
A: Ask to be excused 
N: Napkin in your lap at the beginning of the meal 
K: Knife on the right 
S: Spoon on the right

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another training week comes to a close

We've already talked about Training Week before - how much we love it, how much we love introducing them to both our students in Athens and those at the Ron Clark Academy, how we always welcome more etiquette consultants to train with us. 

So let's just post some fantastic pictures of our super fun week! (Warning: this happened near Halloween, so expect some costumes mixed in...more than the usual!)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


It's time.

Election seasons are rough. Even if you're not a a politically-minded person, it's likely that something made your blood pressure rise over the past few weeks. Maybe a loved one isn't voting the same way as you. Maybe you've seen one too many vitriolic posts on Facebook. Maybe you're more than ready to move on, talk about other things, leave this behind.

More than ever, let's practice the common courtesy we should extend to other people any day of the year. Stay pleasant, patient and kind at the polls, even when facing long lines and loudly opinionated fellow voters. Those election workers are volunteering their time and will be there long after you, so smile and thank them for their efforts.

And outside the voting booth? Try to remember that you can still love and respect someone who views the world differently, and the world will be a better place for it.

Now - go vote!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Manners are a treat

Halloween night is upon us! That means it's time to review some basic manners before little ghosts and princesses and pirates zoom around on a candy-induced sugar high.

• If trick-or-treating traffic is high, take care on the sidewalks: step to the right and let others walk by, and remind older children to avoid plowing down smaller children!

• Conquering several neighborhoods by car? Take care not to slam car doors, and of course watch out for other moving vehicles.

• Only go to houses with lights on. Any others won't have candy, anyway.

• Ring a doorbell just once.

• Say thank you before you go!

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

SCARY stories of BAD manners!

Halloween makes us think of spooky stories...and what's more spooky (well, to us) than some scary stories of bad manners?

We're not just talking about a mere faux pas here and there. We're only human, after all! No - we're talking about WORST CASE SCENARIOS!

That means something different for everyone, we know, but here are a few of our top Worst Case Manners Scenarios - and how to handle them with ease!

Forgetting someone's name in a social situation. You could try re-introducing yourself, join a conversation and perk up your ears in case someone says the name, or unobtrusively ask an understanding friend. But what if you're trying to make introductions and suddenly forget the name? Horrors! Smile, look that person in the eye, and say, "Please tell me your name." No need to apologize! Keep it simple and straightforward.

Extreme tardiness. Everyone is late sometimes, but what if you're really late for something really important, like a wedding, party (especially if you're the guest of honor), high-powered meeting, or first date? For parties, always call ahead so the host can plan accordingly. Some things—like meetings or doctor's appointments—may need to be rescheduled, so call ahead for those, too. For weddings and similar events, remember it's not all about you, and arrive as quietly as possible.

Awkward houseguests. First of all, if you're going to visit someone, read our tips first. If you're the host and having a hard time keeping everyone entertained, offer a few choices for activities and ask for their input. Suggest a walk around the block or a drive into town to get sedentary guests off the couch. If diet is a challenge, you can again offer a few menu choices and solicit their opinion. Sometimes all you need to do is offer a choice to get the ball rolling.

Undertipping and realizing later. First, check out our tipping guide. If you undertip at a local establishment you frequent regularly, feel free to make it up next time. If you're traveling on the road and won't be going back, you can always mail a hand-written note (with compliments of their service included) to the hotel or restaurant. And try to keep the good service industry karma going by tipping well at the next place.

Miscommunication. What if you say something to a friend and later realize that your innocent, throwaway comment could have been taken completely the wrong way? What if he or she is mortally offended or wondering what on earth is wrong with you? It's a horrible feeling to have, but remember: miscommunication can be solved with communication. Call your friend and explain yourself, and be prepared to apologize. True friends will understand, and know you'll return the favor next time they misspeak!

No need to make Halloween scarier than it is. Let trick-or-treaters enjoy the chills and thrills and you can leave spooky tales of awkward etiquette far behind!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Parties with kids

Between Halloween (right around the corner!) and the regular amount of birthdays, children's party season is in full swing! We'd like to remind you that even though the guests are young, the same manners should apply. To make life easier, follow our tips!

RSVP! Parents like to know how many cupcakes to bake or party favors to make.

Ask to help. More elaborate children's parties may benefit from adult supervision during certain activities. 
Be on time. Unless the party specifies "drop-in" hours, try to be on time. We all know that "kid time" (especially when infants are involved) is a little different than "regular time," but make an effort whenever possible.

Don't ignore the kids. If the parents are sticking around, pay attention to the children, especially younger ones who need more direction and redirection. 

Prepare for presents. If gifts are involved and the guests are very young, remind your children that the birthday boy or girl is the one (and the only one) to open the presents. This is a good opportunity to talk about being patient and taking turns—skills kids need to learn anyway. If your child is the birthday girl or boy, remind them that if they open a present they dislike, they only need to say two words: "Thank you!"

Leave on time. Even if a magnificent time was had by all, chances are that the hosts are tired and ready to take a nap by the end. Don't linger when the party is over—say your goodbyes and thank-yous and make plans to talk about another playdate soon. (Remember: if young guests tend to fall apart, cry, pitch fits and/or throw tantrums when it's time to go, then you know it was a successful party!)

 Say thanks. Guests, thank the host for inviting you. Hosts, thank the guests for coming. And guests of honor—remember to send thank-you cards if received any presents!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sir and Ma'am

We love the aesthetic of The Old Try's prints, but we especially love the message of this one:
(Print available here. Blogged by another Old Try fan here.)

We teach etiquette in the south, so we teach our students to say "ma'am" and "sir." It's part of our culture here. We know that's not always the case. For example, in other parts of the country, or in certain professions, "ma'am" might be offensive.

This print reminds us the meaning behind manners. Even if you don't say "sir" or "ma'am" where you live or work, remember that you can convey respect in other ways—saying "yes" and "no" instead of "yeah" or "nah," for example, or speaking in complete sentences.

Etiquette is flexible. It changes with the times and places. One thing that shouldn't change is using your manners. No matter where you live, it's all about human kindness!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Eating escargot with ease

Today's blog post comes from Cindy, who has been traveling recently and hitting some escargot hot spots!  If you think eating snails sounds tricky, it is—but Cindy has some tips for us.

When in Rome (or France...)

Escargot, or snails, are absolutely France! Snail shells are grasped with a special holder, or escargot tongs, that your waiter will provide for you at the table.  You can see the tongs, which work like scissors, here in a red tin: 

A pick or oyster fork is provided, too.  With your left hand, pinch the holder and collapse the holder around the snail.  Using your right hand, you remove the meat with the small fork by pulling the meat from the shell.  The garlic butter remaining in the shell may be poured into the snail plate and sopped up with a small piece of French bread...ooh la la!  

 Do it this way! Mais oui!

Now, that sounds very simple doesn't it?  But it took me about three times to get comfortable...and look French...while eating escargot!  Here is what you don't do:

  Bad form: Do NOT do it this way. Non, non, non.

If you grasp the tongs and then collapse them firmly around the snail, you cannot pinch the tongs or your snail will drop out of the tongs.  Are you getting the picture?  Sometimes it lands on your plate, or off your plate, or across the table.  I should have known better...after all I've watched Pretty Woman several times!

Eating escargot properly can be tricky because the snail shell is a little slippery and the snail is most reluctant to come out.  It takes some angled positioning to get the shell and the snail apart from each other.  And, it is so worth it!  

 Pulling the snail from the shell.

There are some contrary opinions about how to convey the sopped up French bread in the garlic butter.  I had read that it was done with the fork in the right hand.  But, in watching other diners around me, most people would place their utensils down and use their hands to pinch off a small piece of bread, sop it in the garlic butter, and bring it to their mouth. And it tastes heavenly!  

You'll see escargot listed in menus as an appetizer, served 6 or 12 at a time. On recent travels, I tried to eat them every single day, and I can say I was successful! And, I got really good at it...eventually! When in France — or a French restaurant anywhere — remember these tips and try escargot!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Take the bag off!

What's going on here? Oh, it's just one of our students wearing a bag over her head. Don't worry, she's giving the thumbs-up sign; she doesn't mind. Also, she's learning a great lesson through the use of a simple prop: The importance of eye contact.

Maintaining eye contact can be very difficult for some people. We understand that some people may be unable to do so for a variety of reasons (including extreme shyness, social anxiety, or being on the autism spectrum).

But if you are able to look someone in the eye, do it! 

Maintaining eye contact is one of the ingredients of a good introduction. We say it's an essential component when shaking hands, responding to a teacher or a supervisor, or just having a friendly conversation with someone. (Don't forget to smile every once in a while, too!)

What if you're someone who is able to make eye contact but not maintain it? We have a tip for you: instead of focusing on solely the person's eyes, look at the area that includes the other person's hairline, forehead and eyes. Try not to stare - he or she might think there's something on their face! - but you can "check in" every so often that way and let the other person know you're attentive. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Welcome back to the Perfectly Polished school year!

Perfectly Polished is back in session!

Last year, we gave you a behind-the-scenes look at what makes Perfectly Polished tick. It takes a lot of coordinating to teach dance and etiquette to around 4,000 children and teenagers in 12 counties - and we love every minute! This year, we thought we'd share a few of the highlights since Perfectly Polished classes started this week.

Clearly we are off to a great start, according to our Lead Dance Students....

...even though they had to identify baby food in a "Minute to Win It!" game.

We love having high school and college students work with us, and our staff jumped right into work on Opening Day.

As you can see, a lot has happened even in just a few days!

How can we not have fun when we spend so much time with people like this?

(Trust one is making that face after spending some time with us!)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Interview: Christie Leigh Mueller

Happy Labor Day! Speaking of...would you like to get a job?

Our friend Chelsea Hanson  interviewed Christie Leigh Mueller, business etiquette consultant and author of "Gridiron Belles: A Guide to Saturdays in Dixie." (Remember: we'll announce the winner of our FREE GIVEAWAY of her book on Sept. 5!)

Before we give her book away, however, we’re going to help you get a job —or at least prepare to get a job, thanks to Mueller’s wisdom. Here we go!

Chelsea Hanson: What the key point to focus on in a cover letter?

Christie Leigh Mueller: The key to a cover letter is to give a personal touch in a professional tone. In your cover letter, you have the opportunity to highlight a few of your experiences and explain why they will make you the perfect candidate for the position.

Are unconventional resumes a way to stand out or can they harm you?

You always want some degree of uniqueness to your resume, but that’s not to be confused with being unprofessional.  Stay away from scents, bright papers, items that fall out of an envelope, or singing e-mails.  Rather, be unique in your ability to present a clean, well-organized, impressive resume.  You’d be surprised how much format can influence your interviewer.

If the owner of the company is very young, maybe only a few years older than yourself, do you address them as Mr. or Ms. or their first name? 

Despite their age, the owner of the company is still your superior in the business world.  Always err on addressing them as Mr. or Ms. until they advise you otherwise.  You always address people how they have asked you to.

When it comes to soliciting for unlisted jobs, how can a young person investigate opportunities without being a bother?

Simple and sincere conversation. It’s too forward to ask for favors before you’ve established a relationship with someone.  However, it is acceptable to ask someone for advice for getting into your desired career. Asking for advice gets them thinking about that particular field and is a natural segue for them to offer to introduce you to the people they know that could offer you a job.

If you do ask a professional for help, always be considerate of their time be it during a conversation or reading your e-mails.  Do your homework on the subject, follow up if you say you’re going to, and above all, do not expect them to do all of the work for you.

Where’s the best experience—interning for a big company, or a smaller, lesser-known company that might offer more freedom?

I don’t think they are mutually exclusive.  There are countless benefits to both.  If you worked for a big name in the industry, a reputable company obviously saw you as someone worth hiring. But, what if your main responsibility was making sure the boss’s coffee had one cream and two sugars?

With a smaller, lesser-known company, your work experience and creativity was likely developed. Your abilities were likely seen by your colleagues.  

In either case, play up your experiences, the projects you were a part of, and what you learned simply by being around the office.  You’d be surprised what you can learn by a boss you observed from a distance at a large company.

Many young people market themselves online with blogs or otherwise establishing a brand presence. Is a recommendation from someone you only know online as good as one from a personal recommendation?

Establishing yourself and a brand in cyber-world is an accomplishment in itself and should be used to your advantage during the interview process.  It is in essence, a small business.

It is, however, easy to hide qualities or shortcomings behind a computer so for recommendations I would stay with a stronger reference from someone you know well.

What about clothes—what do you recommend wearing for an interview?

When dressing for an interview, do your due-diligence and figure out what the dress code is at the office.  Dress accordingly.

Note, it is never, under and circumstance, acceptable for you to wear jeans to an interview. There are plenty of options available to be less formal than a suit but more put together than jeans if the company warrants such dress.

Remember, your first impression is at stake here and your outfit directly reflects on your abilities as an employee.  

Thank you, Christie Leigh Mueller! Check in with us on Sept. 5 to see if you've won a copy of "Gridiron Belles!"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Free Giveaway!

We are honored to offer a FREE GIVEAWAY of “Gridiron Belles: A Guide to Saturdays in Dixie,” by Christie Leigh Mueller, a business etiquette consultant living in Austin, TX and Louisville, KY. Mueller’s book is not only a guide to football and tailgating—it’s a “a romance novel, a fashion guide, an etiquette handbook, an advice column, and a rulebook all rolled into one pretty package,” she says. 

Christie Leigh Mueller

It’s the perfect time to give this book as a gift or just enjoy it for yourself—tailgating season is fast upon us!

For your chance to win, leave us a comment (one per person) in this post, telling us your favorite college football team, before 8 a.m. EST Wednesday, Sept. 5. We will announce the winner (selected via Random Number Generator) shortly after on this blog.

Watch this space for an upcoming interview with Mueller—in the meantime, comment away!

UPDATE! Comments are now closed! The winner is:

"I love the Georgia Bulldogs! And I love Perfectly Polished!"
Posted by: Lee Thornton, August 29, 2012 10:06 AM


Friday, August 17, 2012

Invites & Answers

We love a good party and bet you do, too. Let's talk about RSVPing — something everyone should do once an invitation arrives, whether it's paper or online.

Think of the host, trying to figure out food, drinks, possibly seating. Head counts can be critical! It's also the thoughtful thing to do. 

How to RSVP
If you get an invitation online, your answer is usually as easy as clicking a button. If you respond "maybe," be sure to change your response "yes" or "no" before the party. No need for a follow-up e-mail.

If your invite is by mail, use the phone number or e-mail provided. For formal events, use the notes that are usually enclosed in the envelope (think wedding invitations).

If an invitation says "Regrets Only," respond only if you are unable to attend.

When is it too late to RSVP?
Technically, after the party! But make your host's life easier and give an answer well in advance. Some invites include a helpful deadline. In any case, let them know whether you're coming at least a week in advance.

What if I need to change my answer?
No worries—cancel if you must, but let the host know as soon as possible. No need to go into elaborate details, but do thank the host for inviting you in the first place.

If you discover that you can attend a party after you've said you can't, consider the kind of party before you call or e-mail. If it's a formal party with exact seating arrangements, and you discover you can attend at the last minute, leave well enough alone and sit this one out. If the party is less formal, ask the host whether you can still attend before just showing up.

What if I'm invited but my friend isn't?
In short, keep the party information to yourself unless you are 100% sure your friend is also invited. And don't ask if they've been invited.

What if my friend is invited but I'm not?
Try to be gracious and happy for your friend. If it seems like a glaring oversight — invite lost in the mail? E-mail acting weird? Absent-minded, well-meaning host?—you still have to wait until the host mentions something about it, which means you may never get to address the issue. This is one of those things you might just have to let go. Remember: there are a lot more parties in your future, anyway.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Acting accordingly

Today’s blog post comes from Cindy! Take it away, Cindy...

“All persons shall conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the intended use of the premises.”

That sign, in the lobby of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, is a fabulous example of how our manners should adapt to the environment.  As someone who has studied and taught these rules for a career, I would be the first to say there are some manners that are always consistent. For example, being respectful is always important just as being a great listener.

But there are moments when proper etiquette might be rather unusual—even counterintuitive—but still befitting the circumstances. Let me explain. 

Earlier this year, famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma presented a solo concert at Hodgson Hall on the campus of the University of Georgia. He was dressed in a beautifully tailored suit playing a one-of-a-kind antique cello.  The audience was spellbound as he played.

After the intermission, he arrived on stage with his suit jacket off wearing a red UGA sweatshirt!  And, the crowd went crazy, yelling “Go Dawgs!” and even woof-woof-woofing! 

After the concert, a friend saw me and expressed her dismay that people would start yelling in the concert hall.  I agreed that for one second I thought I was at a football game, but very quickly added how wonderful it was that a professional cellist at the top of his game could share his expertise and get a rousing response from the audience when he chose to identify with their home team and home town!  I would equal it to someone bringing me a favorite bottle of wine when they were invited to my home for dinner.  After this exchange, my friend was accepting and even thoughtful about what she had experienced. 

So, back to that sign in the hotel lobby. We should all think about where we are and how we should act accordingly! Even yelling in a concert hall has its place. BRAVO!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Back to school!

It’s time to go back to school! Which means that a lot of young children (and their parents!) are nervous about the first day.

First of all, your child will be fine, and you’ll be fine. Take some deep breaths, meditate…if that didn’t work, follow our tips for a smooth transition back to class!

Be prepared. Find out what’s expected in terms of backpacks, dress codes, and school supplies (this information should be available on your school’s website). Attend the back-to-school open houses for both parents and students—these events are great opportunities to not only socialize, but also check in with your child’s teacher, who might have a supply wish list different from the school’s.

Visit, but thoughtfully. Some parents may want to walk their child back to their classroom on the first day and maybe even take a photo. That’s fine, but be aware that a lot of other parents want to do that, too, so make sure you aren’t blocking any hallways or doorways.

Introduce yourself. Both adults and children, no matter their age, can introduce themselves to the teacher (remember to smile and make eye contact as you shake hands).

Keep in touch. Teachers love involved parents, so make sure when is the best way and time to get in touch if you need to make plans or discuss issues. Find out whether they prefer calling or e-mail, and what hours they are free to talk.

Be on time! This counts for drop-offs, pick-ups, and parent-teacher meetings. Teachers are busier than ever these days. Let’s make their lives of packed meetings a little easier so they can focus on their vocation—educating the most precious people in your life!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How to e-mail your college professor

Actual e-mail received (and illustrated) by Dr. Janet Frick

See that e-mail up there? That's an example of how not to address your college professor.

We talked with UGA Psychology Professor  Dr. Janet Frick, about e-mail etiquette, as the above sample is hardly unique among all she's seen in over 15 years of teaching.

When she started her career, e-mail from students was more formal and thoughtful, possibly because at the time, "it was much more effortful for students to have access to a computer," she says. 

But over the past couple of years, Frick has noticed a change in the quality of e-mails she gets from her students.

"Today's undergraduates are a little 'Post E-mail,'" she says. "They are more likely to text. That engenders a quicker style, a  less formal style, a  familiarity." And they transfer that style to their e-mail.

It pays to be respectful in your e-mails for many reasons. For instance, Frick admits that students with solid e-mail etiquette stand out, that they appear to "be more polite, take school more seriously, and approach school as a professional environment."

Here are some quick tips from Frick on how to convey that respect to your professors:

• Make the subject line informative—instead of "hey," try, "Help needed with online quiz."

• Use the proper address. Unless you've been told otherwise by your instructor, always address them as "Dr." or "Prof." While it's a safe bet to call many high school teachers "Mr." or "Ms.," some college-level instructors bristle at that. Never use "Mrs.," even if you know your instructor is married—she may not have the same last name as her partner.

• Introduce yourself. Professors teach a lot of classes with a lot of students. Keep it short and helpful: "Hello, this is Joe Smith, I'm in your intro class at 11 a.m."

• Keep the tone respectful. Imagine you are writing the parent of a brand-new boyfriend or girlfriend.

P.S. - Frick gently responded to the student who e-mailed her the above sample, making suggestions on how to improve his next e-mail to her. The student thanked her for her advice!


Friday, July 20, 2012

National Cell Phone Courtesy Month

July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month! 

Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore founded the month in 2002, seeing the need to address proper cell phone use. Check out Whitmore's blog on this year's National Cell Phone Courtesy Month for some great tips, plus a video that illustrates how one should not use their phone during a date!

 Jacqueline Whitmore

Last year, we interviewed Whitmore about overall cell phone courtesy. In the past, we've also discussed when you should turn your phone off

This year, we're going to get to the heart of what cell phones provide: communication, and how to make it most effective when you have to leave a message.

That's right—voice mail! First of all, let's talk about...

The outgoing message
Think of your outgoing message as your own personal assistant. Personalize the message, keeping it current and updated as necessary. Remember to speak clearly and slowly. Keep the message friendly, but concise—a far more effective approach than a meandering "novelty" greeting that may seem hilarious at first, but quickly becomes annoying (especially if someone is trying to reach you in an emergency).

Leaving a message
Be brief but specific about why you're calling, and repeat your phone number at least twice. Include good times for them to return your call, but encourage them to call at their convenience. (If you're needing a quick response, you could say "earliest convenience.")

Use the voice mail!
And let others use it, too. If the phone rings while you're busy and there's no obvious emergency, let it ring and go to voice mail. You can excused yourself and check messages when it's appropriate. (If there's an emergency, you'll get multiple calls and/or texts in a row—go ahead and answer in these cases!

And, in general...
Always identify yourself with both your first and last name.

Before you get the conversation started, ask if it's a convenient time to talk, and offer to call later if it's not.

If you're calling to get information, have paper and pen ready to take notes.

Remember your tone of voice, whether you're speaking to a person or leaving a message.

After someone has helped you over the phone, feel free to thank them with a follow-up note. E-mail is fine, but getting an actual note in the mail is a special treat these days—as is a well-mannered phone call or voice mail!