Manners for correspondence

Returning emails

Try your best to respond within 24 hours.

Expressing gratitude

When you receive a gift or someone does you a big favor, send a handwritten thank-you note. It only needs to be a few sentences. (And it's fine to continue on the back of a card if you need to say more.) Completely at a loss? Use small stationery and write one sentence ("I really appreciate..."). Include a warm greeting and a sign-off. Mail the note as soon as you can, but definitely within two weeks.

Business thank-you

After a job interview, send an immediate email of thanks and mention that a note is in the mail. The latter has more impact because it's tactile, visual, and emotional. Some human-resources executives value this as a demonstration of strong interpersonal skills. Also send a handwritten thank-you for a college or job recommendation.

Email greetings and sign-offs

It's OK to drop the "hello" and "many thanks" after some back-and-forth. Also, pay attention to a person's signature. Does she go by her full name or a nickname? Then opt for her choice in future emails.

Reply all

Click this when you need to address the whole group. But if what you have to say concerns only the organizer, spare everyone else.

BCC on emails

Use bcc (blind carbon copy) only to maintain the privacy of addresses in a group email, not as a sneaky one-way mirror to a conversation. If you want someone else to see what you wrote, forward the email after the message has been sent.

Manners for planes, trains and buses


The person in the middle seat gets both, because he doesn't have the aisle armrest or the window to lean on.

Overhead storage

Unless the flight attendants tell you otherwise, use the compartment closest to your seat.


The volume shouldn't be so loud that your seatmates can discern that you have a soft spot for Katy Perry.

Putting your feet up

Seats are for sitting. Keep dirty shoes off them.

Kicking off shoes

For trips under three hours (this includes commuter trains), footwear stays on. If you do remove your shoes for longer flights, don't go bare. Bring along a nice pair of socks or slippers. Any issues with odor? Keep the feet contained.

Crying kids