Archive for September, 2009

Swearing: Think of Our Language!

Three in ten of us are subjected to swearing every five minutes, according to a recent report. When I was asked to comment on this for BBC Radio 5 Live the other day, my initial thoughts (apart from how bad this is) were for the English language itself. We have such a rich, vibrant and beautiful language and to limit it to a handful of words is such a pity.

People use the F-word and the like now as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, pronouns and prepositions. We hear swearing on the television, in the cinema and on the street. These taboo words are not only unnecessary but also horrid for the ear: they have no mellifluous quality that some words do: none of us want to hear those abrasive sounds. Perhaps then they are well suited to their purpose.

But swearing all the time devalues it. There is (sometimes) a time and a place for the occasional swear word (although using a curse-word to describe someone is never acceptable). If someone who never swears does occasionally exclaim something a bit off-colour, then those around will know that the person is truly annoyed and angry But if we go about swearing left-right-and-centre, willy-nilly, then we automatically take away the gravitas and oomph that any invectives may have.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Modern Student

A teacher at my old school once remarked to me in a conversation about higher education, “University is a reward for the intellectual, where one can do as one pleases and do very little work for a period of three years”. However true or false this may be, it seems that many contemporary students have misinterpreted this concept. It is certainly not a rest or lapse period for decency and basic courtesy.

Student life is something that most of us have looked forward to from our early teens: we break away from our parents and begin to become our own person. We become domesticated, we become mature; we become adults. Alas, it isn’t quite as straight forward as that. The average student dresses in baggy, comfortable clothes, goes out drinking at least five times a week, and probably comes close to (or actually partakes) in dealing in substances of disrepute. We are only young once, however, so perhaps such behaviour is acceptable.

Yet, just because we are students, it doesn’t mean to say that we actually have to behave like them. Nevertheless, this is not a call for us to attend lectures in morning suits and address our peers with high reverence and grandiose language. A modern, savvy student is someone who respects and considers those around him. Many adults get cross with students and their lifestyle – perhaps they are jealous – they argue that they are slovenly and uncouth. Maybe they are right: there are times when one really doesn’t want to be formal or worry too much about what others think.

However, I argue that University is a journey, a bridge. It marks a transition between childhood and adulthood. There used to be no word for the inter-regnum, until someone created the concept of a ‘student’. A majority of students subconsciously believe that we become adults the moment we graduate, and this grants us with an excuse to behave as we wish for the three or four years in between. This is not the case. We become adults during the period of our enrolment. Some will grasp the (really quite straight forward) concepts of adulthood sooner than others.

As I say regularly, good manners are a skill for life, which will stand anyone in much better stead than any degree or qualification. Clarence Thomas said, “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot”. Think what you could do with both.

NB: Educated people go to ‘University’. The rest go to ‘Uni’.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Clapped Out: Concert Manners

6a00d83451c83e69e200e54f2a78db8833-800wiGood manners are not a thing of the past and apply to all aspects of modern life, including concerts. We’ve all been at one where the person behind you starts explaining loudly what’s going on to their friend, or continually rustles their programme. Here are some important tips to remember to ensure you behave correctly and respect other concertgoers.

In the Auditorium

If other audience members arrive to take their seat, which is beyond yours, the polite thing for gentlemen to do is stand up to let them have a clearer passage. Women should turn their legs in the direction the person is travelling. People sitting at the end of aisles should get out and stand in the aisle until passage is clear.

Coughs, sneezes and sniffles should be ‘caught’: make sure your wardrobe on the evening includes a handkerchief. If the ailment persists, leave the auditorium until it subsides.

Share your programme (American’s call it ‘Playbill’) with others if they ask. There’s no need to be possessive.

During operas, it is usual to applause after the overture, an impressive aria, the end of a scene or act, but never whilst someone is singing. At concerts, it is expected for you to clap between different compositions but never between movements. ‘Whooping’ is never correct. We’re at Mozart not McFly.

At the End of the Evening

Do not leave during the encore or whilst the orchestra is bowing. Wait until the house lights have been taken up before you move.

At the end of the concert or during the interval, save your elaborate critique until you’re behind you own closed doors. Don’t try to impress others by shouting loudly about technical aspects of the music or performance.  Others may have enjoyed the night even if you didn’t; there’s also a chance one of the ‘star’s’ family or friends could be around you.


William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Top 5 Email Etiquette Faux Pas

E-mailMost of us will use email every day and this has led to a lapse in common sense and manners. Here are the top 5 faux pas when using email.

Hello! If you’ve never met the person you are emailing, starting the email with ‘Hello, Jack’ or ‘Hi Jill!’ is never acceptable and irritates more people than others may think

Spelling Emails are designed to be a quick way for us to communicate but that doesn’t mean that we are given an excuse to look ill-educated by sloppy spelling, especially when emailing clients or people who are not our friends or family (but you should practise using good spelling on them, too!)

Name-check When we see an email such as ‘alex.jones@…’ most of us will probably assume that Alex is a man. An increasing number of people are getting gender-confused on email. Always best to double-check. Telephone the company and ask before sending the email, or ask your colleagues who may have dealt with he/she before. Never start an email (or letter) with ‘Dear Jack Smith’. Find out the title in advance

Attachments ‘Please find attached’. If you say something is attached, make sure it is! Double-check everything before hitting the send button.

Ignoring emails If you get an email from a legitimate person, it’s common courtesy (although not common enough) to acknowledge it. Even if you’re the busiest person in the world, send back a response reassuring the sender you’ve got the email but will deal with it at a later date. This will save them worrying that their email is broken

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner



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