Archive for the 'Daily Life' Category



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

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

Thanks a Million

I was staying in a bed and breakfast earlier this week and my host and I started discussing good manners, in particular thank-you letters. She told me the most brilliant story, which shows that you should always write such letters after receiving a present or any sort of hospitality.

As children, her sister and her were always sent one pound for Christmas and respective birthdays from a distant relative on their father’s side. At the time, £1 was worth considerably more than it is today. The one-pound kept coming and both sisters wrote, without fail a letter to say thank you to the relative. By the time the sisters for in their mid-forties, the pounds were still being sent and one sister (not my host – her sibling) decided that it was a bit silly now as £1 wasn’t worth much at all and writing a thank-you letter was ridiculous. However, my host still kept on writing the letters.

One year, the money stopped. My host got a call from the relative’s solicitor to say that the relative had died and in her will had left her £250,000 but the other sister was left nothing. The will stated that my host had been left the money because she had “better manners and always said thank-you”.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Letters of the Law

A question I often get asked is whether a thank you letter is stuffy and unnecessary in our new, liberal modern age. My answer is always, most definitely, no. There will never be a time when a thank you letter of any sort is no longer needed…at least, I certainly hope not.

writing-fountain-pen-400As a child, my parents would tell me that if I didn’t send thank you letters then people would not want to give me a present next time. Whilst this parental hyperbole is not strictly true, they do perhaps have a point. A thank you letter is a gesture that you are actually grateful with the present you have just received. Simply saying thanks on the day is just not enough. They have gone out of their way to buy you a present, so a quick (doesn’t have to be lengthy) note to say thank you is hardly laborious. I do know someone who does her thank you letters by telephone. If you do choose to do it this way (which is better than nothing) make it a decent length call: first to say thank you but then ask about their family/life etc.

Thank you letters should also be sent after you have received any form of hospitality, and preferably the very next day.  Emails are acceptable if you really cannot bear to write, but be clear that text messages are no way to communicate your thanks.

The same basic principle applies in the heady world of business. The rule used to be that if you received a letter today, a reply would be sent tomorrow or at least the day after that.  Even in these times of budgetary and manpower constraints, some form of acknowledgement should be given. It tells the sender that you have successfully received their correspondence and you are dealing with it. Even the new-age email has the function for a ‘read receipt’ to be sent back to the sender.

Not many people bother to respond to business letters (or emails) anymore, which is quite frankly wrong. One of the golden rules of manners is to make people feel valued and appreciated. A letter saying ‘thank you for your letter dated X, which we received today/yesterday…. we will get back to you shortly’ will do. “But that costs money!” I hear you cry. If the sender has included their email address on their letter, then a similar electronic letter can be sent.

Whilst we’re on the subject of business correspondence, we should remind ourselves how to open and close a formal letter. If I were writing to someone I did not know (and by that I mean them as a person, as well as their name) then I would open my letter with ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ (or even both – ‘Dear Sir or Madam’). I would then close it with ‘Yours faithfully’. On the other hand, if I were writing to someone to whom I knew their name, then I would start it with, ‘Dear Mr. Smith’ and close it ‘Yours sincerely’. These are simple rules that once learned should never be forgotten.

It is never acceptable to start a letter to a client with “Hi William”, as my bank once did. They won’t be doing that again.  Nor do I favour “Dear William Hanson” which appears more and more frequently and suggests mailmerge has been used.

In any event, remember that if someone has made an effort to write or email you, it takes very little time, money or energy to respond and you never know what dividends it will pay later.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Steppin’ Out With My Baby

bearI’m a realist and enthusiastic proponent of adapting traditional rules of etiquette to the way we live today but there are some traditions I am loathe to give up.  While I send and receive well over 100 emails a week, I still turn to my copper-engraved writing paper and fountain pen for those occasions when an email just won’t do: thank you letters, mostly, letters of condolence or congratulations, that sort of thing. So it was with mixed emotions that I received an email announcing the birth of my nephew and wife’s new child along with a beautiful photo of the happy family embedded within the message. They live thousands of miles away and I didn’t even know they were expecting.  It took me aback. Was this email, already getting pushed farther and farther down in my inbox, supposed to trigger an engraved sterling baby gift? Was I expected to pen a note offering congratulations? Would a proper letter in response to their email possibly embarrass them? Should I simply send an email? Would there be an “official” announcement in due course, a beautifully engraved card with a small ribbon (from Dempsey and Carrol, America’s finest printers), a keepsake for all time. (I hope there won’t be one of those rather boring little cards listing the baby’s weight and length and including a hospital picture of a scrunched up crying baby.)  A long-deceased great-aunt’s voice echoed in my head: “Is this the way things are done nowadays?”

My conversion took about five minutes. My worries about the medium were soon over-whelmed by the message, the touching photograph (all personal prejudices aside, it was stunning), the fact that they included me in the distribution, included me in their life, in their own way. I will send my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes (written with my fountain pen on my personal stationery) and I will send an engraved sterling baby gift, too. Perhaps they will think me old-fashioned.  Maybe I’ll send an email, also.

John Robertson
Tutor, The English Manner



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