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Etiquette at work

A few tricks for ensuring a proper place setting

How do mnemonics help decode table settings? Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines mnemonics as a technique of improving the memory. When I teach business dining etiquette, I am always fascinated by how many people want to know how to decode a table setting. Whether for a simple or multiple course meal, at home or a restaurant, the way the table is set follows a norm.

Your fork, knife, spoon, glassware, and plate are always in the same place. Imagine how confusing it would be if the table were set differently each time. Knowing the standard eliminates confusion and allows you to proceed through your meal or set your table with confidence.

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Here are some simple mnemonics to help:

B and d. With the back of your left hand facing you, touch the tip of your forefinger to the tip of your thumb and observe the resulting circle. Then extend the rest of your fingers as straight as possible. Now do the same with your right hand. As you look at your hands either in front of you or, if you are sitting at a dinner table, as your hands are in your lap, you will notice the left hand looks like a small letter b and your right hand looks like a small letter d. The b stands for bread and the d stands for drinks. Your bread plate is on the left of your place setting, and your drink glasses are on the right.

Another way to identify which bread plate and glassware are yours is to remember BMW. You have probably already figured it out: B for bread on the left; M for meal in the middle; and W for water on the right.

If you are hosting a business dinner at your home and want to be sure to set your table correctly, remember the mnemonic FOrKS. It will help you place the utensils in the correct order and on the proper side of the plate. Starting from the left:

 F stands for forks

 O stands for the plate. (Just as the F is to the left of the O, so too are the forks placed to the left of the plate.)

 R is a reminder that all the remaining utensils, represented by K and S, go to the right of the plate.

 K stands for knife, so any knives are set immediately to the right of the plate.

 S is for spoons, so spoons are to the right of the knife or knives

E-mail questions about business etiquette to
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