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Editorial Comment It pays to show a little courtesy to others.

Hat possible reason is there to ensure that the knife and fork are left in the four o'clock position when you clear your plate at the end of a meal?

What counts for good etiquette can at first seem bafflingly pointless. But the guardians of traditional standards insist there is a right way to do things.

American etiquette consultants now charge businesses a fortune to teach staff and executives how to dine properly. 'Please' and 'thank you' may not cost anything, but the price of good manners is lucrative indeed for those cashing in on the US's indifference to which spoon to use.

Isn't this the land where every single purchase is accompanied by a 'Have a nice day'?

The Protocol School of Washington runs mail correspondence courses in the correct way to make and serve tea and Modern Manners for Children, with Catherine the Mannerly Cat'.

This is depressing news for those who hanker for a return to the days when people knew how to show some respect.

Vaunted by some as the most individualistic society in the world, America's people now have to be taught how to acknowledge gratitude and give the impression they are well-bred.

Americans have advanced so far into capitalism that learning to say thank you is counted in dollars.

The same can be said for America's international predicaments. Perhaps better manners might have done something about the dwindling number of diplomatic friends it now has left.

What about us here in Wales? Historian Peter Stead says he's noticed a rapid decline in standards during the past five years.

The institutions of industry and religion that gave us codes of behaviour have been eroded and left us with no respect. They left some of us with vibration white finger and severe respiratory problems too, but we would welcome a return to good manners.

Human society is not about to fall apart because a cat has to remind children to say thank you. But society does depend on us getting on with one another.

'Your manners show thoughtfulness and consideration for others,' says Tennessee etiquette consultant Lois Hearn on her website.

At the very worst it is enlightened self-interest. People will be far more likely to do what you want, if you ask them nicely and let them know you appreciate their help.

And what may seem like a practice that should be consigned to the scrap heap, along with the appalling deference of the age from whence it came, can be a sign of gratitude.

At least waiters will be able to clear the table quicker if they know where to find all the utensils. They work long hours, what better way to say thanks than to let them go home a little earlier?
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 20, 2004
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