Gracious Adulting: 10 Etiquette Tips Every Modern Lady Needs to Know

Gracious Adulting: 10 Etiquette Tips Every Modern Lady Needs to Know


It can be difficult to navigate the real world, but I would maintain that being lovely and gracious in everything we do, say, and give can take one far in life. For all the recent graduates entering the real world this spring I have pulled together ten essential etiquette pointers that I think all young adult women should know. In fact, they are things all “DoSayGive ladies” should know, no matter your age. If you agree, please share this post!

1. Make it a habit to write thank you notes.

It’s not just for birthday presents anymore, ladies. Always thank the job interviewer, the former boss who wrote a recommendation, the family friend who made a professional connection, even the parents of your roommate who treated you to a nice dinner on their last visit.

Yes, an email suffices, but a handwritten note will be remembered and might make you even stand out from the crowd. The secret to getting in this refined habit is always having personalized stationery and stamps on hand!


2. Always be ready to tip.

Something else you need to always have on hand: cash. To tip a valet, pay back a friend, or split a lunch check sans awkward moment. A lady is always prepared and Venmo only takes you so far.


3. RSVP means “don’t be rude.”

Okay, actually RSVP in French translates to  “respond, please.” But if you don’t, you are being quite rude. Whether you received a paperless invitation or the most ornate engraved one, if a host requests you RSVP make sure you honor that request in a timely manner. Take into consideration that host needs to plan for food, tables, chairs, party favors and maybe even seating arrangements.

And when it comes to weddings, if there is no “and guest” on the invitation, do not bring a guest. And certainly do not make a grande faux pax and ask to bring one!


4. When in doubt, give a gift.

Speaking of honoring the hosts, whenever someone invites you into their home, arrive bearing a gift. A bottle of wine, flowers, even a candle you got on sale at Anthro will do the trick. If someone hosts a shower or party in your honor, then you want to go above and beyond to your show gratitude.

Gifts are a way to extend kindness and friendship to others beyond our words. So if you borrow a dress from a friend return in a timely manner with a Sprinkles cupcake. If a new neighbor moves in next door, your grandmother’s banana nut bread extends an amiable welcome. If your colleague has a baby, a little baby gift would mean so much.


5. Respect elders, but never offend.

If you were raised a good Southern girl with good Southern manners be aware of the major shift that happens when you graduate. While “yes, ma’am” and “Mrs. Smith” may have been appropriate to address the  30-something  mother you babysat for in college, these phrases could actually offend your 30-something coworker or boss. Unspoken rule: if someone is not old enough to be your mother or father avoid using these phrases. Actually, in the professional world you may want to avoid altogether. When in doubt, you can always ask someone’s preference.


6. Loveliness leaves a lot to the imagination.

I live near a college campus and see what’s trending among girls as far as game day and party attire. Now that you are “adulting” it may be time to do a little wardrobe reset. Aim for tasteful as it will gain you more respect among your peers, colleagues, and beyond. I am not saying you have to dress like The Handmaids’ Tale. A little shoulder is okay, a little leg is okay, but never at the same time.


7. A lady invests a little black dress AND a modest black dress.

Sadly part of adulting is going to funerals. And, sadly, your little black dress is not appropriate funeral attire. Strapless, spaghetti straps, barely covering the rear dresses are borderline disrespectful to the grieving. Prepare yourself for these types of occasions with a demure black or dark dress. Go to Banana Republic or Nordstrom Rack and find a keeper – you will have it for years.


8. Crudeness has no place in a refined person’s vocabulary.

Some women feel that in order to stand out or fit into the workplace, particularly a workplace of mostly men, they need to use foul language language. On the contrary, swearing rarely makes a woman seem tougher or more powerful, or for that matter, attractive. (A little aside: my husband told my girls the other day that if I had used bad language years ago he probably wouldn’t asked me out and, ladies, he’s a keeper.)

Bottom line: the return can be quite good if you invest in high standards for yourselves at young age. This applies not only to speech, but dress and decorum as well.


9. A lady never tells.

Or overshares on Instagram. Not your  personal problems nor your friend’s secrets. And never ever share photos of the bride before she she does!


10. Gracious etiquette is the best etiquette.

You certainly want to brush up on basic table etiquette as you enter the real world, but know that the purpose of manners is to honor those around us. And the secret behind what to, do, say, and give in situations is really considering others before yourself.

A true lady treats everyone that crosses her path the same way: from the president of her company to the night shift janitor. Be lovely. Be gracious. Be kind and humble. And you will have few regrets in this wonderful journey we call life.

To “graciously” encourage these lovely habits, subtly share this post social media by clicking the social icons below!

Photo: Audrie Dollins



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15 thoughts on “Gracious Adulting: 10 Etiquette Tips Every Modern Lady Needs to Know

  1. Great advice, Lee.
    And when these lovely young women ARE the president of the company, never stoop to crudeness, and continue to treat everyone with respect and kindness. This makes you memorable and awesome in the best way.

  2. First and foremost, why limit this list to women? Secondly, what does a black dress have anything to do with a person’s heart, head and contribution to the world. The fact that any advice is being given about showing or not showing leg at the same time, means once again, we are putting women in a box that prioritizes looks and dress as though that has anything to do with her value in this world. As far as the other points related to kindness and respect, this should be a list for people- not just a woman’s responsibility.

    1. I would agree with you that most of these things are applicable to men as well! I am just speaking to my audience, which is mostly women. However, I did not equate a woman’s value to her appearance. On the contrary, a woman’s worth has nothing to do with her appearance. So trying to draw attention, confidence, or value from dressing provocatively (in my opinion) is a fruitless endeavor. Thanks so much for your feedback though. Always appreciated!

  3. Excellent post!
    I am 39 and these points are still relative! A good reminder for everyone. Love your posts, please keep them coming!

  4. Love this list, a good reminder no matter your age! I’d add to 9, also wait until the mom shares baby pictures and news!

  5. I was catching up on your manners series for children, and came across this post and think it’s great!! It reminded me that we’re heading to Oregon for the 4th of July and I’d like to bring our friends who are hosting us a gift from texas! Thank you