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The Butler Speaks

Five tips from Charles MacPherson’s The Butler Speaks: A Guide to Stylish Entertaining, Etiquette and the Art of Good Housekeeping.


We might not all be able to have our own Carson, like the gentry of Downton Abbey, but we can live with organization and grace – be it in a small urban condo or a lavish country estate.

As Charles MacPherson says in his new guide, “Etiquette is not a set of classical rules for the rich, famous or snobby.” Rather, it’s a way of understanding other people and having consideration for their needs.

Considered a world expert in butlering, MacPherson lays out the essentials of household management with wit, charm and style, like in this selection of tips:

1. Email cannot compete with the elegance of a card or note. A thank-you note should be written as promptly as possible; and even if you don’t like the gift, you should express your gratitude for the gesture.

2. Never carry a tray on your fingertips. This makes a tray unstable and looks pretentious.

3. A good rule of thumb is to offer a handshake more often than not. One exception is with a person of higher rank or at a job interview – follow the lead of the other person.

4. Never spray a cleaning agent directly onto an object. Spray your cloth and then use it to wipe the object. That way, the spray won’t drip and cause a mess.

5. And just in case you have Stephen Harper coming by for drinks, titles rather than surnames are used when speaking to an official. So, “Mr. Prime Minister,” not “Prime Minister Harper.”

Read more on The Butler’s Guide