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Described by The Telegraph as ‘the empress of etiquette’, Jo joined The English Manner in 2019 from Debrett’s, where she spent over a decade as a tutor and the editor of more than fifteen acclaimed books on etiquette and modern manners.

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5 February 2024


As the experts tell us, dating success lies in finding the perfect mix of chemistry and compatibility, but many of us will date quite a few frogs until we find our better half. Some good modern dating etiquette, however, can help smooth the way for a better dating experience and help to get things off to the best possible start. 

Clear organisation

If you are doing the asking and organising, tell your date clearly what you have planned and, importantly, when and where to meet.

Keep it convenient, easy and relaxed, rather than coming across as stressed or controlling. 

What to do?

Remember that the point of a date is to get to know each other, so opt for somewhere with a good and relaxing atmosphere.

Avoid starchy formality or overpriced pretence; equally, a loud concert or buzzing cocktail bar leaves little room for convivial chat.

First impressions

You need to make an effort with your appearance.

The aim is to look your best, and dress for the occasion/venue, without looking like you have overdone it. Most important, however, is to turn up on time – being late shows how little regard and respect you have for the other person and their time. 

Additional focus

Whether it’s drinks, dinner, a walk or something else, put your phone away; never leave it on the table, in your hand, or check mid-conversation.

Tune into the conversation and let them get to know you – don’t be like an awkward teenager giving monosyllabic replies (even if you quickly realise you aren’t into them).


First (or early) dates aren’t the time to spill secrets, relive your recent break-up or decide how many children you might have together. Take it slowly and keep conversation light, fun and balanced.

Lock up strong political opinions, steer clear of money chat and avoid personal questions.

Even if you have stalked their social media feeds, know the difference between what they have actually told you and what you secretly learnt online. 

Good manners

If you go for a meal, remember that your table manners are on show.

Order food you know you like and can eat easily (skip the spaghetti, fish-on-the-bone and complex shellfish). Don’t be a wine know-it-all and don’t drink yourself under the table.

Do eat at a steady pace and try to finish at roughly the same time as your date. 

Money matters

Who should pay is the million-dollar dating question and is still part of modern dating etiquette.

As a general rule, if you think you will meet again, then one of you should pick up the tab. Traditional attitudes to chivalry would say that would be the man on a mixed-gender date; modern times suggest whoever did the asking should pay.

If, however, it is clear that there is no chemistry or compatibility, it might be best to ‘go Dutch’ and call it quits.

Follow up

Take the temperature before being too keen, but don’t play the waiting game for sheer pretence; if you enjoyed yourself and want to meet again, then message them to say so.

And remember who organised the date and paid last time – if it was them, then good etiquette would be to make sure you step up next time. 

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