Soup spoon placement; a house tour request

Q.  When served a cup or bowl of soup, do I rest the spoon in the bowl between sips or put it on the plate underneath?

A.  You put it on the plate underneath. A spoon sticking out of a cup or bowl not only looks awkward, but it causes accidents — it’s easy to bump it and splatter soup everywhere. You also put it on the plate underneath when you are finished eating the soup. When soup is served in a shallow soup plate, however, you may leave the spoon in the soup plate, both while you are eating and when you are finished, rather than trying to fit it on the plate generally present underneath the soup plate.

Q.  When I CC someone on an email, should I mention that I’ve done this, even though the primary recipient can see the name as a CC?

A.  It’s a good idea to note this, especially when the person you have copied is unknown to the primary recipient, or to explain what may seem like a random act. “John, I’ve cc-ed Jane Smith, my assistant, so she can get this meeting on the appointment calendar.” Or, “Henry, I’ve included Jack Brown, another friend, on the distribution of this note because your brilliant solution solves a similar situation in which he’s been involved.” Generally, however, it is best to ask first before bringing someone else into email correspondence. “Ethan, I’d like to copy Violet Anderson on our correspondence — she’s been working on the same concept and it would be great to pool our information. Ok with you?”

Q.  We invited some new friends to dinner recently, and when they arrived, they asked for a tour of the house. I was not prepared for that and am wondering if it was okay for them to do that?

A.  No, that is never correct. It would be up to you to offer a tour, not for your guests to request one. Inspecting your home is not an implied part of a dinner invitation. If that ever happens again, it is perfectly fine to say, “Oh, sorry, the house is not on tour this week — maybe next time you are here we can arrange that,” and then change the subject. When hosts hold an open house or housewarming for a new home, it is expected that they will show it off to invited guests, but that is the only time this should be an expectation.

Q.  I am planning a birthday party for my husband, but we don’t want friends to bring gifts. How do I communicate this?

A.  Simply write “No gifts, please” at the bottom of the invitation. If you are inviting guests by phone or in person, tell them to please not bring gifts. This request should be honored — showing up with a present when not asked to embarrasses everyone, from you as the host to your husband to other guests who correctly did not bring a gift.

Do you have an etiquette question? Send it to Catherine Michaels in care of