It is important to use proper dinner etiquette to avoid offending the host or appearing rude. Though there are many tips for proper table manners, the most important thing to remember is to be polite and respectful, using common courtesy at all times. Being polite and tidy is much more important than remembering which fork goes with which course.
Dinner etiquette begins as soon as one is seated at the table. It is polite to immediately remove the napkin and place it in the lap, carefully folded. The napkin should remain in the lap for the rest of the dinner. If one gets up to leave the table, the napkin should be folded and placed on the table, but not on the seat of the chair. When finished eating, it is polite to fold the napkin and place it back on the table to the left of the plate.
Another important tip to remember is to always keep elbows off the table. Basic dinner etiquette also states that it is polite to wait until everyone at the table has been served, and is ready to eat before beginning to eat. Saying please and thank you when asking for items on the table is also very important, and it is considered polite to pass items to another person by setting it down on the table, not hand-to-hand. Don't talk with your mouth full, and take small bites of food.
When food is received, tasting the food before adding salt or pepper is good dinner etiquette. If there is something on the plate that is not cared for, it is good manners to try some of it anyway. It is not necessary to eat all of it. Remember that any dishes to the left, and glasses to the right, are the ones associated with your particular place setting. Food may be eaten American or European style; each one is proper etiquette for the dinner table.
In American style, the fork and knife are switched from the right and left hands, depending on which utensil is being used. Food is cut with the knife in the right hand, then put down, and the fork is then picked up and held in the right hand to eat. In European style, the fork remains in the left hand and the knife in the right throughout the meal. Either style is appropriate, but once utensils are used, good dinner etiquette requires that they do not touch the table again. In general, if you have multiple utensils, it is best to start from the outside and work in. Following these basic tips will ensure a pleasant dining experience.