How to address work emails, Tinder cameos and Facebook flirting

Tell your friend her husband is on Tinder with a non-judgmental screen grab, etiquette expert says

Imet a cute guy at a bar. Will I come off as a stalker if I friend him on Facebook?


Imet a cute guy at a bar. Will I come off as a stalker if I friend him on Facebook?

What’s the proper way to address an email to my staff? “Hi folks?” “Hey all?” “Colleagues?” Nothing seems quite right. I don’t want them to think we’re friends. I might have to fire them.

Well, big boss, you can take some liberties with how you address the staff. In fact, you don’t need a noun at all. Controversial, I know, but you can just start an email with “Hello” or “Good morning,” slap a comma beside it and get on with it. You’re right in not wanting to be too colloquial, as it is still a professional environment. That said, you can still address your colleagues, as well, people. You don’t need to address them with the formality that would have went out in a 1980s inter-office fax. Nor do you need to pretend to be chummier than you actual are. If you walk into the office and say, “Hey guys” because it feels natural for you, then you might feel comfortable using that language in an email. Exercise your good judgment, which as a boss, I’m sure you have in spades.

My friend’s husband is using Tinder. Should I swipe right as a match so he will know I saw him, or will he think I’m game for an affair?

Nooooooo do not swipe right! He might very well think you are game for an affair, and I’m going to assume that you are not keen to sleep with your friend’s husband. But do use your phone for something else. Take a screen grab of him and send it to your friend with a non-judgey comment, like, “Hey, is this your husband on Tinder?” For all you know, they have an open relationship and she’s also on Tinder, swiping her heart out. Or, you’ll have just given her a crucial piece of information that will prompt a very important conversation between them. Either way, don’t make any assumptions, but don’t hide your discovery. Honesty is, as they say, the best policy.

I met a cute guy at a bar. Will I come off as a stalker if I friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and add him on Instagram?

Yup, but you’ll do it anyways, won’t you? Because you’re human. And when we meet someone we’re into, we want to know everything about them as quickly as we can, so that we can text a friend and say, “I KNEW it! His profile picture is from the same part of Italy that I’ve been to, so we’re totally destined to be together!”

Try not to get too caught up in this. You will be looking for information that has no context. You might see something and give it too much weight, like photos of him with other women. And you’ll immediately want to know what their deal is. Nothing good can come from this. Give his social profile the requisite glance to make sure there is nothing alarming (you did say you met at a bar…) or off-putting, them move on. Assuming you exchanged contact information, save getting to know him for in real life.

Etiquette expert Karen Cleveland answers your questions about life online. Tweet her your questions: @SchoolFinishing

(Originally appeared in the Toronto Star, September 2015)

Manners 2.0: My mother-in-law wants help with her online dating profile

Let Karen Cleveland help you navigate the fickle world of online etiquette.


Let Karen Cleveland help you navigate the fickle world of online etiquette.

My mother-in-law wants my help writing an online dating profile for Should I do it? What if she meets a cyclops on there?

Good on your mother in law for embracing new ways of dating! You must have a special relationship if she feels comfortable asking you for advice.

Before you whip out your iPad and start swiping right, take a step back and have a good chat, in real life. It’s good to recall that while the forums for dating have evolved, it is still plagued by its old analogue issues. People can be less than kind, truthful or responsive. Is your MIL aware that some people are truth-y about their profiles? Does she know that there are some serious creeps out there? Does the term “hook up culture” mean anything to her? Is she aware of how shallow and crass some sites are (swiping, like shopping for shoes, “looks good, I’ll try ’em out!”). If yes, great! She’s a grown woman and might be on the cusp of having a ball. She’ll likely meet lots and lots of cyclops, but she just might meet a gem, too.

The ratio of jerks to gems online is likely comparable to that of a cafe, anyways, it’s just a new medium for meeting them. Help manage her expectations that she’ll likely have to go on some snooze-worthy dates in addition to some fun ones. Such is dating. Help her pick out some photos for her profile and find a great date outfit or two. She’ll likely need a few in the rotation!

I saw a good guy friend on Tinder. I’m not interested in him romantically, but should I still swipe right?

If you saw that same platonic friend at a bar, would you flirt with him out of politesse? An excellent gauge of whether to do something online is to ask yourself if you’d do it offline. Don’t feel pressured into courtesy swiping. Sure, you might fluff his feathers, but what if he’s been in love with you for years, and your innocuous swipe is the sign he’s been waiting for? Or what if he has no feelings for you, and thinks you’re coming on to him? That would mess with a friendship.

Swipe left, then text him to tell him he has a huge booger in nose in his profile photo. That will instantly diffuse any awkwardness and put you firmly back into the friend camp.

Of course, if you’d like my opinion to swipe left or right, please send me his photo — strictly for my professional opinion, of course.

I only accept friend requests from true friends on Facebook. How do I tell my boss and everyone else who wants in to politely f— off?

Do you only go for coffee with “true” friends? I’m curious why you’ve drawn lines around acquaintances versus friends. Do you share extremely intimate content on Facebook? If you do, then I applaud you for being so fastidious with keeping your content congruous with your audience. It is when those things get funky that issues arise.

Don’t feel compelled to accept every friend request that you receive. In fact, you don’t need to accept or even decline them. You can leave them in request purgatory, if you’re worried about hurting feelings. If a colleague, not a “true friend” by your measures, sends you a Facebook friend request, hop on over to LinkedIn and add them there. Include a short message explaining that you’re awful at keeping up on Facebook, but that you look forward to keeping in touch on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: if you’re taking this course of action, check that your profile privacy settings are such that no one can nose around your profile, to call your bluff on your alleged Facebook inactivity.

I was creeping my ex-boyfriend online and accidentally clicked on his LinkedIn profile. Can I somehow change my settings so he doesn’t find out?

Busted! Well, it happened and you’ve been caught clicking red handed. The bad news is that no, you can’t undo your snooping. But if you plan on future espionage, yes, you can make yourself anonymous on LinkedIn. Hover your cursor over your photo in the top right-hand corner, and the Account & Settings menu will drop down. Click on Privacy & Settings, then scroll to the bottom for Privacy Controls section. Click on the “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile” to edit your settings. Le voila, you can make yourself virtually invisible.

Now that the tech support portion of this column is complete, can I ask, why the creeping? No one ever feels better after creeping their ex online, ever. So when the temptation to see what he’s up to strikes, channel it somewhere else. Update your own profile, make a new playlist, scheme an amazing vacation, enjoy some excellent cat videos, what have you. Instead of googling his name, Google “best hiit at home workout.” Much more cathartic than looking at his mug.

Each week, etiquette expert Karen Cleveland answers your questions about life online. Tweet her your questions: @SchoolFinishing

(Originally appeared in the Toronto Star, September 2015)

Best to just ignore mother-in-law’s annoying posts on Facebook

Best to just ignore mother-in-law’s annoying posts on Facebook

Enthusiastic, ALL-CAP comments will give your other Facebook friends a chuckle

Our new online etiquette columnist, Karen Cleveland.

Our new online etiquette columnist, Karen Cleveland.

Wondering whether to like, block, pin or post? Our new online etiquette columnist, Karen Cleveland, will be answering your questions about life online. She believes manners make the world a better place — and your virtual life is no exception. Tweet her your questions: @SchoolFinishing

Help! My mother-in-law friended me on Facebook. Now she comments on every single thing I post, in ALL CAPS, all the time. How do I get rid of her and still get invited to Christmas dinner?

How great for your mother-in-law — and for all of your other friends on Facebook who might get a giggle from her enthusiastic commenting. It’s sweet that she’s taken an interest in your social life (see what I did there?).

Are her comments harmless and simply abundant? Is this really something worth addressing, at the risk of ruffling some delicate feathers? The comments you’re sweating speak for themselves. Anyone else reading them likely knows who is posting them and will likely laugh them off with an “aw shucks” lightheartedness.

Speaking of lightheartedness, you might want to steal a page from that playbook. You could also just consider posting less on Facebook. Or posting this advice directly on your Facebook wall.

What is the appropriate way to sign an email? My contact’s “warm regards” make me feel moist and clammy.

Emails without any sign-off are the worst — talk about leaving someone hanging. An email sign-off is great and an appropriate one is even better.

“Appropriate” is the operative word here, depending entirely on who’s going to receive the email.

On the scale of familiar to formal, Xs and Os must be reserved for your closest friends and family. “Sincerely” belongs on messages that would otherwise be most at home on paper, handwritten in ink. When I read a message signed with “cheers” or “ciao,” I pray those words are part of the sender’s everyday vocabulary (otherwise, it comes off as trying too hard).

The tone of “best” switches, depending on the punctuation that follows. “Watch this. Best, Karen” — looks nice, right? “Best. KC” — looks a bit bitchy.

The final consideration is that the sign-off should match the message. Plans for meeting up for a drink, ended with “sincerely” is incongruous, just like a job offer ending with “xoxo.”

Is it OK to Photoshop my Instagram photos? Lindsay Lohan does it.

Whatever Lindsay Lohan does is often a very good gauge for what not to do. The better question here is: Why Photoshop your Instagram photos? The friends who follow you will know that your waist has been whittled or your gams lengthened, so why bother? You’re not pulling any fast ones. Now, touching up a blemish is another matter.

Perhaps the better gauge is that, if a product can fix it up, then let tech do it for you (red eyes or a nasty pimple, for example). But photo modifications that would require surgery or a diet of fish and greens for four months aren’t fooling anyone. If you treat your photos the way Lindsay Lohan does, you just might welcome the sort of comments that are on her feed — and the eyerolls she gets offline, too.

I just got engaged. Should we be using a hashtag for our wedding tweets?

Congratulations! Of course you can use a hashtag for your wedding. You can also serve anchovies for dessert, it’s your party.

A hashtag helps consolidate all your guests’ photos for the night, so it’s a smart idea for the social-media savvy. However, not everyone will share your enthusiasm. In fact, for every guest hashtagging your beautiful centrepieces, two more might roll their eyes.

Who cares? If you plan your wedding with the intention of making everyone happy, you’ll be serving 100 different entrees and finding a gluten-free vegan paleo organic dessert. As a traditionalist (though of the modern variety), I think hashtagging your wedding takes an intimate event and turns it into something really, really public.

But hey, it’s your party. Hashtag if you want to.

Each week, etiquette expert Karen Cleveland answers your questions about life online. Tweet her your questions: @SchoolFinishing.

(Originally appeared in the Toronto Star, May 2015)

Seven Things to Know about Icewine


A closer look at the Champagne of Canada

This month, you can find us holed up by the fireplace at Soho House Toronto sipping the dessert wine crafted from grapes that have been allowed to freeze on the vine. Paired with dessert (or drunk instead of), House favorite Stratus Red Icewine is comprised of four different red varieties, all harvested by hand: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre and Syrah. The result is a beautiful ruby-hued sip, intensely rich in cherry and strawberry jam flavours, with peppery raspberry notes.

So step aside, maple syrup, here, we take a closer look at one of Ontario’s most valuable liquid assets.

Icewine was accidentally discovered in Germany in the late 1700’s by farmers trying to salvage a frost-ridden grape harvest. Centuries later, and not at all by accident, a local Niagara winery with German roots called Inniskillin entered its 1989 Vidal Icewine at Vinexpo in Bordeaux where it won the Grand Prix d’Honneur and captured the world’s interest. They rest, as they say, is history.

Known for its intense flavours and rich, viscous texture, icewine is produced from grapes that are left on the vine after the fall harvest. When temperatures drop to below -8ºC, the frozen grapes are handpicked and immediately pressed to create thick, rich wine that is highly concentrated in natural sugars and acidity. The juice evolves into a product that’s richly flavoured and sweet, hence icewine’s steeper price point compared to grapes harvested during the typical season.

Of all the wine-producing regions in the world, only Ontario has a winter climate sufficiently cold enough to ensure an almost annual icewine crop.Canada is the largest icewine producer in the world, with 96 wineries producing the product in the highly regulated, globally accepted, traditional method.

China is the country’s top export destination. Because of Canada’s unique growing conditions (let’s not talk in code: our bitter cold winters), Canadian icewines are darlings on the international stage.

There is a government policy that requires icewine to be made exclusively from grapes that have naturally frozen on the vine. Any other method and it cannot be called icewine, in the same way ‘Champagne’ is a a controlled name.

Icewine should be chilled at 10-12 degrees Celsius, and poured in small servings, to be suitably savoured.

Once a bottle is opened, icewine will keep well in the fridge for three to five days, thanks to its naturally-occurring sugar content.

—Written by Karen Cleveland

Post-Modern Manners, on CBC Q

I had a great time as a guest on CBC Q – you can find the “listen” icon below the image on the landing page, here.

Post-Modern Manners: What’s rude in the age of oversharing?

Conflicted about taking that selfie? Perhaps you’re right to overthink it. Small dilemmas illuminate bigger shifts in culture and society — and norms forming around these micro decisions will define acceptable behaviour in the 21st century.
So, let’s talk about post-modern manners. Joining guest host Daniel Richler to discuss etiquette in the digital age we have:
  • Jen Agg, owner of the popular Toronto restaurants The Black Hoof and Rhum Corner.
  • Karen Cleveland, etiquette advisor at
Click here or on the listen button above to hear the full segment (audio runs 0:13:15) and tell us: how would you handle the situations we described on air?

(Originally appeared on CBC Q, Feb 2, 2015)