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Jodi R.R. Smith

Oh, Behave! Author Jodi R. R. Smith’s latest book rolls out a new roadmap for good manners.

With the internet and social networking creating new privacy conundrums almost daily, good manners sometimes seem like a quaint-and rare-commodity. But to Jodi R. R. Smith, they’re still very serious business.

Author of The Etiquette Book: A Complete Guide to Modern Manners, the Marblehead resident (and owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting) had a lot to wrestle with when she sat down to write her third book. “It took about four years to finish,” she says with a sigh. “My first two books were more of a gateway for people who wanted just quick tips on etiquette. This one deals with all of its finer points.” The resulting 406 pages (Smith and her editors whittled it down from its original 800-plus pages) take on everything from dining habits and same-sex marriage to the changing landscape of etiquette in business.

“I always say that etiquette evolves to keep pace with society and technology,” she explains. For example, if you read an etiquette book from just 10 to 15 years ago, it would say that a man must always wait for a woman to extend her hand to him before reaching out to shake it. “That’s completely changed,” Smith observes. “Especially in the workforce, where manners have become gender-neutral. These days it’s all about rank; the highest ranking person holds out a hand first.”

Smith’s obsession with etiquette reaches back to her high school days, when she became fascinated with what kind of behavior made some people likeable. (“Not just popular,” she clarifies. “That’s very different. I mean what makes some people want to be around someone.”) She started researching everything written on the topic, from as far back as 1885 to new studies on psychology and perception. “All of it got boiled down into my brain and found its way into the book,” she says.

That includes, of course, the Internet. When she first started writing, there was no Twitter in existence yet. But by the time her tome was finished, it was a brave new world of confidentiality (or lack thereof) out there. “Privacy really doesn’t exist anymore on the Web,” she says. To that end, she added an entire chapter dedicated to electronic etiquette. “People need to actively guard their privacy and think twice or even three times before hitting ‘send’ or ‘post.'” -Alexandra Hall