What is the Dinner Etiquette for Utensils?

Begin with the silverware that is the farthest from your plate.
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When seated at a formal dinner, many people wonder about which knife, fork and spoon to use. Fortunately, dining etiquette follows an easy-to-remember convention. The Emily Post Institute recommends that you use this mnemonic to know which utensil to use first: In front of you is the place setting. To the left of your dinner plate, start with F (for the forks); move to the center for O (for the round dinner plate); (Skip R); move to the right for K (for the knives); to the right of the knives, you see S (for the spoons).

1 Understanding the Place Setting

Working from the outside in, use the utensil farthest from your plate first. In a formal place setting, the salad fork is to the farthest left of your plate. If fish is the first course, the fish fork will be to the farthest left of your plate, with the salad fork next to it. The soup spoon is to the farthest right of your dinner plate. Working your way inward, the tea or beverage spoon is next to the soup spoon. The dinner fork lies to the left of your dinner plate, but it is not the fork closest to your plate – that's the dessert fork. To the right of your plate is the dinner knife. Depending on the formality, you may see additional utensils. You only need to remember one rule: work from the outside in.

Kathryn Esplin, a veteran copy editor, wrote for The Globe and Mail, The Montreal Gazette, and copy edited for Addison-Wesley, and several years for IDG. She holds a journalism degree from Medill and a B.A. in English from McGill. A memoir, "Of Things Human, Life, Remarriage, Death" was published in "Blended Families (Social Issues Firsthand)."