This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
THE refinement and culture of an individual can be largely deter-mined by the tone of voice and the manner of speaking. In ordinary conversation the wild gesticulation, the coarse and boisterous laugh, and the uncouth position are all indicative of ill-breeding. In such a domestic group as is here represented the ties of nature may be quite as strong as in more refined circles, and yet the tendency is to introduce a variety of topics into the general conversation that were better not discussed. The rude jest, the coarse criticism of absent ones, the unclean song and the foolish retort, are the natural outgrowth of such a gathering. Education and knowledge of the rules that govern polite society would have prevented such a scene as this by providing instruction and lessons of culture and refinement. While there is at the present day every facility for improving the minds of the young, it is no less true that politeness and respect for superiors are not properly taught.
Do not allow yourself to lose temper or to speak excitedly.
Do not allude to unfortunate peculiarities of any one present.
Do not always commence a conversation by allusion to the weather.
Do not, when narrating an incident, continually say "you see," "you know," etc.
Do not introduce professional or other topics in which the company generally cannot take an interest.
Do not be absent-minded, requiring the speaker to repeat what has been said that you may understand.
Do not speak disrespectfully of personal appearance when any one present may have the same defects.
Do not try to force yourself into the confidence of others. If they give their confidence, never betray it.
Do not intersperse your language with foreign words and high-sounding terms. It shows affectation, and will draw ridicule upon you.
Do not carry on a conversation with another in company about matters of which the general company knows nothing. It is almost as impolite as to whisper.
Do not make a pretense of gentility, nor parade the fact that you are a descendant of any notable family. You must pass for just what you are, and must stand on your own merit.
Do not contradict. In making a correction say, "I beg your pardon, but I had an impression that it was so and so." Be careful in correcting, as you may be wrong yourself.
Do not be unduly familiar; you will merit contempt if you are. Neither should you be dogmatic in your assertions, arrogating to yourself much consequence in your opinions.
Do not be too lavish in your praise of various members of your own family when speaking to strangers; the person to whom you are speaking may know some faults that you do not.
Do not allow yourself to use personal abuse when speaking to another, as in so doing you may make that person a life long enemy. A few kind, courteous words might have made him a life-long friend.
Do pot discuss politics or religion in general company. You probably would not convert your opponent, and he will not convert you. To discuss those topics is to arouse feeling without any good result.
Do not make a parade of being acquainted with distinguished or wealthy people, of having been to college, or of having visited foreign