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Etiquette Of The Visiting Card
The prevailing shape for a woman's card is nearly square (about 2-1/2 by
3 inches), while the correct form for a man's card is slightly smaller.
The color should be pure white with a dull finish, while the engraving,
plain script or more elaborate text, is a matter of choice and fashion
varying from time to time. It is safe to trust the opinion of a
first-class stationer in this matter, for styles fluctuate, and he
should be constantly informed of what polite usage demands.
A woman's card should always bear the prefix Miss or Mrs. There is
no exception to this rule save in the case of women who have regularly
graduated in medicine or theology and who are allowed therefore the use
of Dr. or Rev. before the name. Miss or Mrs. should not be used
in addition to either of these titles.
The card of a married woman is engraved with her husband's full name,
such as Mrs. William Eaton Brown, but she has no right to any titles he
may bear. If he is a judge or colonel she is still Mrs. James Eaton
Brown and not Mrs. Judge or Mrs. Colonel Brown.
A widow may with propriety retain the same visiting card that she used
during the lifetime of her husband, especially if she has no grown son
who bears his father's name. In that case she generally has her cards
engraved with a part of her full maiden name before her husband's name,
such as Mrs. Mary Baker Brown. In this country a divorced woman, if she
has children, does not discard her husband's family name, neither does
she retain his given name. For social purposes she becomes Mrs. Mary
Baker Brown or, if she wishes, Mrs. Baker Brown.
The address is engraved in the lower right corner of the visiting-card,
and, if a woman has any particular day for receiving her friends, that
fact is announced in the lower left corner. As a rule even informal
notes should not be written on a visiting-card, although when a card
accompanies a gift it is quite proper to write Best wishes or
Greetings on it. This is even done when a card does not accompany a
gift, but it should be borne in mind that a card message should not take
the place of a note of thanks or be used when a more formal letter is
A man's visiting-card should bear his full name with the prefix Mr.
unless he has a military title above the grade of lieutenant or is a
doctor or clergyman. In these cases the proper title should be used in
place of Mr. Courtesy titles, although they may be common usage in
conversation and a man may be known by them, are best abandoned on the
During the first year of marriage cards are engraved thus:
Mr. and Mrs. William Eaton Brown
and this card may be used in sending presents, returning wedding
civilities or making calls, even when the bride is not accompanied by
her husband. After the first year these cards are discarded, and husband
and wife have separate visiting-cards.
In some communities it is not the custom for a young girl to make formal
calls without her mother. To meet this requirement the girl's name with
the prefix Miss is engraved on her mother's card, below her mother's
It is no longer considered necessary to leave a number of cards at the
same house when calling in person or sending cards. If there are several
women members of the family one card suffices. If a woman wishes to
leave her husband's card she should leave two, one for the mistress and
one for the man of the house. A woman never leaves a card for a man
unless she has called on him on a matter of business and wishes him to
be reminded of the fact.
At a tea or large afternoon reception a card should be left in the hall
as a guest departs, so as to enable the hostess to preserve a record of
those who have called on her. If she is not able to attend she should
send her visiting-card so that it may arrive on the day of the function.
After a dinner or any formal function she should make a personal call or
leave her card in person.
When making an ordinary call it is not necessary to send one's
visiting-card to the hostess by the servant who opens the door.
Pronouncing the name distinctly is sufficient, but, if it is a first
call, and there is danger that the hostess may not be familiar with the
caller's address, it is best to leave a card on the hall table when
leaving, no matter if the hostess herself conducts her visitor to the
When one is invited but unable to attend a church wedding it is
necessary to send, on the day of the ceremony, cards to those who issue
the invitations. An invitation to a wedding reception or breakfast
demands a more formal acceptance sent immediately on receipt of the
invitation and couched in the same manner in which the invitation reads.
A newcomer in town or a young married woman may receive a card from an
older woman indicating her receiving days and hours. This is a polite
invitation to call, and if she is unable to make a call at the time
indicated she should send a card on that day.
Cards of condolence are left as soon as possible after learning of the
affliction. It is not necessary to write anything on the card; in fact,
it is better not to do so, for, if the acquaintance warrants a personal
message, it should take the form of a letter. On the other hand it is
quite proper in felicitating a friend on a happy event, such as the
announcement of an engagement in the family or the arrival of a new
baby, to send a visiting-card with Congratulations written on it.
There are times when it seems necessary to send cards to practically all
one's acquaintances, This is wise after a long absence or a change of
residence, and when one is leaving town for a long period it is proper
to send cards with the French expression, Pour prendre conge.
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