Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 24 1998 3:30 AM

Drawing upon her rich experience of life, Prudence (Prudie to her friends) responds to questions about manners, personal relations, politics, and other subjects. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. Queries should not exceed 200 words in length. Please indicate how you wish your letter to be signed, preferably including your location.

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Dear Prudence,

I recently got married and wonder if there's a "correct" answer to the following question: How should our address labels read? I think it should be husband's name first, e.g., "Michael and Katherine Stevenson." But my wife thinks it should be wife's name first, e.g., "Katherine and Michael Stevenson." Who's "right"? Thank you.

--Michael, New York City

Dear Mic,

Prudie checked with Tiffany's, Boston, on your behalf. Here is the response (and Prudie is trying to keep a straight face as she writes): There is no label etiquette because ... well, labels are beneath social acceptability. Stationery, however, can be "Mr. and Mrs." And to quote the Tiffany lady: "It usually stops fights if the woman's name is first."

As for your own situation, the Michael and Katherine dilemma, why don't you have two sets of labels printed? They are inexpensive, after all, and that way you can each affix what you consider the "right" label to a letter.

--Prudie, compromisingly

Hey, Prudie,

Stop the presses! A recent correspondent of yours complained about a waitress writing in a "suggested" 17.5 percent tip, about which he was ticked. He will be thrilled to know that a New York lawyer, by the name of Richard Fishbein, has sued an eatery ("Angelo & Maxie's") for $7 million for holding him hostage when he refused to pay the 18 percent service charge added to his bill. Fishbein refused to pay its idea of a gratuity because he found the management "rude and obnoxious" to his party of 17. The New York City Consumer Affairs Commissioner is quoted as saying Mr. Fishbein has a shot at winning the suit because restaurants are allowed to add a service charge for parties larger than six if the customer is told in advance--but the surcharge is limited to 15 percent.