IN these fractious times, etiquette can be a confusing business. When we're all going to hell in a handcart – Brexit, climate change, an army of AI machines poised to take over the world – does it really matter if you reach for a dessert spoon to slurp down some soup?

Fear not, because the good folks at Debrett's have taken matters in hand. The 250-year-old authority on etiquette, which has schooled generations on social niceties from table manners to dress codes, is for the first-time, wading into the quagmire of online discourse.

This, you might imagine, is a bit of a thankless task. There are moments when conversing online is akin to willingly sticking pins in your own eyes as you crawl through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, one devoid of any semblance of human decency.

Kudos to Debrett's for giving it a bash. The guide, aimed at those using messaging apps and social media platforms, is titled "The Art of Digital Messaging: A Guide to Communication in the Digital Age". Or as I prefer to call it: "Don't Be a D*** on the Internet".

Key pointers include avoiding sarcasm as it can be easy to mistake a person's tone in an online message. This could pose a bit of a problem for me. Sarcasm is my default setting. Yes, I know it's the lowest form of wit and all that, but then so is James Corden and people pay him big bucks.

Rather, suggests Debrett's, try to be upbeat and polite unless you're certain the other person will understand the joke. Ah, got it. Hold that thought as I saddle up my unicorn and gallop off to apologise. I may be some time. It will take a while to get round everyone.

Another no-no is large swathes of text and lengthy paragraphs, deemed to be "overwhelming" and "a burden on the other person to respond in kind." Debrett's also cautions against replying with a short, snappy message as that can be viewed as curt, so always aim for at least a sentence or two.

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I plan to show this last part to a colleague who answered a text with simply: "K". I couldn't decide if he was trying to be down with the kids or had keeled over mid-typing, hitting send as he fell to the floor in a crumpled heap. Now I think about it, I haven't heard from him in a few weeks.

Return to sender

WARDROBING is now a thing. Which sounds a smidge on the dodgy side, so let me explain. According to new figures, a fifth of shoppers admit to buying items with the intention of wearing and then returning them.

The trend for "wardrobing" is estimated to cost UK retailers £1.5bn annually. Such is its prevalence, online retailer Asos announced earlier this year that it would blacklist "serial returners", while the fashion brand Diesel pokes fun in an autumn campaign with the tagline "enjoy before returning".

It's been suggested that social media is fuelling the practice with people posing for photographs in trendy clothes before sending them back to get a refund.

Among those aged 16 to 24, a survey found 43 per cent say they dabble in a sneaky wear-and-return. Interestingly, wardrobing decreases with age: 39 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds polled admitted doing it, compared with six per cent of people aged over 55.

To be honest, wardrobing sounds like a lot of hard work with very little tangible reward. Think of the hours spent browsing and ordering things online, yet more time again waiting for them to arrive, then the tedium of queueing for yonks in the post office to send everything afterwards.

No thanks, I'll just keep wearing the same five identical dresses every day until they fall apart.

Hangry monster

IT'S widely acknowledged that food shopping when hungry is a bad idea but new research from the University of Dundee suggests that people might want to avoid making any important decisions about the future on an empty stomach.

A study carried out by psychology lecturer Dr Benjamin Vincent found that hunger significantly altered people's decision-making, making them impatient and more likely to settle for a small reward that arrives sooner than a larger one promised at a later date.

As someone who regularly suffers from the perils of being "hangry" – a melding of hungry and angry that leads to short-sighted, gung-ho behaviour – I can wholeheartedly agree. I often rue the impulsive decisions made when my belly is rumbling between meals.

With the mantra "Let's. Just. Get. This. Done" seared in my mind's eye like a flashing neon sign, I've made poor choices on everything from tin openers to wellington boots.

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The worst was while contemplating decorating. Never allow your stomach to choose wallpaper. If it is anything like mine it will condemn you to a purgatory of headache-inducing patterns because, if you squint your eyes, the design looks almost food-like. Does wardrobing work with wallpaper?