A long time ago I asked Is the Etiquette tag a synonym of Professionalism? because the two seemed to be used largely interchangeably (I still think they often are). Now we also have , which seems to often be used with or in place of (which could often also be replaced with ).

Ethics in particular seems like it should have a clear distinction, generally being much more serious than the other two. In my mind it's an ethical issue if your actions are quite likely to negatively impact another person or business; it's much more serious than being rude, despite the severity of rudeness. It seems like overkill on questions like When sending a follow up email, is it appropriate to CC the recipient's boss? or Is it rude to leave an interview early if you have already made your decision?

We either need some very clear guidelines (in all tag wikis) and stricter enforcement, or some of these tags need to be made synonyms. As-is I can't clearly determine what any given question is about given one of these tags.

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    I think we should synomize Etiquette to professionalism. To me questions asking for ettiquette advise here are asking how to act with professionalism as opposed to simply being polite. Oct 4, 2012 at 15:31

2 Answers 2


Ethics and etiquette are two different things. Ethics refers to morality, honesty, and integrity. Etiquette refers to politeness and related social conventions.

Professionalism is a bit harder to define. I suppose it technically involves both ethics and etiquette. One might argue that it also includes competency, although others may say it is more about demeanor/actions than about job performance.

Some definitions:


  1. ( used with a singular or plural verb ) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.
  2. the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christian ethics.
  3. moral principles, as of an individual: His ethics forbade betrayal of a confidence.


  1. conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.
  2. a prescribed or accepted code of usage in matters of ceremony, as at a court or in official or other formal observances.
  3. the code of ethical behavior regarding professional practice or action among the members of a profession in their dealings with each other: medical etiquette.

(looks like there is a bit of overlap between ethics and etiquette)


the standing, practice, or methods of a professional, as distinguished from an amateur.


appropriate to a profession: professional objectivity.

An excellently relevant question is this one, which clearly deals with etiquette but not ethics.

  • Since Ethics/ettique are furthered down to workplace or professional etiquette it seems like the overlap between the three becomes quite large; "professional" is in "competent" is rarely relevant in questions here
    – Rarity
    Aug 30, 2012 at 14:42
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    I don't think ethics and etiquette are that huge an overlap in the workplace. Etiquette would describe how a person interacts with their peers, employers, employees, and clients (friendly, rude, punctual, etc), whereas ethics would be more relevant to how they perfowm their job or interact indirectly with others (do they charge a fair price? provide sufficient quality? cheat their customers? steal?).
    – yoozer8
    Aug 30, 2012 at 14:50

Ethics and professionalism are not synonymous and you can act professionally yet unethically and you can act ethically in an unprofessional manner. IE you could write a letter to the editor exposing your something your company did bypassing the company process. This may be ethical but is unprofessional. Alternatively you could go through the proper channels and allow something to be covered up while you acted professionally you did not act ethically.

In the scope of the workplace etiquette and Professionalism are synonyms. There is no place here for questions about place settings, or courtship. There is room for how to be polite and professional in the course of work responsibilities. I think a tag synonym for etiquette to Professionalism would be appropriate.

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