RUTH RENDELL, novelist: Anthony Trollope said it is better to impart any bad piece of news by letter but I think it is a coward's way out. 'It's over' should be said face to face with a long explanation. It's only fair.

JAMES WHALE, radio and TV chat-show host: I always find 'Goodbye' is a good place to start from. I have never had any problems in just saying: 'It's over'. It's usually best to say it when you are as far away from the other person as possible - send a message by pigeon. You also get the idea when you suddenly find all your loved one's clothes are missing.

LIZ BREWER, society hostess: The easiest way to stay good friends is to get them to end it. I was engaged to three people at once, and it was very difficult. It is terribly important to stay friendly. I am friends with all my ex-fiances except one I lost somewhere in Africa.

CATHERINE HANDCOCK, editor, Bite, magazine: I'm with Graeme Fowler on this one. I'm terrible at these situations - I just disappear, and they get the message. I've never had the bottle to tell someone to his face. I get people in the office to take the calls and make my excuses. It's been done to me and I know it's awful, but I just don't have the courage.

LAURA, teacher: Not the way my ex told me. Which was: 'I love you, I want you, let's stay together,' accompanied by a large bunch of flowers, a bombardment of hugs and kisses and insistence on staying the night. All this, he later claimed, blatantly spelled out 'It's over'. A cryptic way of putting it.

MICHAEL SON, cab driver: Some drivers I know would probably go down to the shops to buy a packet of fags and never turn up again, but that's a bit of a coward's way out. I think I would probably say: 'Bye bye darling, you've just been bilked' which is what we say in the trade when a fare runs off without paying.

SHUNA SNOW, actress: Cut and run. I'd put a post-card under the door, let him hear the rustle, but I'd be away with the wind by the time he got to the door. I'd go to the Seychelles for a good month. You return when you reckon that he must have met somebody else by now - or realised you weren't worth it. Hopefully his life will have moved on and he won't have killed himself. Then you creep back and keep your head down.

MARTIN, computer engineer: I think sending a fax like Graeme Fowler did is a marvellous way of doing things. It epitomises the Nineties - it's a wonderful, cynical way of doing it. Perhaps the best thing to do is just to disappear with all your worldly belongings.

KAREN MOONEY, principal, Sara Eden dating agency: I'd try not to upset him. Something like, 'I think you're a really nice person, you're fun to be with, but I don't think we're suited. I don't think I would make you happy so it's best that we split up. Then I can look for someone else, and so can you.' It's very difficult to stay friends - maybe after a healing period of 50 years it becomes possible.

PAUL SIMON, musician:

Slip out the back, Jack

Make a new plan, Stan

No need to be coy, Roy

Just get yourself free

Hop on the bus, Gus

Don't need to discuss much

Advice taken from the song '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover' (1976). Suggested update for the Nineties:

Leave it on the machine, Gene

Just send her a fax, Max'.

MICKEY DUFF, boxing promoter: As far as boxers are concerned, you have to be cruel to be kind. You have to say 'It's over', simple as that. Women? I don't want to comment.

(Photograph omitted)