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The thing about... personal stationery

Which act has caused the biggest collective sigh of frustration recently? The answer is yet another re-organisation of area telephone dialling codes. The human animal dislikes change at the best of times, but this seemingly deliberate act is guaranteed to cause wailing and gnashing of teeth. All those change-of-number notification cards; the extra digits in your Filofax; the agony of working out how to re-programme the phone.

Still, some will be smiling gamely at the silver lining as the cloud descends: the stationers. The last time this happened there was some suspicion, especially in London, where line-renters had already been subject to one change, that someone somewhere was getting kick-backs from the printers of letterheads: that suspicion will become conviction now.

One can understand that companies might rely on a pristine letterhead. The mystery is why individuals persist in laying out extortionate amounts for boxes of the stuff. The answer, of course, is that once you've started you can't stop: the personality type that needs a perfect letterhead in the first place can never be satisfied with ball-point-written phone numbers.

So what does your bought letterhead say about you? First of all, it suggests a certain illiteracy where computers are concerned. Now that most households have access to a computer, even if it is the one bought with supermarket tokens for a grandchild's school, it would be easy enough to change your letterhead at will. But a laser print is often not enough. We've all seen intolerable snobs run their thumbnails over invitations and sneer if they're not embossed. They do it with addresses, too. If you mind about that sort of thing, get help.

Consider help, also, if you have a plastic bag full of little gold stick- ons. It's a generally acknowledged rule among those who receive hate mail that the most vituperative, unless it's anonymous, generally comes with one of these labels attached.

Typefaces, also, say more about the chooser than they would like. Respectable companies, after all, are using graphologists in their recruitment processes these days. Beware of curly script learnt in American handwriting classes, actually known as English; people who have this tend to cosiness and sentimentality. Lovers of Gothic are startlingly prone to competitive pedantry. Umbra, that 3-D-effect shadow script, suggests an ego out of control. The Art Deco of Broadway is popular with advertising wannabes. You're probably best off with plain Roman. It may denote conservatism or indeed lack of imagination, but at least no one will spot your own particular brand of insanity.

Serena Mackesy

In last week's column, Tesco's new Clubcard Plus became "Cabinet Plus". Aplologies to the store and any confused readers.