Thoroughly modern etiquette from one-who-knows-where-you-are

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I SOMETIMES get letters from readers who are worried about modern etiquette, chiefly because they are not sure how to address people in the public eye. The old-style books on forms of address are all right when you're writing to a duke or duchess, but they're not much help on how to start off a letter to more modern people such as the Director of a Dome, a recently imprisoned Catholic priest or the head of the Booker Prize judging panel.

From time to time, I hope to bring an update on these forms of address, and today I am going to make a start with those ones that seem to give readers the most concern.

To a bishop

Begin your letter:

Dear Sir/Madam,

End your letter:

Yours in doubt and anguish

Address:

The Bishop of X

c/o Thought for the Day, Today, BBC Radio, etc.

To the director of the Millennium Dome

Begin your letter:

To whom it may concern

End your letter:

from someone who will be elsewhere at the time

Address:

The Director

The Building Site

Greenwich

To a future mayor of London

Begin your letter:

Dear Esteemed Dispenser of Public Money

End your letter:

Therefore, if you do become mayor, I think we can do business together because of all the foregoing reasons. I enclose pounds 20,000 in used fivers. Good luck, squire. Yours anonymously

Address:

The Old Archerage

Grantchester

To Salman Rushdie

Begin your letter:

Dear One-who-knows-who-he-is

End your letter:

From One-who-knows-where-you-are-but-would-never-say

Address:

c/o P.C. Robinson

Celebrity Incognito Interview Unit

BBC etc etc

To a naval officer who is being court-martialled for having an affair with a Wren

Begin your letter:

Dear Captain (at the time of going to press)

End your letter:

Therefore we at the Admiralty would like to say that, whatever the outcome of this particular case, we are very proud of you for having helped to dispel the image of the Navy as full of poofters, and for bringing back a bit of our old heterosexual pride. Your old boss

Address:

The Old Court Martial House

Chatham

To the leader of a political party in Northern Ireland

Begin your letter:

Dear Sir ( if still alive ), May I start by saying that nothing in this letter should be taken as a firm offer by HM Government and that any explosives inserted in the envelope were placed there after the letter was sealed by me?

End your letter:

Well, I hope nothing serious has happened to you since you started reading this letter...

Address:

Peace Process House

Belfast

Northern Ireland

To the Queen, from an Army Major, asking for some letters to be returned

Begin your letter:

Your Majesty, At a time when some very close love letters of your ex-daughter-in- law...

End your letter:

These and many other details about the Royal Family which she mentions in the letters, should never, you must agree, see the light of the day. To prevent this, just return the letters or I must take matters into my own hands.

Your loyal servant

Address:

Buckingham Palace

(Please Forward If At Another Palace)

To the Head of the Royal Opera House

Begin your letter:

Is there anyone there?

End your letter:

But soft! Here comes the postman! Postman, take this missive and run, run, run till it has reached its destiny!

Address:

A large white house,

Somewhere in West London.

Enter a postman, bearing a letter.

He sings.

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