Q: How does a professional address correspondence to relatives when it is strictly business mail and involves nonrelatives who are entitled to copies of the correspondence?
Obviously a "Dear Mother" salutation with copies to attorneys and financial institutions is inappropriate, but I feel uncomfortable with "Dear Mrs. Connor" even though the subject matter is business, and in some ways it seems that, to business addressees, I am denying the relationship.
A: You are quite right that your mother's bank may be startled to receive a copy of a "Dear Mommy" letter, and also that your mother might start wondering, if you address her as Mrs. Connor, whether the illusion of being an adult has gone to your head.
So you do both. One on top of the other.
Address the letter formally, as you do all business correspondence. Then take your pen, the one she gave you for high school graduation, and draw a line through "Dear Mrs. Connor." In your own little hand, which only she can read, replace it with "Dear Mother."
At the ending, cross out "Yours very truly" and write "Love and kisses" or whatever, and above where "Charles H. Connor III" is typed, sign "Chucky."
Miss Manners promises you it won't show up on the carbon. Only your mother will know.
Q: Am I correct in the belief that you should answer all letters that have self-addressed stamped envelopes?
I am the senior aunt of a large California family. We have taken up a collection now and then over the last 50 years. When my niece, who had two small girls and a husband who drank and would not work, asked me for help in getting a divorce, I suggested a collection from the family.
I loaned out my surplus and, when I have more, will pick up remaining bills. I have a special fund that I keep just for this.
I sent out 20 letters to uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers and cousins. There was no sum mentioned. Anything would be welcome, and I would make up the rest.
One letter was returned. One brother, and my son and his wife, called to say they would help. Other letters weren't answered.
I have given dinners, parties, showers, etc., with 30 of these people and their children, and I think that out of respect, they could have answered me.
A: Well, yes. People should always answer their aunts' letters, self-addressed envelopes or no, and especially those of such a generous aunt.
But unless the custom of family collections is an institution known and practiced by all of these people, Miss Manners is afraid your letters were misclassified with the many less personal fund-raising appeals everyone gets.
It is not that she thinks your siblings and cousins mistook you for the Divorce Foundation, but that resentment of an unusual tactic, or disagreement with your premise of mutual financial support in extended families, made them treat you so.
A highly personal and confidential letter to each, along the lines of "I know you're pressed, too, with a child in college, but I wonder if you could help me get poor Sarah on her feet again," rather than a general declaration, might have been better received.
Nevertheless, you have made your request and received responses, however negative. Miss Manners feels you should not press the issue, because it would serve no purpose to hear how this one cannot afford it or that one, who told your niece she should never have married the man, now feels she got what she deserved. Let us hope that the nonresponders never find themselves in want of extended family help.