President-elect Reagan has promised to bring "class" back to the White House. That means a lot of us living and working in Washington will have to clean up our acts and bone up on our manners. For that matter some of the incoming members of the Reagan administration, wise though they may be to the ways of corporate America, could probably do with a little tutoring as to how things are supposed to be right here in Federal City.

Fortunatey for us, and them, there is this book. It is hot off the federal presses. It is one of those everything-you-need-to-know about Washington books, aimed at smoothing the transition from real world to Washington world for new officials. Like so many things in Washington the VIP book is free, to VIPs. Like so many things in Washington, you can't get it free unless you are somebody.

Whether you are somebody or not is your probem. We can't help you there. What we can do, in the alloted space, is give you a peek at the 73-page document, and perhaps determine whether you need it or not. Take this simple test:

You are studying on the banks of the Potomac. Way out in the water, two men are drowning. One is an admiral. The other is a Grade 17 bureaucrat. Both are going down for the third time. (Forget the fact that the admiral ought to be able to swim.) Whom do you save?

Answer: If you said save the admiral, you are wrong. You probably need the book. By the same token you probably don't qualify for it free, since it is limited to high, high government officials.

The book is called the Federal Managers Guide to Washington. It gives incoming career and political types a detailed look at the workings of government, how policy is made, tips on handling the press (one is "Have a thick skin.") and the like. But unlike earlier federal civics books, this one tells about housing, local tax rates, phone numbers of airlines, cabs, and even dial-a-museum. Things that people coming here to live might find interesting.

If you are in charge of seating VIPs at a party, the book tells you what to do with the governors of Arkansas and Montana, where members of Congress rate and how to handle a hungry ambassador.

Of special interest in status-conscious Washington, the book, put out by the Office of Personnel Management, tells who outranks whom. It will come as an ego-deflator to some people. For instance, members of the Senior Executive Service and Grade 18 and Grade 17 civil servants outrank one-star generals and admirals. They in turn outrank foreign consuls, who are ahead of Grade 16 federal workers. Military captains (navy) and colonels take precedence over Grade 15 personnel, according to the book. It stops at that level which shows it is a VIP book.

According to the federal precedence guide, two-star generals outrank deputy assistant secretaries of military departments and heads of office. The military people, in turn, are outranked by consuls general of foreign powers, deputy assistant secretaries and deputy counsels. The commandant of the Marine Corps comes out ahead of five star generals and fleet admirals, by this book. The speaker of the House outranks the chief justice and he outranks former presidents.

If you can get one free, it is a sign you are in solid. If you can't get it any other way, you may want to purchase the guidebook (in a plain brown wrapper) from the Government Printing Office, Stock Number 006-000-01224-8. You may want to leave it around on the coffee table. Admitting you need it in the first place is not as bad as admitting you couldn't get one.