Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I read about your booklet "How to Write Letters for All Occasions" a few years ago, and I want to let you know how much it helped me recently in writing to my aunt.

You see, my aunt's beloved cat, "Mouser," passed away. Although I didn't know Mouser very well, I did know how much her cat meant to her.

Knowing how much she was hurting, I felt I had to say something — but what? Then I remembered that your booklet had a section on how to write a condolence letter.

You said: "When writing a condolence letter ... if you come up with a specific memory that you have cherished, relate it. Believe it or not, a humorous incident will be appreciated."

So I sent my aunt a funny incident I remembered about Mouser. She wrote me back a month later thanking me for "moving her thoughts from a very sad place and making her smile." She said my story made her remember other antics she hadn't thought of in a long time.

I know I'm not the only person who has trouble putting feelings down on paper. Please mention your booklet again so your readers will know this invaluable resource is available.

— GRATEFUL READER IN N.Y.

DEAR GRATEFUL READER: Thank you for your sweet note. I'm pleased my booklet was helpful to you. Not everyone can write letters that are literary masterpieces, but anyone can acknowledge a gift, express sympathy as you did, and accept (or decline) an invitation — and do it properly — by following a few basic "rules."

While letter writing may always be a chore to some people, there are occasions when the written message is the only proper means of communication. My booklet contains sample letters for almost any occasion, which may be used as patterns from which to write your own letters.

It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus a check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds), to Dear Abby — Letters Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.

For anyone who has ever wondered how to begin to compose a charming thank-you note, a letter expressing warm congratulations, a love letter or the opposite — announce a broken engagement — "How to Write Letters for All Occasions" will serve as a guide for those who put off writing because they don't know what to say, how to say it or even how to begin.

DEAR ABBY: My ex-husband and his live-in, pregnant girlfriend asked me to help them decorate their soon-to-be new house. (Their affair is what ended our marriage.) They both have commented on what good taste I have and how they like my decorating style. They have even offered to pay for my services.

Abby, is this too weird or what?

— STUCK IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE

DEAR STUCK: I'm not sure I'd call it "weird" as much as I'd call it nervy and insensitive. My question is, how badly do you need the money?

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.