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by Abigail Van Buren

Making Coffee Leaves Bitter Taste in Secretary's Mouth

DEAR ABBY: I need to settle a dispute concerning proper telephone etiquette. When someone telephones me and I am not at home, my brother asks if there is a message. If there isn't one, he terminates the conversation.

I say he should ask who is calling, so that I will, at least, know who called. As it stands, when I get home all I am told is, "Someone called -- and he didn't leave a message."

My brother insists he has no right to ask more than, "Do you care to leave a message?" He says it would be rude -- an invasion of privacy -- to ask more.

I say it is acceptable to ask, and if the caller does not wish to leave his name, he can say no. Who is right? -- D.K. IN CONN.

DEAR D.K.: It is not rude to inquire, "Who is calling, please?" But the problem could be easily resolved by using the following routine:

The telephone rings. Your brother answers it. The caller asks, "Is 'Donna' there?"

Your brother replies, "May I ask who is calling, please?"

If the caller does not wish to leave his or her name, the stock reply will be, "Never mind, thanks, I'll call back later." (Then he will hear the dial tone.)

But nine times out of 10, the caller will give his name if asked before he's told whether the party he's calling is home or not.