DEAR MISS MANNERS: Horrified to read about the earthquake in India and its widespread destruction and wanting to do something to help, I sent a small check to the Indian Embassy, along with a note saying that the money was for "earthquake relief." I did not, however, know what salutation to use, so I simply opened by writing "Your Excellency." How could I have done this correctly?
GENTLE READER: You are refuting Miss Manners' position that having a good heart is not enough, because one must also learn the correct forms to avoid administering accidental slights (although it is nearly impossible to offend anyone with a sympathetic response accompanied by a check).
Your good heart went right ahead and came up with the correct form. The correct salutation in a letter to an ambassador is "Excellency" or "Mr. [or Madam] Ambassador."