In the world of communication, there is place for the dead.

This is the age of automated telephone services (press 1 for heaven, 2 for hell and 3 if you want to be sent back to your old hell on earth) and computer-generated messages that come with the stern warning “Do not reply to this message.”

Our dependence on machines is increasingly descending into a morbid farce and has sparked a lively correspondence in the Letters column of The Times, London, on “The lost art of letter-writing” with readers recounting their own experiences of the joys of communicating with automatons.

One woman recounted her shock at receiving a computer-generated letter addressed to her late husband “thanking him for sending his death certificate and stating, ‘for your convenience we are returning it without delay and will contact you again as soon as possible’.”

Another wrote that after he telephoned a broadband provider to inform them of a friend’s death, he received a letter addressed to the deceased “regretting that she had decided to discontinue using the broadband service and saying that there might be a charge for breaking her contract with them.”

Keywords: letter-writing