Emailing more editors than pals these days, this writer wonders what the conventions of proper correspondence say about formatting formalities. Etiquette standards have changed since high school, and I aim to keep up with the times. Politely.
I’ll admit it. The first few queries I wrote contained addresses like the old fashioned cover letters from ninth grade. I must have gotten some snickers.
Then, as I received responses, I realised the electronic cover letter comes equipped with its own address lines. Apparently, there’s no need to repeat an address already entered in the ‘to’ and ‘from’ fields unless it’s requested in the submission guidelines.
Now, no street address gets included unless requested. Most payments are made via PayPal when submitting electronically, but some recommend or require a physical address on the first page of the manuscript.
I try to pay attention to preferences. Rushing through multiple submissions on a busy day has caused some mistakes. Mistakes get submissions ignored. As English gurus say, ‘If you cannot follow instructions, you cannot get paid.’ Now, I follow the rules: Read. Reread. Follow.
Nowadays, most editors use commas after greetings, lower case letters on second words in closings (aka signature: Best regards vs. Best Regards), and first names only in the salutation. eHow shows parts of a business email appearing much this way.
My first email still goes out fairly formal, complete with colon, somewhat like:
(Or Dear Benice Tome:)
In 23 words, ‘Formerly Brilliant’ gets dumb fast. Obsessed with palms, Professor Duncan leaves the FU campus to start a hand modelling school, only to meet the pair of his dreams.
Nadia Byline works free, tries hard, but must pay to live. See more Byline at neverclick.com.
I hope you find “Formerly Brilliant’ a good fit for Burning Paper. Thank you for reading this far.
I generally get something back which requires nothing but a look of shame and disappointment on my part. Sometimes, I receive rewrite requests or contractual dealings. These generally look a lot like:
After building up a sentence that seems to stretch forever beyond its actual length before telling you my decision, while containing vaguely discouraging compliments before exclaiming congratulations! We somewhat like your story and will put it in Mostly Mad 2. Abbreviations to follow.
We require this of you and will be on this loosely defined schedule. This is another bit you might like to know. Oh, and the fired writer once said to the editor, “Sir, concision.” Laugh or you’re fired.
Peaceful heartbeat normalizing prose only a busy editor knows.
Now, not only is that a long first name, I never know if I should use it back. I generally maintain a third-email rule, lest I feel like a bit of a slut. Get me to that third ‘date’ in the outbox, and your getting tongue. I mean first-name-comma salutations, bud!
Don’t fire away.
Here’s where success proves to be more frightening than failure. For reasons I might list later. All that elation turns to nerves when it’s time for the follow-up email. How to answer?
Way I figure, in the dance of emails, an editor may play slop, step on my feet, even get a little closer than cousins before I. They are busy, I am still keeping enough distance that none of the school chaperones are pulling us off one other, and I’m gettin’ published! Dance around the desk? Yes.
Equal amounts of editors include their title beneath their name which maintains some proper (“Arms length!”) distance in the dance. Your lead, boss.
Note to the wise. If you have a name that gets underlined when typed, autocorrected, and slaughtered by ‘oh I donno’ everyone, check it three times an email. And on the site. Also, read the proof if sent one and the copy. Always. Bored? Write better.
Follow your editor like that one that keeps getting away.
So in this merciless dance, be cordial, compassionate, and positive. You’ll need some class and humor, not guile and ego, to get a response.
Says the barely published. To my defense, I have read a lot of advice. Lots.
No editors were mocked in the making of this post. Respectfully and sincerely yours.
Anyways, please share any thoughts or experiences in the comments.