I hate email.
Let me say it again, louder: I. HATE. EMAIL.
I actually don’t hate sending emails. I’m an introvert, I have anxiety — email is my favorite way to conduct business!
What I hate is trying to work with or alongside people who don’t know how to utilize email correctly.
The majority of people — even professionals, or those aspiring to be — have forgotten how to properly send messages. I can understand if a friend’s email to me about something random is full of typos. But if you’re trying to sell yourself as a professional (or aspiring) writer, and you can’t write an email, you’re not leaving any good first impressions.
I’m convinced a writer’s success is largely dependent upon their ability to communicate effectively through email.
As an editor — and, I suppose, even as a writer trying to communicate with freelance clients — the people that are most difficult to work with are those who have zero email etiquette skills (or who simply don’t check their email at least once a day).
This goes beyond those who send one-sentence emails from there iPhones without punctuation. Some people don’t know how to get to the point. Others don’t proofread. (You can’t click “edit” on an email you’ve already sent — this is not Facebook.) If I get another email from someone who clearly hasn’t read the instructions I’ve given for sending an email to me (e.g., submitting an application to write for me), I’m going to start throwing things.
In case you were wondering, this is how not to email an editor.
Too many writers send emails that are “I-centric,” and in this industry, that just doesn’t work. To be completely honest, if I’m reading an email from you for the first time, I don’t care about you — why should I? I don’t know you. Yet the point of your email is not to tell me how great you are. It’s to show me, an editor, why our email should matter to me and my publication.
Writing an email is supposed to accomplish something. It’s supposed to explain exactly how you expect the receiver to respond. If there’s no call to action (even a simple “let me know you’ve received this” or “does that make sense?”), you just wasted my time.
(Side note – spam emails are a great example of everything never to do in an email ever.)
There are also people who don’t see the value of email as a replacement for those five minute meetings that “could have been covered in an email.” It recently took me a week to schedule what I thought was an important meeting with a client (the scheduling conflicts were their issue, not mine). After all that back-and-forth, the meeting only ended up lasting about four minutes. Essentially, I was told to “keep doing what I was doing.” They could have just said that in an email. It would have saved me plenty of time.
As a writer, you have to master the basics. Entrepreneur has a helpful list of basic email etiquette tips to follow when submitting an article or for any professional communications in general.
Think of every email as a cover letter or even a query letter to an agent, if that’s your thing. First impressions are everything. If I’m responding to a freelance job listing, my first email or message to that contact IS my cover letter. I’m not just going to say “Hi I want this job please hire me.” Dear God. I hope people don’t actually do that.
The first writing sample a potential editor, client, or boss ever sees from you is most likely your first email to them. Make it count.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.