10 attributes of professional writers -- #5: Send professional emails

Email is a marvellous facility. especially for pitching editors or publishers, and for sending a covering “letter” with an article or story. However, there is an inherent danger of its tempting us into being too casual.

Be formal -- at last at first. Picture by http://www.rgbstock.com/user/sundesignsHere are “Terry’s Top Seven Tips for professional-looking emails”.

Get a proper email address

I’m sorry, but dangerboss@hotmail.com just won’t cut it – unless, possibly, if you’re promoting a book called Danger Boss. Even then, it would have been better to have bought the domain name dangerboss.com and acquired the email address yourname@dangerboss.com.

Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Use plain stationery

The template in email is often referred to as “stationery”. Just as you wouldn’t use scented paper with flowers on for writing to a publisher, don’t do it in email either.

Use a signature …

You can configure your email to always insert what is called a “signature” at the bottom of your emails (or even embed it into the default stationery or template you use). That way you ensure that you never again fire off an email without remembering to put your name at the bottom.

… And make it sensible

I’m using the word “sensible” in two ways here. Firstly, forget about “witty” sayings, line drawings, and multicoloured fonts. Plain and simple works much better. Secondly, don’t miss the opportunity to make it work for you. I’ve read many times that people have to see a message as much as 20 times before they act on it: make your emails one of the media by which they receive your message.

For example, how about something like:

Fred Bloggs, author of Danger Boss. Read an excerpt at www.dangerboss.com.

Be formal

If your editor is happy for you to address them by their first name, let her be the one to instigate that level of informality. Until then, beginnings like “Dear Jane” and endings like “Kind regards” are the order of the day.

Use an intelligent subject line

Firstly, it’s good to use a subject line period. Otherwise the recipient will have no clue what it’s about – and neither will you when they click Reply without changing the subject header.

But having decided to write something in the subject header, do take into account that you want the person to actually see it. Putting lots of exclamation marks or the word “free” in the subject header may cause their email program to assume it’s “spam” – ie junk – and deal with it accordingly.

Also, give them some idea of what the email will be about. Something like “Query regarding an article for Bossmanship Magazine” would work well.

Be controlled

Never, ever fire off an email in anger. In fact, don’t even respond to an email that has upset you until the next day. If you must vent your spleen, do so in a word processed document or without the person’s email address in the To: header. Otherwise you night do what I did once and click Send instead of Delete. Ooops!

In conclusion, treat email as another formal means of communication when dealing with editors and publishers, and you can’t go far wrong.