Editorial Etiquette by JB
“Survey: Email Manners You Prefer
Internet etiquette is what we make of it, and so are manners for email. The rules are pretty fluid. It’s all about connecting to other people with communication of words, ideas, pictures, videos, chats, live face-to-face, and who knows what else is out there. The two most fascinating books I have read in the last twelve years are TRENDS, HOW TO PREPARE FOR AND PROFIT FROM THE CHANGES OF THE 21ST CENTURY, by Gerald Celente and THE SHALLOWS, WHAT THE INTERNET IS DOING TO OUR BRAINS, by Nicholas Carr. Celente hit several predictions on the nose with video phones on our computers (can you Skype?) and Carr presents startling evidence that computer/Internet time is radically changing our brains in a myriad of ways. Some of those ways are not pleasant to think about if you’re a reader or a writer. Both men are well aware of the Internet’s consumption of our time and resources. Neither of them have, although I’m sure there are studies out there (enlighten me,) explored what this cyber relationship business is doing to common, everyday respect. You know, manners, politeness, and consideration.
In business writing we are taught to bookend correspondence with respectful remarks such as the salutation (Dear Ms. George,) and closing (sincerely.) Business letter style and format definitely apply in the world of writing because we are a professional field, and professionals have usually sacrificed a lot to get to where they are. It is common politeness to show them a little respect. More important, showing respect to anyone speaks volumes about your own level of professionalism and manners.
Of course, there are other places such as live chats, social media sites, and ongoing email conversations where a salutation-closing are set aside in the interest of….time? An acceptable notion, but doesn’t it feel better if they start with at least a, “Hi, JB,”? They do for me. I teach online courses for colleges and online groups. Discussion threads don’t move quickly enough and help with the train of thought for students if every new comment includes a salutation/closing line. But emails, especially from me, always have a greeting line with the person’s name, and a closing remark such as “best” or “thanks” so the receiver and I have a bond, and the message content is given the meaning I intended it to have: respect.
Email queries are taking over our biz, but the politeness factor should still apply. Even with the automated TO/SUBJECT and date information provided in the email, it’s just plain nice and respectful to include the standards of a hard copy business letter: date, inside address of the receiver, respectful salutation, body of the letter, closing, and contact details. Take a look at the ideas in FORMATTING AND SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT, 3RD EDITION, by Chuck Sambuchino and the Editors of Writer’s Digest Books for helpful ideas. And this:
“The digital age has brought an air of informality to communication between editors and writers, but manners have not been redefined. Communications with a new editor should still be formal and respectful whether you make contact by mail, fax, or email. Once you’ve developed a relationship, you can afford to become less formal. “
What do you think about formality in emails or what the Internet is doing to our brains??? Love to read your comments.
The Internet is both a blessing and curse. If you’ve spent any amount of time “surfing the net,” you understand the inherent complications when it comes to looking for something (there’s so much to choose from it is overwhelming,) and the rules of communication we’re accustomed to are slightly skewed. Email, blogs, and websites have given writers the opportunity to connect with other writers and readers worldwide. But having a conversation online isn’t the same as having a face-to-face dialogue.
What are the accepted terms of Internet discussions, and what is the best advice for staying in touch when the Internet confines and defines a relationship? Some people think “www” stands for “wild, wild, west” and anything goes. However, when it comes to dealing with your editor at a publishing institution, there are some particular guidelines that will help everyone involved stay engaged, in the know, and stressed less. Of course, every online relationship eventually creates its own particular set of acceptable terms for behavior, but these ideas are a safe place to begin. The key word is RESPECT.
REVIEW-before you hit submit, read over what you’ve written and be sure it’s as correct as you want it to be.
EDIT-to edit is to improve. As you review your email, blog, or web content, make sure you don’t sound like a pirate the morning after pillage.
SORRY- when someone writes, “I’m sorry this email is so long,” I think, “Why didn’t you read over what you wrote and delete what made it so long?” Don’t be sorry, be sure what you’ve written is meaningful.
PROFESSIONAL-this is also known as being “politically correct.” Professionals don’t use many adverbs or adjectives in correspondence. Stick to the facts necessary to the correspondence. Avoid words like “really”, “terribly”, and “awfully” because they indicate emotions. This is a business relationship. Keep communications professionally correct by keeping the emotions to yourself.
COURTEOUS-it’s a welcome and advisable habit to be considerate and courteous of whomever the email or blog is directed. Standard salutations such as “Hi” and “Greetings” are a friendly way to begin an email and tell the receiver what kind of mood the email contains. In general, be kind. Always include a greeting and a closing no matter how brief or simple.
TIMELY-Beth Walker, publisher for Secret Cravings Publishing has this to say about the timeliness of staying in touch with your editor:
“My thought on the matter is if you haven’t received a response from an email you’ve sent whether it be to the author, Ariana, me or another editor, in a couple of days, I’d say email again and tell them to please response with at least an ‘I got it.’ I try to respond to every email I receive with that.
If it gets to the point you’ve emailed a couple of times and received no response at all, then email Ariana or me. I know there have been a few authors that do not respond to the editors at all and will only respond to my emails. I also know there have been one or two that don’t respond at all, even to me and we’re dealing with them as best we can.
To me, it’s rude to not acknowledge the receipt of an email. Unfortunately, we can’t make them email you back. I’ve sent reminders and all I can ask of you all is to put a note in your email to please send you an email saying you got it. I know for our email being yahoo, they tend to lose emails and I say that in my email.”
Lastly, give the person on the receiving end of the missive a minimum of 24 hours to respond. If you don’t get at least a “got it” within that time period, send a quick and friendly check in to see if the message was actually received. And always make a correspondence plan in writing with your editor. Ask up front, “How long should I wait before I check with you about the status of the manuscript?” Most editors have a turnaround time in mind for projects and will give you an idea of what’s acceptable as far as contacting them. Remember they are almost always working on several manuscripts at a time.
Do you have any online correspondence advice to share?