Online Learning Blog

Mind Your Manners!

Published on 27th June 2014

There’s an old saying that “manners cost nothing” and it couldn't be closer to the truth. Taking the time to be friendly and polite, whether you’re on the phone, writing an email or sending a query letter costs you maybe a few seconds of your time, but it could be the difference between an acceptance or a rejection.

Imagine for a moment that you’re an editor. Naturally, you’re always busy trying to find the best content you can for your magazine. You’re constantly getting emails from freelance writers pitching ideas and articles, but only so much can go in to each magazine and you’re the one making all the hard decisions.

Now, imagine you receive an email from a freelancer you haven’t worked with before. Their work is good, but not quite what you’re looking for for this issue. You respond to their email, explaining that you won’t be using the article this time, and inviting them to try again for a future issue. A few minutes later, you receive an email back telling you what an idiot you are for passing up their great article, and that they’ll take their work elsewhere if you can’t appreciate it.

It might sound silly, but this happens all too often. In the face of a rejection, so many writers see red and decide to take their anger out on an editor. Firing off an angry email might feel good at first – and what’s the harm, they’ve already rejected you?

The problem is that the editor you send your angry email to is going to remember your name in the worst way now, and you have effectively ruined your chance of ever having a piece of work accepted by them in the future. They have an inbox bursting with submissions from other writers, and they certainly aren’t going to accept a piece from someone who has been rude to them – no matter how good it might be. You should also keep in mind that editors talk to each other, and run in the same social circles. You could quite quickly find yourself blacklisted by every editor in the area, all for the sake of a nasty email.

Now, none of us are perfect, and I’ll admit that I’ve come close to doing this myself a couple of times when I felt that my writing was being unfairly criticised. I was once, quite bluntly, told that a short story I sent to a certain publication was poorly written and had little plot or character development. This was the first submission I ever sent out and I was, naturally, a bit upset and quite defensive about my poor story. It’s never nice to read a bad review of something you’ve worked hard on, and I know exactly how it feels.

However, on the advice of my tutor at the time, I held my tongue, sent back a quick email thanking the editor for her comments and her time, and rewrote my story from scratch. It later went on to win second place in a local short story competition. I recently stumbled on the first draft of that story while cleaning out my desk, and I have to admit that the editor was absolutely right - what a difference a few years can make!

It just goes to show you how an angry email on the spur of the moment can come back to haunt you, even years later. You never know what a little time and perspective will do for your writing, so the best thing you can do is remember your manners, and sleep on it before you say anything you might regret!

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