Is Email Etiquette Passe’ in Publishing? By Ami Ahlstedt

Do editors need manners? Do they need to use basic writing skills in their correspondence with lowly writers? Does anyone care if they don’t? I think the answer to all three questions is: Yes.

Just the other day I responded to an advertisement for a freelance writer – I went through the usual steps: courteously introducing myself, and my written wares – and was pleasantly surprised when I saw a response in my in-box that same evening. But that’s where the giddiness came to an abrupt halt. The reply said: what do you charge

Now, don’t get me wrong – I have no objection to the question itself, had it been followed by a question mark. Or a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence. Heck, I’ll go out on a limb and say that a simple greeting like “Hello,” would have sufficed – all else missing.

I decided this editor was probably suffering from a mind-numbing migraine and simply blasted off a reply before falling into a medicated coma. So I replied, starting off with a simple “Good Evening,” described my usual fees and finished off with a perfunctory “Sincerely.” A reply came back, in a timely fashion, this time with a staggering seven words. But a greeting was not one of them. Neither was capitalization or punctuation. I was now officially annoyed – even though I’d been given their pay rate per article (which is good to know.)

My third email consisted of two questions – which received a two-word response – neither of which answered either of my questions. I may never be able to pay my bills if I keep this up, but I decided to drop this etiquette scrooge from my list of potential clients. I’m sticking my toe in the luscious, sandy dunes of self-respect and drawing the line right here. I will not spend my precious, non-refundable time, writing to or for another professional who responds like a teenage punk accosting me in the street. Is expecting something that does not look like it belongs on my mobile phone text screen too much to ask?

Would you feel you were in good hands if a 300 lb. redneck lumberjack showed up at your house to hold a lingerie party? Why not – if you don’t expect the gatekeepers of linguistic artistry to write in complete sentences? This incident probably would not have incited me enough to write about it, had it not been for the fact that it was a repeat of the kind of lazy, nonsensical, piece-meal-type of correspondence received from some other editors as well.

Proper language – even without linguistic flair – is the one thing with the power to elevate even the lowest member of the less educated minions out of their social position, to experience and share the beauty of a well-formed thought. I’m appalled by the butchered language in these letters (yes, letters; that’s what email is) – by the very protectors and advocates of that same treasure: our publishing professionals.

I toyed with the idea of submitting this piece to that particular editor, but think it needs a larger audience than the Frito-Lay encrusted bottom of a garbage can. Editors take heed: Although I don’t foresee writers everywhere taking to the streets with pickets demanding charm-schooling for all editorial staff, bear in mind – some of us still do care about manners. Especially in written communication, since that is what we grovel to do for a living. Courtesy and professionalism is – or should be – a two-way exchange. And I don’t think I’m at all presumptuous when I say: most of us at least notice.

Ami Ahlstedt is a Freelance Writer and Virtual Assistant in Orange County, Florida. She holds a Bachelors degree in Metaphysical Arts from The College of Metaphysical Studies, and is enrolled in their Masters program for a Masters degree in Pastoral/Spiritual Counseling. She has published entertainment news articles in Focus In magazine, and recently had articles accepted by Spirituality & Health magazine and the Sedona Journal of Emergence. Her poetry appears in several anthologies, including The International Who’s Who in Poetry 2004, and Colours of the Heart by Noble House Publishers, UK. For online portfolio, see: She can be reached via email: