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    Home Articles

    Mastering the Fine Art of Formal Informality

    Ah, e-mail. No postage. No dead trees. No paper cuts -- on your tongue! It's instant communication, instant gratification, and, occasionally instant rejection. Nonetheless, e-mail is here to stay. But what to do when you're e-mailing an editor? After all, this isn't Aunt Suzie or your sweetheart we're talking about. This is your, for lack of a better word, temporary boss! Here's some advice:

    Never Assume

    For you fellow Bad News Bears fans, you know what I mean. For instance, since I occasionally list my name with an online call for submissions, I just as occasionally receive an e-mail heading that says: "Dear Madam," because, I assume, many women, of the red-haired variety, natch, are called Rusty.

    And like those "Madam" freelancers from my "Made an Ass Out of You and Me" file, you never want to give an editor any cause for pause, let alone in the first two words of your query letter! Do you think there was anything else memorable about those query letters? Who knows? I certainly don't remember anything else. Unfair? Maybe. But true.

    Actually, the assumptions I'm talking about here have more to do with time than an editor's sex. For instance, while I do have a great sense of humor and happen to enjoy laughter, don't assume that in your very first e-mail. If you're pitching an editor with an article on funerals, you don't want to start off with a joke about undertakers. Unless your article is for Mad magazine, that is.

    Formal Informality

    The best e-mail queries I received contained what I like to call "formal informality." Usually, this is a combination of snail mail properness and e-mail whimsiness. I donít know, there's just something about reading e-mail that's less stodgy than reading snail mail, but oftentimes freelancers mistake this frisky feeling for a chance to buddy up with an editor and shoot the breeze, neither of which most editors come by easily.

    For instance, a formal query letter usually sounds something like this:

    "Dear Sir or Madam,

    Forthwith, please findeth my curriculum vitae and several stodgy samples with which I hopeth to impresseth you post haste . . ."

    Or something like that. On the other hand, an informal letter usually goes something like this:


    How they hanging? Do I have a story for you? Well, actually, I got the idea after reading Danielle Steel late last night, but I can change the words around and make it sound not so plagiaristic, or whatever that word is? So, waddya think?"

    Or something to that effect. What does a "formally informal" e-mail sound like:

    "Dear Rusty,

    Thanks for the opportunity to read The Buzz On samples you enclosed in your last e-mail. They were a riot! (I especially loved the one about KISSING 101. I'll have to share that with my boyfriend!) Please consider me for the following sections you listed as being open in The Buzz On Travel outline:

    • Cruisin' for a Bruisin'
    • Restroom Reflections
    • The Coaster's Clear

    As an avid cruise ship fan, I've been on numerous cruises and would love to relate fun and frisky how-to tips for future cruisers. Also, having been on numerous road trips across this great land of ours, I'd be perfect for writing "Restroom Reflections." My boyfriend is an avid roller coaster fan, and has dragged me to numerous theme parks for the thrill of fast fear and fresh vomit. Sign me up!

    Thanks again for this wonderful opportunity and I look forward to a long and prosperous working relationship.

    BUZZ ON,
    Freda Freelancer"

    While some of the editors I've worked with would be appalled at the casual tone of this e-mail, I found it quite refreshing and professional. It's a very new world, this web-based writing, and the work that this freelancer did for me was first-rate. If I had snobbishly refused to read her stuff based on an innocently charming e-mail, I'd be graced with three less sections of The Buzz On Travel. My loss . . .

    Copyright © Rusty Fischer

    Rusty Fischer is the author of FREEDOM TO FREELANCE: The Editor of The Buzz On Series Reveals How To Find, Get and Keep Your Next Freelance Job, available for sale as an eBook from Or read free samples at his Web site:

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ

    WEEKLY WRITES: 52 Weeks of Writing Bliss! Kick start your imagination, ignite your creativity, and begin your journey towards becoming an outstanding writer.

    Grab a copy of WEEKLY WRITES: 52 Weeks of Writing Bliss! from and receive 2 free e-books to encourage and nurture the writer in you. You'll also receive Write Memories, a journaling workbook available for free only to WEEKLY WRITES book owners. And finally, as a WEEKLY WRITES book owner, you'll have free access to e-mail courses such as JOYFUL WRITES: Celebrate Your Life through Writing

    For excerpts, reviews and what you need to do to receive the 2 free e-books, Write Memories and sign up for free e-mail courses, just head on to the Weekly Writes Book Official Site. (Clicking on the link will open a new window.)


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