Writers send and receive many emails every single day, from friendly banter back and forth to those who are are friends or close associates to business contacts that we have never met before. Each one of those emails are generally written in greatly differing manners, and the differences have at times managed to blow a business deal or insult a friend.

Let's go over 5 common mistakes of email etiquette:


     You have worked hard to get that manuscript just right, have spent countless nights slumped over the keyboard while the rest of the family slumbered, and there is no telling how many times you had to reach for the thesaurus to find an alternative word for some of the most commonly used words in the dictionary. Why in the world would you work so hard on your literary masterpiece and send it or your query to the wrong person and potentially blow the deal of a lifetime? Research who your contact person should be, and then double check it to make certain. Once you're certain it's Shirley and not Shanna, check again! Most websites will have a 'contact us' link where you may find a direct phone number. If you do find that number, make the call as professional and as brief as possible. Remember to use your inside voice, being articulate and if you are not clear on the contact person's name, don't be afraid to ask for a correct spelling and verify the email address once more. End the call pleasantly and remember to thank the person you just spoke with; that person may be handling incoming query emails later on down the line!


       One thing that irritates me is when friends pass my personal email address around like candy. One way they may unintentionally be doing this is by sending out mass emails or forwarding cutesy elephants in purple tutus. That in itself isn't the irritating part; it's the manner that the email reaches me - and everyone else on the list - that causes my eyelids to pull down so tightly, my upper lip curls.

       When sending one single email, we all know where to type in the recipient's address. No big deal. But how many people still do not get the fact that it is rude Internet behavior to type in every person's address on that same line or even on the next line down, in the CC field? Sure, just separate each address with a comma and it will reach everyone on the list. And now every single person on that line has each other's email address! What if Billy and Johnny don't play well together and Billy didn't want Johnny to be able to contact him? Congratulations. You just facilitated the next neighborhood war. 

      What, you may be asking, is a way to eliminate this from ever happening? Look at the blank email. The first person you want to receive the tutued elephant is Herman. Type in Herman's address in that same old familiar line. You want Clyde to have it, as well. Not a problem! Now look at the next line down, where it says BCC (you may have to click a plus-sign to activate it). This BCC means Blank Carbon Copy, and this is where you may type in six more addresses. The beauty part? It's going to go to all six of those people and nobody will see the other's email address! 

     One thing to keep in mind: all sixteen people will see the first person's email address, so one way to skip around this fact would be to simply type in your own email address in the TO field. You'll get a copy but hey - your friends will still love you tomorrow. 

      Let's not forget another important piece of a reminder here: if you are sending a query to five difference publishing houses ... why in the name of Daniel Boone would you broadcast to each of them that you are doing so? For the love of all that is mighty, use the BCC field!


    Well, you did the research, made that phone call, and you have the name correctly written down on your sandwich napkin from lunch. How should the email even begin? Hey, yo, Herman! Probably not. There are actually a few acceptable ways to use a salutation in your email, but the most acceptable ones would be to use Dear Mr. Conrad when contacting someone of the male persuasion. Female-bound emails can become tricky, because unless you know for a fact that she is married, you would not use Mrs.; however, the use of Miss may be received as demeaning, even rude. She may feel as if you are being implying that she is inexperienced. The best bet is to use Ms. in business correspondence.


       This is a business email, not a college dissertation on the nuclear impact of French fries when dipped into a chocolate milkshake. Open by stating why you are there in their office, do not repeat yourself by saying the same thing in different words (not even if you think the point needs emphasis), and do so in about three sentences. Use max three paragraphs, remember the manners Gramma taught you, and get out.


      When signing off with a friend or someone you feel a connection with, it's fine to just leave the email off with a simple cap of the first letter of your first name. Or a friendly 'Later, alligator'. Of course, we wouldn't dream of signing off with XYZ Publishing House that way. 

      The phrases, 'Thank you in advance for your time (or consideration)' or 'Sincerely' - just a simple yet business-minded and respectful manner of signing off is fine.

     Remember to leave your digital fingerprint before clicking that SEND button. (Your signature should contain your website URL, where to purchase your previous material, if available, and perhaps an alternate manner of contacting you ... which means another way the email recipient may check up on you to evaluate what they may be getting into with you and your work.)

     There you have it. Robyn's guide to sending proper email. Please do take to heart the section about using the BCC field; don't pass email addresses around like a bowlful of jellybeans.