You’ve got we-mail (Mistake #95)

“I’ve occasionally found myself hesitating to offer work to someone who shared an email address with their partner,” an editor of my acquaintance told me recently.

I’ve seen email addresses like that too. I’m sure you have, as well. Martin-and-Moira77@yahoo.co.uk. Baz-and-Bess@yeehah.co.uk. It’s a non-issue for me, as I’m rarely in a position to commission work from someone, but I notice it, and may well mention it to my students. The fact that someone who is in a position to commission work mentioned it to me reminds us that people who matter notice it as well. Editors may be busy, but they’re trained to be eagle-eyed.

It’s not a death knell, of course. You’ll in all likelihood still get the commission. But if there are other issues that might make the editor hesitate, your chances may begin to look less rosy. It introduces doubt, and introducing doubt into the mind of someone in a position to write you a cheque and publish your work is not something you should be doing. What else might introduce doubt? Lack of experience, perhaps. The odd careless typo. Over-familiarity in tone.

I’ve also seen family ones – All-The-Smiths28@yippee.co.uk – or jokey ones – RockinRickyRules@hooray.co.uk – and the same applies here.

It’s to do with professionalism, and acknowledging that this is a business. In business, you expect the person to whom you are writing to be the one who will read your email. An offer of work is a contract – nobody wants to think someone else has an evens chance of reading it first. An editor deserves that reassurance.

It goes beyond just your email address, too. If you’re using a landline number as your nominal ‘office’ number, and it’s answered by your young child, for example, as that Vonage ad demonstrates quite perfectly, then it won’t form the best first impression.

First impressions do count. Linking to your Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook accounts – unless strictly professional and relevant – is potentially risky if you’ve had a boozy social media bust-up with an annoying troll or posted pictures of you and your mates skinny-dipping. Keep your subject line straightforward too: no bragging (“This is the best idea you’ve seen this week!”), no comedy puns (“Here’s a pitch perfect!”).

Everything should be unobtrusively professional and straightforward. It’s your idea that needs to shine.

Comments 2

  • I totally agree, Alex. It doesn't look very professional and it's so easy to set up your own, dedicated, email address. I have my own email address for home and a separate one for my writing business. If I'm writing a book and I need people to interview and I've put a request into a newspaper, for instance, I set up a dedicated email for that too. It prevents problems and contamination in my other email addresses.

  • Yep, I find separate accounts for different purposes very useful too! The trouble occurs when PRs and Others who send mailshots to large lists manage to add several of your accounts and you get three or four versions of each press release … but a small price to pay for the usefulness.

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