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How to Clean Up Your Formatting in a Query

Have you ever received an e-mail from someone that had text cut and paste into it, and the text was all garbled? Maybe apostrophes were now like 18 symbols long? Or m-dashes looked like a firework exploded in the e-mail?

Have you ever received an e-mail from someone that had text cut and paste into it, and the text was all garbled? Maybe apostrophes were now like 18 symbols long? Or m-dashes looked like a firework exploded in the e-mail? That's the danger of cutting and pasting different fonts into an e-mail you send. I remember just last year I received a query that looked like this:

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Dear Mr. Sambuchino:

I have a great idea for the Guide to Literary Agentsthat I wanted to share just with you.

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You can see the problem here. It's obvious they cut and paste a previous query into their e-mail to me, then changed some details, but the new changes came through with funky formatting. This is the exact stuff you want to avoid when querying agents.

The solution is tedious, but here's what I recommend. (By the way, if you have a different way you want to share, simply do so in the comments.)

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STEP 1: WRITE YOUR QUERY

Just write it. This will likely happen in a Microsoft Word doc. Right now, it doesn't matter. Write all of it—from "Dear (Agent)" to "Sincerely, Chuck."

STEP 2: CUT AND PASTE THE QUERY INTO EITHER NOTEPAD (PC) OR TEXT-EDIT (MAC)

These programs are designed to "wipe" all formatting out of your text. For example, if you put text in under 1,000 different fonts, NotePad wipes all that text out. It equalizes everything—so the text is now "clean" for you. By the way, if you use TextEdit for Mac, go under "Format" in the toolbar and make sure you choose "Make Plain Text."


STEP 3: OPEN A NEW E-MAIL

That's right: Open a new e-mail for every agent query. (I would not "reply" to an e-mail and then query.) Then cut and paste the entire query in from TextEdit or Notepad. The query will come through in universal, "clean" font. BUT—since you've made it totally clean, you will have to go back through and italicize and bold what you want. You will also have to manually push the date right, etc. It's tedious, but worth it. As long as you edit only within the text and don't cut and paste more material in from elsewhere, you query will be the same font and come through looking fine.

STEP 4: SEND, AND BECOME A FAMOUS AUTHOR

Self-explanatory. If you're still nervous, perhaps you could test it by sending emails to a few friends or other e-mail accounts.

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