How to Clean Up Your Formatting in a Query - Writer's Digest

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?
Author:
Publish date:

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:

------------------


Dear Mr. Sambuchino:

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

------------------

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.)

Image placeholder title

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.

Image placeholder title

Tim Beyers, a freelancer who specializes in
technology and business, can teach you all
about using Twitter to make money.
Learn more through the on-demand webinar.


Major_10:24

Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

Romance author Michelle Major explains her three go-to tips for ensuring your characters have believable chemistry.

Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

Take Two: Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

No one wants to break the bank to learn how to write a screenplay. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares practical tips on saving money on the pursuit of a screenwriting career.

richard_adams_watership_down_quotes_a_rabbit_has_two_ears_a_rabbit_has_two_eyes_two_nostrils_they_ought_to_be_together_not_fighting

10 Epic Quotes From Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Here are 10 epic quotes from Watership Down, by Richard Adams. The story of a group of rabbits who escape an impending danger to find a new home, Watership Down is filled with moments of survival, faith, friendship, fear, and hope.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Quintilla Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the quintilla.

plot_twist_story_prompts_fight_or_flight_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Fight or Flight

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's fighting time.

Garfield

Vintage WD: 10 Rules for Suspense Fiction

John Grisham once admitted that this article from 1973 helped him write his thrillers. In it, author Brian Garfield shares his go-to advice for creating great suspense fiction.

Pennington_10:21

The Chaotically Seductive Path to Persuasive Copy

In this article, author, writing coach, and copywriter David Pennington teaches you the simple secrets of excellent copywriting.

Grinnell_Literary Techniques

Using Literary Techniques in Narrative Journalism

In this article, author Dustin Grinnell examines Jon Franklin’s award-winning article Mrs. Kelly’s Monster to help writers master the use of literary techniques in narrative journalism.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 545

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a cleaning poem.