Some Advice on Writing A Cover Letter


The English language is constantly evolving, and technology is accelerating that evolution.  My guess is that text messaging has a lot to do with the current trend in linguistics.  People are looking for efficiency when they send texts, and the result is a highly codified language that would look quite foreign to English speakers of, say, the 1980’s.

I don’t have a problem with this evolution toward a streamlined language, but I do want to remind writers to be aware of something called, register.   Register is just a term that refers to how formal one is being when either speaking or writing.  It’s fine to adopt an informal register when communicating with friends and family, but please be aware that editors at literary publications do not appreciate things like LOL, BTW, or WFM when reading through cover letters.

I only bring this up because I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine who volunteers as an assistant editor for an online literary publication.  They receive hundreds of submissions every month, and the Chief editor has instructed her staff to automatically reject any submissions that include internet acronyms and/or abbreviations in the cover letter.  Furthermore, she has instructed the staff to automatically reject any submissions that demonstrate an inability to differentiate between common homophones like: Your, you’re, to, two, too, their, there, they’re, effect, affect, its, it’s, accept and except.      

Admittedly, I’m not very good at grammar.  I choose to write in a relatively informal register when I post to this blog.  I want to cultivate a relaxed atmosphere here – it’s just more fun to write in an informal tone.  Of course, whenever I’m submitting a cover letter or a query to a potential publisher, my register redlines at 100% Formal.  I reference my old grammar textbooks to make sure everything is in agreement.  I gotta have my past participles and auxiliary verbs in harmony so they don’t throw my pluperfect out of whack.

The submission process is competitive enough.  Don’t make it harder with a hastily written cover letter or query.  Remember, this is going to be the first impression you make on the editor.  Make it a good one.

Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.


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