Email Bloopers! Funny Mistakes Writers Made When Emailing Editors

moira anderson allen writers guide to queries proposalsThese email bloopers or mistakes writers make are not only true and funny, they’ll help you stay out of hot water with editors! I also included tips for emailing pitches to editors of magazines.

Have you ever hit “Send” on an email – only to spot a cringe-worthy error just as it launched into cyberspace? If so, you’re not alone…

“Last week I told a client I’d have his puppy in the mail ASAP,” says BreeAnne Clowdus, co-creator of Tiny Revolutionary, an organic clothing company. “My little girl was talking to her puppy while I wrote the email, which was about sending a T-shirt sample.”

Yikes….but we’ve all done it! Moving at rocket speed, pounding out one last email before charging back to the family, and neglecting to re-read before hitting “Send.” Sometimes the consequences are funny and easily remedied – but not always.

For tips on emailing pitches, read The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, Second Edition by Moira Anderson Allen — which some writers call “required reading for all freelance writers.”

Email Bloopers – Funny Mistakes Writers Make

Here, four writers confess their email blunders and fixes…at the end, they share tips for emailing article pitches to editors.

Sending an editor an email meant for your sister

“After an editor of a major magazine offered $600 based on my e-pitch, I was so excited that I had to share my success with my mom!” says Angela Neal, a freelance writer in Glasgow, Scotland. “I hit Forward and wrote, ‘Woohoo! 600 spondolees for a piece on parenting, and I don’t even have kids!’ I babbled for awhile before hitting Send…but I’d pressed the Reply button instead of Forward. Away wooshed my email to the editor’s inbox.”

The fix: Neal considered emailing the editor, but decided to let it be. The editor never mentioned it, and the article moved forward as planned. Says Neal, “I now have the five second ‘undo’ feature enabled on my Gmail inbox. It gives you the option to cancel or ‘undo’ an email within five seconds of pressing Send.”  This is a cure for when you notice the wrong recipient, forget to add an attachment, or suddenly see a hideous spelling error!

Saying “I love you” to your editor or client

“My wife handles my business’s bookkeeping duties,” says freelance finance writer Rick Grant of Jim Thorpe, PA. “I was considering getting larger clients to wire funds directly to my account, and asked her to look into it. She emailed that it involved a monthly fee and per transaction rates, which were too high. I responded that we didn’t need the service and quipped, ‘but I still love you.’ Within a few minutes I received a terse reply from the bank’s vice president – to whom I accidentally sent the email.”

The fix: Grant immediately called the vice president to ease her concerns about his feelings for her. “E-mail is a great tool, but when we move quickly, we make mistakes,” he says. “I try to fix those mistakes by phone.” Grant also suggests including an automatically generated checklist at the top of your e-mail signature – something large, colorful, and impossible to miss. For instance, your checklist could ask, “Are you ready to send? Did you check for the proper recipient, required attachments, and appropriate content?” Before you email a pitch to an editor or client, don’t forget to delete that checklist!

Changing an editor’s name

“A few weeks ago, I e-mailed a Boston Globe travel editor and addressed her as ‘Annie’ instead of ‘Anne,’” says Melissa Hart, a University of Oregon Journalism instructor and author of Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood. “I realized this mistake right as I hit Send.  It may not seem like a big deal, but if someone addressed me as Mel or Missy instead of Melissa, I’d be annoyed.” And when you’re sending query letters, the last thing you want to do is irritate the editor of a magazine you want to write for!

The fix: Hart e-mailed the editor again immediately, saying, “I’m sorry – I meant to type Anne instead of Annie.” The editor didn’t respond to that email but did reply to others, so Hart assumed all was well. When you’re composing and sending email, slow down and avoid the temptation to multitask. But, don’t get bogged down in the details. “Editors expect polished correspondence,” says Hart, “but they don’t stop working with you just because of an occasional e-mail typo.”

Advising clients to wear thongs

Corporate communications consultant Kathryn Hammer’s most memorable email mistake involved a speech she sent a client. It included a mischievous “orphan” line, culled from a humor piece she wrote for a different reason: “For best effect, wear panties on your head. Preferably, a thong.”

The fix: She called the client to explain how the underpants landed in the speech; he thought they belonged there for laughs. To prevent little blunders from morphing into big ones, Hammer suggests keeping your sense of humor and communicating with clients. Don’t guess what they’re thinking; if it’s a big email mistake, call your editor to clear it up.

But remember – email mistakes can work in a writer’s favor! Says Hammer, “After one mishap-ridden project, a client sent me flowers with a card saying, ‘How do you thank someone you’ve gone through hell with? You’re the best.’”

And, your email mistake could set you apart from the masses of writers vying to get published – and give you something new to write about.

Tips for Pitching Email Queries

Put “Writer” in your subject line

Make sure the editor knows you’re a writer, not a publicist or PR person. Freelance writer Linda Formichelli uses this subject line: “Query from Writer: Article Title: Writer Name” when you’re pitching articles.

Add the email address last

To avoid hitting “send” prematurely, insert the editor’s address after polishing your pitch.

Prove that you read the magazine or e-zine

Candace Walsh, features editor of Mothering magazine, is impressed by writers who refer to her magazine. Keep your e-query short and sweet, like this: “I noticed that readers are asking for an article about X. I would like to write that article. Here’s why I’m qualified…”

Delete the frills and get to the point, pronto

Never use attachments in an email pitch to an editor, unless you’re sending an assigned article. Susannah Felts, associate editor at Health magazine, recommends getting to the point fast, naming a few expert sources, and including links to your clips.

Pitch your idea only when your article idea is crystal clear

Hammer says an editor won’t understand (or assign) an article idea if it’s not clear to you, the writer. If you’re struggling with a hook or sources, don’t pitch yet.

For more pitching tips, read How to Write Better Query Letters – A Reader’s Digest Editor’s Tips.

Have you ever made a mistake in an email to an editor? Comments welcome below!

This article was originally written by me (Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen) published in Writer’s Digest magazine, many moons ago (September 2009, I believe. That was when it was scheduled to appear, anyway!). Adapted for Quips and Tips for Successful Writers.

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