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Research Tip Tuesday

Another great research tip from Ann Finkelstein today! You can check out her lovely blog here. Ann acquired these smarts from her local SCBWI-MI listserv where they had a discussion about formatting issues. Carrie Clickard supplied the most helpful of the tips, so we're plugging her as well (thanks Carrie!).

"Electronic queries with weird formatting aren't the best way to make a good impression on a prospective agent. This happens when text formatting commands aren't recognized by the recipient's email program. If you write query letters in a word processing program and paste them into email, or add formatting (like italics) to an email, it may look fine on your screen but terrible on the agent's.

Solutions that may help are:

1) typing the query directly in your email (don't cut and paste)

2) writing the query in Windows "notepad" instead of a word processing program

3) avoiding unusual fonts, bold letters, underlining and italics

4) avoiding non-English symbols or accents if possible

5) using plain text format.

6) setting email preferences so they do not allow HTML tags

You can test drive your electronic query by sending it to a friend who uses a different email provider."

Thanks so much, Ann! I always paste into Notepad first if I'm stressing about formatting. And peeps, if you'd like to send in a tip (please do!), see this post.


  1. Having once been a part of SCBWI-MI, I can attest it is one of the most active, vibrant branches in the country. I'm loving my Louisiana branch, but I miss you guys!

  2. This is a great idea! I've not tried notepad, but I will!


  3. Thanks for the information. I always worry when sending out an email how the receiver will receive the email. : )


  4. I've found, with a lot of testing, that I can't make Yahoo preserve email formatting. I got a gmail account just for sending queries.

  5. Is a notepad different than the clipboard? I am so NOT tech-savvy.

  6. Thanks for this great tip. I've never thought about how the email may look at the other end. I'll be more aware next time.
    I"ll be twitting this article on @LatinoBookNews.
    Jo Ann Hernandez
    BronzeWord Latino Authors

  7. Oh, gosh, and whatever you do NEVER send from AOL! I always query from my other account. AOL does terrible things to formatting! (like dropping punctuation!)

  8. I haven't had problems drafting in Word and then copying to an email, but I work on a Mac and they seem to be less problem-prone than PCs.
    Sending it to another person just to be on the safe side is a great idea.

  9. Seriously! I copy and paste my letter every single time. Sheesh. You mean I have to type that thing? What's with the Notepad? Yikes!

  10. Just in case anyone isn't clear, Notepad strips any html formatting from the text, which prevents any confusion your e-mail program might have in translating it.

    It's much quicker and safer than trying typing up your query every time you need to send. I think setting your e-mail preferences not to include html (or to ask you before it does) is the other best option.

  11. Great post. I had an unfortunate experience sending an email from a cell phone to a client. His reponse clued me into this problem, so it's nice to have some ways to prevent it.

  12. Some advice for Gmail users (from the Gmail Help page):

    Each time you send a message, Gmail automatically selects an appropriate encoding for the language(s) in which you've composed your mail. It's possible, however, that the recipient may not be able to properly view the message you've sent.

    If your contacts are having trouble viewing messages you've sent them, we recommend using 'UTF-8' (Unicode) for all outgoing mail. UTF-8 is a standard encoding that's accepted by many email clients.

  13. always cut and paste - do not forward - gets me in trouble everytime. :)

  14. Great advice! I haven't used notepad before - I'll have to use that next time. Thanks :)

  15. Is anyone else out there in the dark about what notepad is? I can't find it-- I use office Word. I don't want my e-mails to look freaky. Help!

  16. Heather, are you on PC? Look under your start programs in "Accessories." It should be there. And make sure it's Notepad and not Wordpad. They don't work the same.

  17. Casey-- Thanks. I had been looking within the word doc and unable to locate it. I ended up searching for it on the start menu, after reading your comment, and found it. (Although I still don't know where it lives on the computer-- I couldn't find the accessory folder.) (Did I mention how computer illiterate I am?) I love MACs and guess what we have? Yup, PC.