How writers can display better email etiquette

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about better email etiquette…

The email manoeuvre I dislike the most occurs when someone emails a chain of 15 people saying “thank you” to one of them. That’s not polite! In fact, that’s rude because you’re forcing people to take the time to open an unnecessary email.

(Sure, if you want to thank someone, that’s worthwhile. And if you want to CC their boss, even better. But, in that case, you need to say something far more substantial than just “thank you.”)

But showing shrewd email etiquette becomes even more important when you’re a writer reaching out to an agent or publisher. In a recent post on the perils of emailing publishing executives, author and former agent Nathan Bransford provides a useful summary of what to do — and what not to do.

First, he counsels, always include all of your previous correspondence in your email. For emphasis, he phrases his advice this way: “Do. Not. Just. Send. New. Emails. Without. Including. The. Previous. Emails.

Second, he says, remember that the reply button is your friend.  “If you utilize the reply button you don’t have to go out of your way to include your previous correspondence because it happens automatically.”

Third, he concludes, do not change the subject line no matter how insane it is. This advice is important because Gmail groups conversations into threads. “If five people reply to the same email it comes into your inbox as one thread under the same subject line rather than five different emails,” he says.

Following these three blindingly simple conventions will show that you respect the time and the energy of the publishing professional. As Bransford puts it: ”

“Now, there’s no way of knowing what email program an agent or publishing professional is using. They may not be using Gmail and don’t care much about threads. They might even change the subject on you themselves because they have a different email organization system that works for them.

“But again, remember: they’re probably corresponding with way more people than you are. Defer to their approach.”

Scroll to Top