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Grammar Groupie Says: Be Professional

Grammar Groupie understands the desire to be on intimate terms with the stars. Actors, musicians, agents . . . we love ‘em. But just because you’ve spent hours researching your favorite band or movie star doesn’t mean you should assume the two of you are on a first name basis.

This is the same for agents. You’ve read their blog religiously, know the names of their dogs and favorite T.V. shows (I’m looking at you, Nathan Bransford), know what they like to read, what they’ve sold, which conferences they attend. At times, you might feel you know them better than you know yourself.

You don’t.

At the querying stage, the relationship between writer and agent is purely business, so make sure your query letter reflects that. If you are snail-mailing your query, check out this link to see examples of properly formatted business letters.

This post, however, is mainly for those writers who e-mail their letters to the growing numbers of agents who accept e-mail queries. Why? Because the standard business letter format doesn’t work for e-mail. Agents only see a certain number of characters in the preview of each e-mail they receive. Usually twenty-five characters, or so. You don’t want to waste that space with your name and address. So skip that contact info; if an agent wants it, they’ll ask for it later.

Instead, begin your query with a business greeting:

Dear Agent:
It is fine to use the agent’s full name in your letter, but if you are only going to use his or her last name in the greeting, always use Ms when addressing a female agent. Also, note the punctuation. In a business letter, a colon follows the addressee’s name, not a comma. Small fries, you may think, but back when I was querying I had an agent comment favorably on my use of the colon just before she requested my full. There’s nothing wrong with being picky if it means doing it right.

Insert the body of your query after your greeting, be it two paragraphs or five (shorter is better). Finish with a polite, “Thank you for your time.” The closing in a business letter should be courteous, but not familiar. I don’t care if you sign all your letters to the Jonas Brothers with “XOXOXOXO Smiley Face,” you’re not going to do that with your query letter. Be professional. “Sincerely, Your Name” is perfect, followed by your phone number and e-mail on the next line. Kill the hyperlink to your e-mail address, since some spam filters trash e-mails with a link in them.

That’s it. Short, sweet and professional. Now the Grammar Groupie has to finish her letter to Jared Leto. *swoon*
Kristin Halbrook

Kristin Halbrook is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novels Nobody But Us (HarperTeen, 2013) and Every Last Promise (HarperTeen, 2015). She likes many things.

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  1. I actually use real glitter sticker hearts in my Jonas Brothers love letters. That personal touch makes oh so much a difference ;)

    Golden advice, as always! Great post.

  2. Great, informative post! I had no idea about the colon thing.

  3. Whoa, whoa,'re saying I shouldn't sign off with "peace out, yo"?

    (Seriously, though, I didn't know about the colon. Or the links. Crap.)

  4. Funny: I was reading your post and was thinking "Ok, thanks for the pointer" and then I got to the end and was all "Wait, what? Jared Leto, what?"

    Total hottie in person. Never seen eyes that round before. Perfectly round blue orbs. Amazing. Met him when he was touring and promoting his first CD (2nd one's better)and I SO wanted to get on fangirly and gush, "OMG, I loved you in MY SO-CALLED LIFE" or ask "So, what was it like getting the shit beat out of your by Ed Norton in FIGHT CLUB?" But I refrained. Barely.

    I'd brought our copy of REQUIEM FOR A DREAM because my hubby wanted a sig, too, but I forgot all about it! I mean, it was Jared Leto for crissakes! Hel-lo! I only had enough saliva to ask for my own autograph.

  5. So helpful. I hadn't even thought about the hyperlink thing!

  6. Ha! Celise, I am officially jealous. =D

  7. Gah. I am old school. I formatted every single e-query like an old fashioned letter. Their name and addy at the top, 4 hard returns, Dear Ms.,Mr., Mrs. Last name.

    Never even thought about the fact that they would be previewing it in any way. Ah well. Hopefully will never have to write one again!

  8. Useful post.

    I never knew about the hyperlink thing. And the fact that agents really do notice when you use colons in the right place makes me happy. I love punctuation.


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Item Reviewed: Grammar Groupie Says: Be Professional Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Halbrook