4.08.2006

What Made Me Stop Reading Your Query Letter Today

Miss Snark is deep into her slush pile today. Herewith some choice morsels:

1. I want you to publish my novel

2. Having read your website carefully, I think you are just the right agent for my (insert category that is listed on the "what we don't do" side of things).

3. I just finished my novel/my novel is almost done.

4. I published this myself and sold x copies and now I want a crack at a big publisher.

5. Everyone tells me I'm a born storyteller and I should write a book, so I did!

6. Dear Submissions Department

7. Impactful. I'll give you a pass on "safety deposit box"; but impactful is not a word and if you think it is, I don't want to work with you.

8. I'll call to follow up/I'll have my assistant call to follow up. If you do, you and/or your assistant is going to get a very puzzled response. Don't call to follow up on query letters. Ever. WRITE to follow up. No exceptions. Even email.

36 comments:

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

The girls are trying to skip rocks. My oldest is patiently trying to show her sisters how to do it. She manages a four bouncer. Elizabeth picks a big boulder and tosses it. It makes a huge splash, but doesn't skip.

Bill E. Goat: That was impactful!

Me: What? You have digestive problems?

Bill E: No! Silly. I mean your kid's rock. It was impactful.

Me: So, "impactful" is a part of goat-vocabulary? I don't know that word.

Bill E: Oh. Well, then, it was spashful.

Me: Sometimes I wish you were bashful.

Bill E: That's not what I mean!

Me: No?

Bill E: No, no, no. I mean Liz's rock was impactful of the water and became splashful and then the water became waveful.

Me: I understand perfectly, Bill. Somehow that frightens me.

Cheryl Mills said...

What? You're doing REAL work? Well, I guess you've got to pay the bills sometime.

Anonymous said...

My stories are so real to me, Miss Snark. The characters live in my head and I want them to live in you as well. Can they have pets at your place? 'Cause one of my hero's poodle has dia..diar...poodledoodle and I think it's really messin' up my writing and makin' it stink. Could he live at your place for a while?

Anonymous said...

well, I'm safe for this round.

lauren said...

There's always something in the back of your mind saying "People don't really DO that."

Well ... need i say more?

Nightfahl said...

umm...*cough*...(at risk of being stamped a nitwit in a few short seconds)...as one who makes words up all the time while I'm writing, I keep my dictionary glued to me and HAD to look it up.

From Merriam Webster:

Main Entry: im·pact
Pronunciation: im-pakt
transitive verb
1 a : to fix firmly by or as if by packing or wedging b : to press together
2 a : to have a direct effect or impact on : impinge on b : to strike forcefully; also : to cause to strike forcefully
intransitive verb
1 : to have an impact -- often used with on
2 : to impinge or make contact especially forcefully
- im·pact·ful \im-pakt-fl, im-pakt-fl\ adjective
- im·pac·tive \im-pak-tiv\ adjective
- im·pac·tor also im·pact·er \-tr\ noun

But Word agrees that impactful doesn't exist. Which are we supposed to follow in cases like this?

although...after the week you've had...maybe I should just duck and cover. *runs*

Delilah said...

You forgot one of your favorites:

9. Dear Ms. Shark,

Bill Peschel said...

Question, re #7: What's wrong with "safety deposit box"? What am I missing?

"Impactful," however, I understand *shudder*.

Anonymous said...

**But Word agrees that impactful doesn't exist. Which are we supposed to follow in cases like this?**

I checked the OED on CD-ROM (the ultimate resource). Impactful is not recognized as a word or a form of impact. It appears one time in the 20 volume authority, incidentally, in a quotation showing usage of an unrelated word.

I go with the OED.

Miss Snark said...

Mr. P: safe deposit box is correct. It's a losing battle though. Just today I saw "safety deposit box" in a Lee Child novel. I wanted to smack him around a little, but truthfully, he scares me.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

My bank offers a discount on a "saftey deposit box" for those with either a checking or savings account. They don't know what they're doing, huh?

Feemus said...

"impactful" is just horrendous--"impact" as a verb is bad enough. Ditto "reference" as a verb--ugh. Pretentious and imprecise. And "utilize" for "use" and "societal" for "social."

And just because something is in the dictionary makes it neither elegant nor correct. A dictionary should certainly not be used as a style manual and the it's-a-living-language argument should not sponsor unsightly and unnecessary innovations.

if I posted this twice--sorry. My wireless is acting up.

Cheryl Mills said...

I checked my OED, and alas, find nary an impactful. Alas and nary are in there, but that doesn't mean they should be used, either.

Anonymous said...

bill - it's safe deposit box

rindambyers said...

Unimpactable?

Anonymous said...

Sayeth Miss Snark, "Just today I saw 'safety deposit box' in a Lee Child novel. I wanted to smack him around a little, but truthfully, he scares me."

Lee Child. Scary he's not.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Great One about Safe Deposit Box. However, I believe it is one of those phrases that has "morphed" over the years. Kind of like people saying, "I could care less." When they actually mean, "I couldn't care less."

Sal said...

The USAn term is "safe deposit box."

See Google.

See American Heritage Dictionary" with entry for "safe-deposit box" but no entry for "safety-deposit box."

"Safety-deposit box" seems to be more common in the UK -- half the .uk sites that use one or the other of the terms uses "safety deposit box" -- which might explain Lee Child's use and that of Sha'el, Princess of Pixies' bank.

Anonymous said...

Go to this link. Impactful is a word.

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=impactful

And Lee Child isn't as scary as Jack Reacher. Every man's fantasy.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of word usage -- Among the nouns being used as verbs these days, my unfavorite word is "authored" -- as in 'He authored three books.'

It's used so heavily in educational circles that younger teachers think it's a real word and have taught a whole generation of kids to use it. yikes!

- a Miss Snark fan in Maryland

Feemus said...

re: "authored"

thanks, Anonymous, for bringing that up. That is really egregious. I do see it a lot in my students' writing and have wondered where they got it. They seem genuinely puzzled that I prefer "wrote."

Kendall said...

Nightfahl: Never trust your word processor's limited vocabulary. Don't trust it to know all the real words, and don't trust it not to know a fake word.

Anonymous said...

The one that makes me want to spit spiders is "prideful".

What happened to "proud"?

Liesl

Sal said...

Lee Child. Scary he's not.

Lee Child. Dreamy. That accent. That charm. So polite. Nice to everyone. Did I mention funny? Swoon material, yet approachable. Your big brother's best friend. The guy next door, if you are an extremely lucky sort of person.

Scary he's not.

Lady M said...

"My stories are so real to me, Miss Snark. The characters live in my head and I want them to live in you as well"


Run Miss Snark! Run! Very fast. Very far.

Danger Miss Snarkinson, Danger.

Now if I could just get this stoooooopid song out of my head, we'll all be alright...

The word police, they live inside of my head.
The word police, they come to me in my bed.
The word police, they’re coming to arrest me, oh no.

You know that talk is cheap, and those impactful words ain’t nice.
And when I fall asleep I don’t think I’ll survive the night, the night.

’cause they’re waiting for me.
They’re looking for me.
Ev’ry single night they’re driving me insane.
Those words inside my brain.

The word police, they live inside of my head.
(live inside of my head.)
The word police, they come to me in my bed.
(come to me in my bed.)
The word police, they’re coming to arrest me, oh no.

(are any of you old enough to know which song that truly should have been?)

:P

Anonymous said...

I've met Lee Child a couple of times. Sal nails it in her definition, especially the approachable part.

His character is scary, not him. But I know what you mean - I think Stephen King has got to be some kind of scary to come up with the stuff he writes.

Nightfahl said...

Kendall: I don't use Word as the end authority on whether or not a word is real. That's why I asked. When I'm writing I tend to inadvertently make words up, OR something I DO use and spell correctly suddenly doesnt LOOK right to me. So I'm constantly double checking things. Particularly if Word red-flags it. Between using Word, a hard cover dictionary, an online dictionary, and a thesaurus...I thought I was covered.
However, in this case ('Impactful')while I can't think of a time when I'd use the word, it would have 'passed muster'in 3 of my 4 sources. Safe Deposit Box vs Safety Deposit Box, however...THAT one gets nixed using those same sources.

(sorry to run away with the post, but between my own tendencies and having a hyperlexic kid, I spend a lot of my time with my head in a dictionary. It's a little frustrating to learn that they don't agree with each other.)

theinadvertentauthor said...

*Yanno (*used only for demonstation purposes), made up words and slang can sometimes convey an affect less colorful words or phrases can't. There are plenty successful authors take sensible (and not so sensible) liberties with language usage.

I think a lot depends on the audience and genre, but I regularly invoke creative license and tweak words and phrases to suit my needs.

Anonymous said...

"Dream Police" by Cheap Trick. :)

-j

Jen said...

I have to whole-heartedly agree with this:

Never trust your word processor's limited vocabulary. Don't trust it to know all the real words, and don't trust it not to know a fake word.

If I went by Word not knowing words, I'd be a bad medical transcriptionist.

Hmm... On second thought, that might not be a bad idea. It'd get me out of a job I hate. *s*

Cheryl Mills said...

Thanks, Lady M. Now I can't get it out of my head. The dream police, they live!

Now, who sang it?

Feemus said...

"made up words and slang can sometimes convey an affect less colorful words or phrases can't. There are plenty successful authors take sensible (and not so sensible) liberties with language usage."

agreed--that's what great writing does, take liberties with language. But the neologism has to have a logic or felicity to it--"reference" or "impact" as verbs just don't. "Impactful" is just not, as you say, "colorful." They just sound lazy or corporate. This dislocation of words from their customary part of speech (anthimeria) can be arresting and effective (or should I say "impactful"), but only when there is a purpose. They have to surprise or delight-they have to be earned. Otherwise they are just imprecise.

"The thunder would not peace at my bidding"
"I feel like shit--I went a little Tara Reid last night"

there's a purpose to these innovations.

"His speech was impactful."

what's the point?

Anonymous said...

someone said:

'My bank offers a discount on a "safety deposit box"...'

So does mine. We're a former British colony here, and I've never seen the term "safe deposit box" used by any of our banks.

This particular peeve of Miss Snark's brings to mind a topic of some weeks ago when American English vs. the original version was under discussion. I have noticed that most of my American correspondents are not even aware - until I point it out to them - that these differences exist.

Another glaring example: Expiration date - American
Expiry date - British

inkwolf said...

Ah, but don't forget that language is a living, changing beast, controlled by mass consensus, and that those impactfully verbed words like 'authored' and 'referenced' are doomed to be in the dictionary of the future alongside 'muggle' and 'd'oh' unless they are stamped out RIHT NOW by the linguistically reactionary.

But I'd rather save my strength to fight the growing trend to use apostrophes on plurals. I've actually seen professionally produced video covers with titles about kitty's and puppy's.

Anonymous said...

Anon said:
And Lee Child isn't as scary as Jack Reacher. Every man's fantasy.

--This is one of those times when a good editor comes in handy. Or a good English major. Is Lee Child every man's fantasy? Or Jack Reacher? ;-)

Signed, me, who happens to know that Lee Child is definitely more of a woman's fantasy. And so is Jack Reacher, come to think of it...

Anonymous said...

Every man's fantasy refers to the last person mentioned--Reacher. No problem he can't handle, nobody telling him what to do, new woman in every book. (At least his women are smart in addition to beautiful.)

He would be a woman's fantasy if he changed his clothes more often, especially his underwear. Three days is just too long. At least wash the damn things.