Email gremlins

Dear Esteemed Miss Snark,

I was horrified recently when an editor informed me that the short story I had attached (as per the guidelines that I read in their entirety) came through as gibberish at the foot of the email. The lovely (truly lovely, possible the best eventual reject I've gotten in a while) editor asked me to resend with the story pasted in the body of the email. I tried changing every setting I could find and sent emails to a yahoo account I keep for signing up for things (you know, in case it's likely the address will get sold and spammed). I discovered without a doubt it was my email program and not my ISP. I have fixed said program (again, tested and confirmed) by installing a newer version. But looking back, I have no clue how long this problem was a problem. I have over thirty submissions this year, and many of them have not yet been responded to.

Do I send apologies out? Or do I just pretend it didn't happen unless the editor mentions it? And, I know I deserve a quit obsessing, but is this an annoying enough offense to get automatically rejected?

This is not a quit obsessing. Sorry.
You've got a sweet little problem here, and one that I haven't seen before.

I think you've got to assume your submissions didn't get through in good order. You don't need to apologize --technology happens.

You do need to resend those you can with a SHORT note of explanation at the bottom of the email along the lines of "I've discovered my email program was toasting my attachments so I'm resending in case it was not received properly".

Particularly since you received no replies to your work you should resend. If I get gibberish I assume spam, not email glitch and I just toss it in the trash and set it on fire.

There's a lot to be said for gmail, one of which is I don't think it fucks up like this.


Melissa said...

I would check a couple of things. First, what version of what software was the doc saved in? I wouldn't, for example, send a Word doc saved in the latest version of MS Word, but Word 2003 should be fine. Something that opens with a variety of programs, like Rich Text is even better.

If you're trying to paste readable text into an e-mail, and you want to avoid gibberish, first paste it into Notepad, and then copy and paste from Notepad to get plain text. If you get weird characters, fix them manually, and then send in plain text.

Dave Kuzminski said...

That happened to me several years ago. It's not just the email program that can cause that to occur. In my case, it was the internal battery for the clock that regulates the computer. It caused everything to be out of sync when email was involved so that attachments were toasted. Straight text in the email body generally got through, though not always.

Your advice on noting that with the resend is the best solution and exactly what I did for the ones I knew were arriving as garbage.

Sherri said...

About gmail...I've had to be pretty vigilant about checking the spam folder for actual messages.

LadyBronco said...


I had this problem some time ago with my Yahoo account - which is why I don't ust it anymore.

an obsessive solution said...

There's something to be said for having several free email accounts so if the request is to send it to Yahoo!, GMail, etc., the sender can also BCC themselves at an email address with the same service to see what they receive.

This is even better if you use one to send to the other, for example sending FROM GMail to Yahoo!

If what you send to their Yahoo! email account and BCC to your Yahoo! email account comes back to you as gibberish, it's a good bet your intended recipient got it as garbage too.

Dave said...

I've had repsonse on e-publications take from hours to seven months but they all got a reply.
So Miss Snark is correct, you should resend the submissions that never replied with an explanation.

Princess Haiku said...

A friend of mine got a "green friendly" rejection note on a piece of paper the size of a fortune cookie. It said, "We think not........." I thought you might find this amusing. Alas, the author did not.

December Quinn said...

I love my gmail account, I've never had any problems with the Spam filter or anything else.

And if anybody needs an invite, email me and I'll send you one. (Do you still even need an invite?)

ithaca said...

I use a Mac because I need Mellel (fab wp program that lets you type Arabic, Hebrew, Hangul, you name it), and since nobody I write to uses Mellel I have to save files in PDF (easy on a Mac) and attach PDFs. One once arrived as garbage; I was advised to send it in compressed format. I now do this for all attachments, even the odd Word file (it's easy to save as a ZIP file on a Mac, don't know about PCs). It also helps keep the file size down, obviously, so fewer e-mails bounce back because too big for the mailbox. I assume everyone now has Stuffit Expander, so this might be a good practice for others (assuming PCs allow one to compress files without too much hassle).

Heidi the Hick said...

As much as I'm all for conserving paper and saving money on stamps... i just don't trust electronic communication for submissions yet. Maybe it's just my mistrust of all things that need to be plugged in. I seem to have a mysterious chemical in my skin that makes electrical devices act kinda funny. It could just be me. But I don't think so after reading this!

Still seems to me like an envelope with the correct address and the right amount of postage is more reliable.

M.W. said...

Gmail is amazing. It doesn't ever screw up like that, ever.

Josh M. said...

"There's a lot to be said for gmail, one of which is I don't think it fucks up like this."

If you are cutting-and-pasting from Word or its ilk, they all screw up more or less. It may not be gibberish, but there will be weird line-breaks, spacing issues, formatting failures, em-dashes that are changed to hypens, etc. I assume most editors/agents see these quirks a lot and have learned to live with them since, if they like the material, they'll eventually see it in a more palatable format.

But I like pretty things. Here's the only solution I've found: From word save the file in plain text format. Open the file in a text reader (Notepad is common).

Here's the painful part. You have to turn off "word wrap." Yes, your sentences are going to extend about 7 miles off the right hand margin but it is the only way to see where your lines are being broken--and they should ONLY break at the END of paragraphs. (Trust me.) Fix any obvious problems.

If you are a real perfectionist, you will now replace all of Word's newagebells&whistles with the oldschool equivilants (assuming you have not long ago disabled them in Word). Search and replace elipses with triple-periods, em-dashes with double hypens, etc.

Now, paste the whole thing into the body of an email and email it to yourself--at a different email address. Read it when it comes out the other side. Problems? Fix them. Rinse. Repeat.

metasailor said...

What was the original offending word-processing software, and platform? Would be good to note, so others who read or Google to here won't have the same issue.

Heather said...

december quinn - Gmail no longer requires invites, although those of us who use it still have the capacity to send them.

Anonymous said...

A word of warning about Word:

I've recently learned that files created in the newest version of MS Word when saved according to the defaults cannot be opened by Word for Mac. Windows users can download a converter to open the new file formats, but no converter is yet available for Mac. You need to save your Word 2007 files in a backward-compatible format.

More info: http://apcstart.com/node/4755

Gotta love Microsoft....

M. said...

As much as I love gmail, it has developed a problem for me in which attachments others send to me often come through corrupted.

Robert Billing said...

Two things need to be said here.

1) Word is barely compatible with another copy of word. Sending .doc files is asking for trouble unless you know exactly how the receiving machine is set up. Fortunately the ISO standards people have realised this and come up with an open standard for document interchange. You can download OpenOffice free from www.openoffice.com, it can read most .doc files and write both .rtf and open document standards.

2) Once upon a time there was ASCII, a simple code for plain text that used 94 printing characters, space and some controls for things like tab and end of line. It's perfectly possible to encode a story in ASCII, in fact my first published SF story was edited that way. ASCII is the base character set used by e-mail, and anything in ASCII goes through unchanged. The .rtf format is a method of encoding complex formatting in ASCII, and hence it usually goes through without too much trouble as well.

Begin Rant.

To Heidi and all her friends. You are not stupid. There is nothing wrong with you that stops technology working. But speaking as someone who has spent their entire working life in the computer business I can say just one thing. You are being ripped off. You are being told to buy technology without understanding it and live with the problems. This is wrong. Things like character encoding are dead simple, and readily understood by anyone with 2 or more working brain cells. I love my industry and I get very annoyed when I see people suffering because of poor software quality, much as Her Snarkly Holiness does over publishing scams.

End Rant.

(Apologies if this appears twice.)

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh I'm so glad I came back to read this comment trail again!!

don't worry, I'm not spending loads of money on techonology that I don't need. I'm on a 7 year old Mac PowerBook and it does me fine. Every day my 10 year old son teaches me more about how to use it. I'm getting there. I'm figuring out how to wrangle the whole document-email- format thing. Still don't trust it completely but maybe I will when I get my other brain cell working!!!

Michele Lee said...

Twas me who had the problem (hi everyone!) It was *dumdumdum* Thunderbird that was doing it. Any text file (doc, plain text, RTF) would get embedded as gibberish in the email instead of attached. Other files (like pictures and pdfs) were fine. I almost always (unless noted by the guidelines) submit as a RTF. I used webmail to send myself a mail and discovered that it was indeed Thunderbird that was the problem.
I was going to just ditch it, but instead I found that there's a 2.0 version out and updated to that. Problem fixed. I think my program just got stuck on a glitch or something.
BCCing a copy to myself is a fantastic idea!
Now to go figure out who I have to resend to....