Saturday, January 23, 2010

Writers and Mistakes

Writers are human, so we make mistakes. But with so many writers out there pitching ideas and looking for work, all it takes is one little mistake for your work to be deleted from an editor's e-mail (or tossed into her File 13, if it's snail mail). Today I had a cringe-inducing moment that reminded me of the old carpenter's adage: Measure twice, cut once. For writers, I'd alter it to read: Proofread ten times, hit send once.

I'd spent the better part of an hour carefully crafting a letter, re-working my resume, and selecting the best clip for the job. I was so involved in polishing my e-mail that until the moment I pressed send, I didn't notice that I'd somehow left the subject line blank. Now, in most cases that's just an annoyance, but in this case the text of the subject line was a part of specific directions for this job. Yelling at my computer did nothing. I did not have an "unsend" option. Worst of all, I had described myself--in my much-labored-over e-mail--as "detail oriented." Gasp.

I had two options. First, I could simply ignore the error and hope my e-mail got to the right person, but the subject line was essential because it contained her name. Second, I could re-send with a corrected subject line and an apology for any confusion my first e-mail might have caused. I went with Option Two. I decided that acknowledging and correcting my mistake at least indicated I'd been paying attention--if a bit too late.

Someone should invent an add-on to e-mail for writers, another step that pops up after you hit send that says, "Are you sure? Proofread it again."
Picture by Zsuzsanna Kilian at

No comments: