Am blogging to show what it’s like when writers drop articles and pronouns like “I” and “the” and “a.” Happens lots in queries. Seems they don’t have time to write a proper one. Maybe going for familiarity or possibly typed letter in five seconds. Don’t know why so common. Even if novel is breezy, still means author can write proper query without imitating telegrams.
Excess informality. Dangerous in business letter. Killer of queries.
Natalie N. says
I can’t imagine trying to be a professional and sending out a query that wasn’t professional. That’s almost as bad as sending a query for a novel you haven’t finished yet!
By the way, my word verification was “frickou” – I don’t think blogger likes me!
Lol. I see we understand each other completely. 😉
I forgot, though. I forgot to address the question of whether I’m Nathan.
Yes. To answer your question. Yes, I’m Nathan.
I thought long and hard about this, weighing the pros and cons, and I decided it would definitely be worth my while to be Nathan.
For example, here’s one advantage. Let’s say Nathan decides, for some random reason, to get a restraining order on me.
Then all of you can come with me into the courtroom to testify that Nathan is, in fact, me.
I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect it would be difficult to take out a restraining order on yourself.
Now, you might wonder, given that the judge would see two different people standing there, if he would really rule that Nathan and I were the same person.
Of course he would! I’ll tell you why.
Truth is completely irrelevant to the law. I’m not a lawyer, but even I know THAT.
It’s all in what you can prove.
So, yes. I am Nathan. And, with your help, I can prove it.
Thanks in advance. See you in court.
Hee hee! I do this all the time on twitter and facebook. But never with anything important! I’m sure George Will will write a column about this, too.
NATHAN STOP ATTENDED OWFI WRITERS CONFERENCE LAST WEEKEND STOP APPLIED YOUR BLOGTIPS ON QUERIES AND NETWORKING STOP HAD FUN STOP HAD SUCCESS IN ENDEAVORS STOP THANK YOU STOP
Nathan Bransford says
COURTNEY STOP HA HA STOP
NATHAN STOP LOL BACK STOP
Thank you for that question. I know exactly how you feel about it, and I have been wondering the same thing. On a side note I’ve seen some places where people say they only do four or five at a time. I guess the real answer to the question is query however many agents you feel that you can keep up with at one time. I have maybe eight queries out right now and I think four have responded so far.
But, other than that, I really need to start reading these things earlier since the comments were long enough to make me forget about the post. Oh well.
Wanda B. Ontheshelves says
Re: “I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect it would be difficult to take out a restraining order on yourself.”
There’s the first line of your blockbuster novel. Better get to work on it right away, it will take more than a page and a half of writing.
Alexander Field says
Thanks for the tip Nate dog!
Omitting pronouns. Not v.g.
Pronouns 0. Alcohol units 0. Blame for pronoun problem direted at Helen Fielding: high. Agreement with John O: Total.
Writer from Hell says
For once I’m reading about an error I haven’t made!
I have a somewhat unrelated (but burning) question.
I am trying to send you a query from Sudan but your mailbox is rejecting both of my email addresses.
Is this because I am in Sudan and you are participating in some kind of divestment/sanction campaign? I can assure you that I have nothing to do with the Sudanese government.
Please let me know!
Lydia Sharp says
I hope we’re not heading toward the language changes that were presented in the movie “Idiocracy.”
Bwhahaha In two hundred years everyone will talk like that… or worse, Lolzcat speak!
Jason Crawford says
Ha…I call it superhero speak, you know, like when superman is monologuing…”must get free…can’t hold on much longer.”
I do it all the time when texting. But I can’t imagine doing it in a query. It’s always better to err on the side of formality.
Too bad. Do it myself.
That’s pushing it. Not a lesb.
Dropping articles in queries….they must be poets on a strict word-count diet.
Wanda – you know, that’s a good idea. Thanks! 🙂
Jo – really? was that alittle over the top? Sorry bout that.
I just thought you’d like to know, I do not reside in Mira’s brain. She’s not quite as nutso as that yet. Give her time, I’m sure she’ll top that.
Thank you for this post! I can never understand why leaving off articles makes something “casual” or “more realistic.” WHO talks like that normally? Maybe the occasional “See ya later!” instead of “I will see you later,” but that’s about it.
At least people don’t say, “Nate, ur kul. Pls rep me.”
They don’t, right?
David Nowlin says
Made head hurt.
Aimless Writer says
hahaha…didn’t miss a thing.
Perhaps its because we read so fast we tend to skim over the little things?
Or write so fast out fingers just miss it?
I always read my work out loud to catch these things. Still…
Melanie Avila says
Totally guilty of this, but not in a query letter. Sheesh.
ROFL – WV: lespeef
Am thinking someone told them: make query shorter. Obeyed letter, not spirit.
(verification: ansimpla, the process of making something shorter by editing, and removing articles, and eventually resorting to l88tspeak. r0x0r!!!1!)
Victoria Mixon says
Nathan, I’m posting an interview with Wendy Burt-Thomas on her recent book, The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters, in just a few days (I’d post it now, but I’m in the middle of a Literary Mash-Up Extravaganza, which you are all welcome to join).
The reason I mention this interview to you is that you’re in it. I asked Wendy about hooks, citing one of your examples, and she said, “I’m going to agree with Nathan, and not because I just met him at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. The guy knows his stuff!”
all the best,
I’d kind of like to see an example of this used badly in a query letter, since it’s a legitimate stylistic choice as used in, oh, Catherine Called Birdy and Watchmen. If the query letter is meant to be in the voice of the book, I’m not sure what’s so bad about it.
If laughter is the best medicine, I should be quite healthy after reading Nathan’s post and the resulting comments. Funny, funny, funny.
Perhaps only the part describing the book should be written in the tone of the actual story. The part of the query where the author is speaking to the agent should be written in a more formal way?
I always feel odd calling strangers “Dear”. Why don’t we then finish off with “Love,…”? I think “cheers” is a nice finish…
Zen of Writing says
Blame Twitter and teeny keypads.
Like Erastes–lots, lots–think of Jingle–better in Dickens than in life–very, very.
Nicole Seiffert says
We’ve established that it’s poor form to drop articles in queries. What about dropping queries in articles?
Lilly Jones says
"Excess informality" – thanks for making the point. Perhaps it is due to laziness or weariness or being in a hurry or some other excuse, but it has become rather rampant. I actually feel that "life" altogether has become excessively informal – in terms of everything literally, from etiquette, education, dress codes, speaking, writing, raising kids, etc. Sometimes it all seems sloppy and inappropriate even though I know it can be necessary to "let one's hair down" [not with writing of course, seriously]. In life matters, where does one draw the line? I'm old-fashioned and appreciate old-school in many instances, yet life continues to race on… Where is the line (fine or not) between formality & informality?
I talk like that all the time. Especially online but also in real life. As do the people I talk to. But I can’t believe people don’t have the sense to know when proper grammar is appropriate! I think English speakers are on a subconcious crusade against formality.
I wouldn’t quite consider it text speak, though. Txtspk is the inability to spell or spend more than 3 seconds on communication. It makes me want to blow up the world. Dropping articles is just the informal way some people talk.
Everyone has a different take on punctuation and grammar. I am such a square that I even use full punctuation in SMSs, instant messages and emails (and look down on those that don’t).
As a tech writer, I come across this a lot in existing documents written by technical staff who are not writers. They think it sounds concise and emphatic, and very often object to my putting the articles back in. It reads like a telegram to me, and implies that the writer is too busy to take the time to write a complete sentence. Very off-putting, especially in an instruction guide.