In Which I Indulge Myself in a Rant

by Diana Dawson Plattner


Dear editorial candidate,

The job market, while tough for most everyone, is especially unpromising for book editors. I have deep sympathy for your situation; I’ve been there, and I expect to be there again. Which is why, instead of just deleting your application and leaving you to wonder what happened, I’m going to tell you about the little things that counted against you.

Your query email was clumsily worded, full of errors, and/or downright rude. This isn’t the first day of middle school, when you can expect to do little besides ignore another lecture on cellphones in the classroom. Your formal application starts the minute you click “send.” (Note also that there is no intermediary between you and your potential supervisor. I am my own secretary, admin, and editorial assistant. Your “Hey can you tell me is the job still open?” comes directly to me.)

Your query email is cluttered with e-jargon. I don’t care if you’re sending a smoke signal with a dampened saddle blanket and a pile of smoldering juniper bushes—use correct capitalization and punctuation, a polite and congenial tone, and no BTWs, IMHOs, or emoji. This is book publishing. If you don’t like to use words, why did you apply for a job using words?

Your resume has errors. You’re not applying to be an engineer, a graphic designer, or a farrier. You are applying to be a whip of written language. For the love of all that is holy, proof your resume the old-fashioned way, reading it from the last word backward to the first. Check for flawless consistency in subheads and list items. Remember that the past tense of “to lead” is not spelled like an element in the periodic table.

Your filenames show that attention to detail is not a compulsion for you. Editing is all details. Does it matter to the fate of the world that your resume is saved as “b2-rerite.doc.doc”? That your cover letter contains tracked changes? Yes. Yes it does. Written errors and ugliness will precipitate the End Times.

You used nine spaces and a tab to center your name in your resume. There’s a reason the ad called for resumes to be docs rather than PDFs: to test your formatting knowhow. You’ll be editing hundreds of manuscripts in Word, then styling and prepping each one for typesetting or the Web. Am I supposed to take you seriously if you don’t understand about paragraph formatting?

You pasted your heavily formatted resume in an email, and the formatting went haywire in the transmission. Surely you know an em-dash might turn into a question mark in the body of an email, that fonts and indentations may not hold, that firewalls and embedded graphics don’t mix. Surely you know how to create a clean, coherent resume in plain text, if needed. Surely you know these things.

My email inviting you for an interview was bounced back because your inbox was full. Good heavens.

I said, “Please return the copyediting test by noon tomorrow.” You replied, “Sure!” And then you sent it to me eight days later.

You used words like “utilize” and “implement.”

You didn’t Google yourself or otherwise sweep your online footprints. I don’t mind that your Facebook profile pic is a bare arse superimposed on a full moon, I really don’t. Or that a search for your name yields the details of your sex life on your significant other’s blog. It’s not the content that bothers me; it’s your questionable judgment.

Your blog entries are full of errors. If you’d represent yourself, your writing, so poorly, how are you going to represent this company?

So, cancel the angry reply you were planning. Refrain from telling me it wasn’t your fault that the resume template screwed up the bullets, or that I don’t have your font on my computer. Don’t argue, using poorly spelled and punctuated language, that you have excellent grammar and spelling. Instead, delete my self-indulgent, crotchety email, and go read something worthwhile.