Our Top Ten Tips for Writing a Tip Top Covering Letter


No.5: takemeseriously@sillybilly.co.uk

Today I would like to share a story about something that happened to one of my closest friends. We’ll call her Ellen, because that is her name.

When Ellen was a fresh-faced 14-year-old she decided it was about time she got herself a personal email account. But what to pick for her address? After much careful consideration, she settled on the timeless statement ‘Ellen Forever’. Of course, it being the golden age of text speak she felt she had to tweak it a little to fit in with her peers.

Accordingly, later that day we all received an email from ellen4eva@hotmail.com.

To her credit, she did try to stick with it. If I remember rightly she kept this email address for at least a year. But once the thousandth person had asked her who Eva was she gave up and created a nice sensible account, hoping that the whole debacle could be resigned to the past and thoroughly forgotten.

As you can see her hopes were in vain. We will never forget. And now anyone reading this knows all about it too.

The point is silly email addresses have happened to the very best of us. I myself have an email account which I, in my teenage wisdom, chose to base upon Dr Evil’s infectious laugh. I still employ it to order pizza and other such homely uses where I do not have to worry about anyone judging me.

However, when I started applying for jobs I decided it might not be the best idea to greet potential employers with a maniacal laugh. So I created my own sensibly chosen address.

It takes about ten minutes maximum to create a new account and I would recommend doing so for any serious correspondence. You can even link your silly account with your sensible one if you like, which is what I did.

The problem is, as fun as it might be, if the first thing a literary agent learns about you is that your email address is nippleumbrella@gmail.com then it won’t create the most advantageous impression. As much as it might be an accurate description of yourself badgerface@aol.com just doesn’t say ‘I am taking this seriously’ to the recipient of your email. No matter how well it represents all the quirks and zany personality traits you possess smellybrainfart@me.co.uk is not a good opening line.

If your email address is anything like these make a new one this instant. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s worth it a hundred times over. Something with your full name is ideal. Do it now. It’ll be ten minutes well spent.

While we’re on the subject of making sure that your covering letter lets literary agents know that you are taking your submission seriously I would also like to make a brief point about font.

Curlz Mt and Comic Sans are all very well to brighten up a fun email to friends or a Christmas card to your aunt. A little word art on an invitation to a child’s birthday party never hurt anyone. But maybe keep it away from your covering letter.

I’m afraid that these have the same effect on your submission as including a silly email address does. They just don’t say ‘I am serious about being a writer’. The message they are much more likely to communicate is ‘I spent more time selecting kooky fonts than I did choosing my words’ and if this is not the case make sure you are not communicating it.

Times New Roman or even a cheeky little Arial are much safer choices. Also sticking to normal sized headings and keeping the ink black is a good idea too.

I do not want to imply that we want all your covering letters to be bland and uniform. Not at all. We want to see something unique and individual! We just want to see it in your writing. Not the font your writing is written in.

Do not let the formatting of your covering letter speak for you. Let your words do the talking.

p.s. to the person who submitted to us about six months ago with the email address theangelshavethephonebox@genericemailprovider.com, I’m letting you off as an exception to the rule on account of you being brilliant. But you’re the only one. No silly email addresses on important emails. Starting from now.

By Vicki Le Feuvre

One Comment Add yours

  1. Ha, love this post! As they say, it’s funny ’cause it’s true.

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