When I started my first magazine job in 2014, one of my new coworkers told me that I should develop my editor’s voice. He said that it would probably evolve organically, but that I should also think about how I wanted to present myself to the writers with whom I would be corresponding. And then he gave me a few templates from his own emails to work from.
I call it my “editor’s voice,” but you could call it your “writer’s voice” or “correspondence voice.” It’s the tone and phrasing I use when I communicate with people via email.
Have you ever received an email response that was curt and closed off? Maybe there wasn’t a greeting, or the sentences were brusque. I am always less likely to respond to emails like this because they aren’t inviting; I don’t feel like the person on the other end wants to hear from me.
Because so much of our work is conducted over email, I think it’s easy for us to forget that we’re dealing with people. And, because so much context can be lost in emails, it’s easy for a tone or phrase to be misconstrued.
Here’s an example of an email I would send to ask a writer to approve some article edits:
Thanks so much for your article. I really liked [xxx] about it.
I have a few edits for you (see attached). Can you please take a look and let me know if you’re okay with them? I also included a couple notes in bold where I think you could clarify some details.
And, can you send me a short bio note as well?
Please get back to me by [date], and let me know if you have any questions.
I’ve sent a variation of this email dozens of times. If I’m sending substantive edits to a novel, I will also include a short explanation of what I edited and why in the email. For me, it’s important to be open and friendly, but clear and direct in my correspondence with writers.
My first impression of writers, and writers’ first impressions of me, often come through email. I want writers to feel comfortable with me as their editor before they even look through my notes on their work, so I endeavour to be approachable and professional in my emails. Having a voice like this also means that I sound consistent (and, as a plus, I’ve got emails ready to go in my head).
Take a look at your correspondence with other writers, editors, agents, publishers. How do you come across? Are you too casual or too stiff? And, most importantly, do you sound like someone you’d want to work with? Maybe it’s time to think about developing your own voice.