Making mistakes.

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by Tim Burdick on 28 February, 2017

Making mistakes.

Before I submit my writing, I check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Then, I print a copy and check spacing, character font and size. After I finish, I give the story to my editor friend and she checks it.

I don’t want to make amateur mistakes and risk my chances with an agent or publisher.

But, last week, the worst happened.

An agent’s assistant contacted me and informed me that my submission was riddled with the letter P's and strange symbols.

So, naturally, I experienced two emotions. First I freaked because I had already sent the letter to several agents. Next, I was confused because I had emailed the letter to several people as a test to see if the email would scramble. Nothing, it arrived fine.

Well, no matter, I reached out to my IT friends and family and these are the suggestions that I got……


Make sure you have rich text turned off in your email software. It can cause problems when going from Mac to PC or vice-versus.


Your mail went through a “dumb” HTML-to-Plain-Text converter (dumb in the technical sense, meaning it simply substituted question marks for non-ASCII-7 characters such as letters with diacritical marks and “smart” quotes – e.g., apostrophes that slant correctly).

Dumb converters abound.

I would take the assistant up on her offer and resubmit your query using plain text (or run it through Hedley,

Presumably, when you say “Hotmail,” you’re referring to a Hotmail account but using to actually format and send your mail. Look in the address bar when you go to Hotmail – it probably says something like (OWA is Outlook Web Access.) Unfortunately, OWA doesn’t let you flag an address as plain text, but once you start a mail, you can click the ellipsis (three dots) at upper left of the new-mail window and select Switch to Plain Text. I would recommend you do that for a re-query to the agent in question.

Finally, why don’t you send me a new mail (start from scratch) using smart quotes, Czech characters with diacritical marks, etc. I’ll see how it comes through on Outlook 2016, at least. And you should see smart quotes (“a”), the Eszet character ß, and various accent marks (ó, ò, ñ) in this mail.


it sounds like you are cutting and pasting documents from word and putting them in hotmail to send out. When you do that you are using the word formatting, but that this formatting is not converting.

I would suggest one of two options.

-send your writing samples as attachments to the emails.

-when you send these writing samples, if you want to put all in the email, then you need to do so in plain text format. This will strip out all the word formatting. Your friend is suggesting that in his email on dumb coverters. The way to do this is to cut and paste your text into an email, click on the three dots above (next to discard), and then scroll down to "switch to plain text." After that you need to re-read the entire email to make sure that all the formatting was changed.

Naturally, I don’t speak computer. So, it took me a day or two, But once I processed these comments. I made the necessary changes. I did a test run. After I got the green light from friends, I went back to submitting.

Making mistakes is natural. But, fixing them is the real trick. Don't let it bother you. Just get back to sending out your query.

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