Author query etiquette 101


question mark imageAim to “please”

Remember when we were kids, and our parents or teachers would remind us to say “please” and “thank you” when we forgot to use good manners? Well, I think a similar practice should apply to us whenever we insert author queries in the files we are editing.
When we remember to say “please” and use a neutral, polite tone in our queries, we send a subtle message to the client that says, “We like you. Thank you for this project.”
And when we go the distance and add end punctuation and use sentence case for all of our queries, we’re simply going to knock their socks off with our ability to provide a professional-level edit throughout the entire document.

4 ways to “please” the author

If I had to pick my top “pleases” for our editors in regard to author queries, they would be as follows:

  1. Please use sentence case and punctuate all sentences or questions in your query. For example: Instead of saying “missing text,” say “Insert missing text.” Or “Please insert missing text.”
  2. Keep the tone neutral. For example: Instead of saying “What table?” Try something like, “Please provide missing table.”
  3. Before querying an undefined acronym, please check the rest of the document, the corporate styleguide, the project style sheet, and this acronym finder, or, for military content, try the Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. In most instances, the spellout will be in one of these places. Saving the client time and frustration is another subtle way of saying “thank you” for the work.
  4. Writers are people, too. Remember this when inserting comments. We want to be helpful, but not preachy. We should simply fix the typos and provide suggestions by way of a comment whenever the meaning is unclear. A simple “Edit OK?” (when you want to be sure you haven’t changed the meaning) or “Meaning is unclear.” (when you have absolutely no idea what they are trying to say) will do the trick.

Thank you.
Diana Ceres is a Senior Editor with Dragonfly Editorial. When she’s not inserting author queries, she’s reading someone else’s. This post was originally published in 2012 and has since been updated.

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