"Muddiness is not merely a disturber of prose, it is also a destroyer of life, of hope: death on the highway caused by a badly worded road sign, heartbreak among lovers caused by a misplaced phrase in a well-intentioned letter, anguish of a traveller expecting to be met at a railroad station and not being met because of a slipshod telegram."
To this list I would add the missed networking connection or opportunity to prove that you're right for a job because you failed to explain in an email that that's what you're looking for. "Think of the tragedies that are rooted in ambiguity, and be clear!"
Every week I receive an email or two from hopeful applicants looking for a job or an internship at my company. What astounds me is when an applicant fails to simply state that that's what he/she wants. He/she will tell me a little bit about him/herself, and will attach a resumé, but I'll be left wondering whether he/she is interested in an internship, a job or just career advice.
As the author of this blog, I also receive many queries about the magazine industry, with editor wannabes sending bios and resumés my way. But likewise, sometimes I have no idea what they're asking for. Do they want me to make an introduction? Do they think I'm a hiring agency? Do they want me to do a resumé critique? (I don't do this, by the way, so don't ask.)
Unless you clearly tell me why you're contacting me, I can't help you. And usually I won't be bothered to reply and ask you to clarify. Just like any other hiring manager, HR professional or editor to whom you're sending your resumé, I'm just going to hit Delete.
Do yourself a favour so your email doesn't end up in the trash: be clear!
Corinna vanGerwen is a freelance editor and writer. She has worked as senior editor at Style at Home, senior design editor at Cottage Life and is the former Canadian Director of Ed2010. She has also held the position of operations manager at a boutique PR agency, where she handled strategic planning and daily operations.