A recent email exchange with one of my authors:
> ...I got far too many letters from
> prisoners, so a post office box was a necessity.
I get those too!
I always reply personally to those poor guys. Their handwritten hopes for publication just kinda break my heart. A LOT of Sci-Fi writers are in prison.
If we'd been in actual conversation, that third sentence might very possibly have passed unremarked because we both knew what I meant: the majority of query letters coming from a prison address are for SFF books.
But written on the page, it stops the eye (and rightfully so!)
If you'd sent a query letter that said most of your audience was in prison, we'd have a problem. Of course, what you'd meant to say was "lots of prisoners have ordered my book."
When you write, you know what you mean. Your task is to make sure I do too. Whether your reader does is YOUR responsibility. If I don't understand your sentences, that's YOUR problem (generally) not mine.
How to make sure you avoid this problem: other readers. No matter how you get them, it's really important to have a second set of eyes on your manuscript that will catch things like this. Someone who is thin lipped, evil-eyed, and sucks lemons for a living. If you can pay them in lemonade and sauerkraut, so much the better.
Here's the kind of thing Miss Persnikity will catch:
Bale/bail (misuse of found just tonight in a published book!)
How many SFF writers are in prison (or exiled in Carkoon)
I read your manuscript with Miss Persnikity looking over my shoulder. Too many tsks tsks from her and I know you're more careless than the kind of writer I want to work with regularly.
It's not a problem to write this stuff. The problem is when you fail to revise it away.
(and how many revisions are enough? This blog post had seven in three days)