Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Please respond?


What is it about the phrase "please respond" that makes me want to jump up and down on the delete key?


I recently received an email from a writer that included this phrase. It was not a follow up email, or a continuation of a conversation. It was the first I'd ever heard from them.


It was all I could do not to set it on fire and snarl as it burned.


But that response seemed a trifle ....err... overwrought.


But, I couldn't put my finger on exactly why


I know many agents now use no-response-means-no, so I can understand the frustration of not hearing back on a query.  But I'm not one of those agents. I do reply to most of the queries I receive.


So my annoyance started with the implied assumption that I had to be told to respond.


Once I realized that, clarity dawned. I hate being told what to do. Particularly by someone who doesn't have a spot in my chain of command so to speak.  Clients can tell me what to do, particularly if I'm asking them to make choices about something.  My sisters can tell me what to do without me setting things on fire.  And FDNY can tell me to quit setting my hair on fire without much pushback from me.


But someone I don't know (and now don't want to) doesn't have standing.


I'm 89.76% positive this writer did not know how poorly please respond would be received. It might be a phrase they have to use in their work lives. (Which begs the question is this a phrase you EVER want to use?)


But here in a query, not a good choice.


Are there any phrases that just set your teeth on edge? Do you know why? Please respond.


Mister Furkles said...

For one, it indicates the writer did not investigate your agency well enough to know you do respond. Then it also bespeaks of a form query. And it also says the writer lumps all agents into a homogeneous lot. It's a poor way to broach what could be, if successful, a personal business relationship.

Perhaps AAR should suggest a standard rejection form response: "Thank you bla bla bla not right for my list." That is not personal but better than wondering whether there will ever be a response.

Timothy Lowe said...

Reminds me of the e-mails we receive at work with the subject line PLEASE READ, the implication being nobody reads the other ones.

Of course, in a work environment, where such messages are (usually) higher priority, they do get read more quickly.

"Thanks for your time" is really something you don't want to mess with as a closing. No reason to shoot yourself in the foot over something so stupid, especially when the hill is so steep to begin with.

(Yet) another thing to consider if you're gearing up to query in 2023.

Colleen said...

A colleague has an email away message that states: "I will get back to you at my earliest convenience."

I believe she is intending to say that she will respond as soon as she is able. However, her wording comes across as pretentious. I picture a queen on a thrown talking to her subjects. Yet, I know this person would be mortified to realize anyone thinking this about her. She is not at all that type of person - but I wonder what people who don't know her think when they see that message.

TJB said...

"Thank you in advance," is one that always bothers me. Why not just thank me now and again later when you receive what it is you've requested? Also, we both know that this request is arriving before my response. It doesn't need to be spelled out.
Alas, these are the woes of the day job.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I'll preface this by saying it's a years-old aversion, not recent. But I realized at some point that I hate the phrase "let that sink in." I could already agree with what you're saying! I might already know what you're talking about! But then to finish it with that just sours the whole thing for me, it just feels (to me) so smug and pedantic.

Thank you for giving this theater to air our woes

(and I apologize to anybody at the reef who uses/has used this phrase, it isn't personal, I'm not trying to get myself banishéd)

Kregger said...

I'm going to amplify TJB's comment.

The "Thank you in advance...for your cooperation, or ...doing whatever, when included in a legal demand from a lawyer, is an attempt to insert themselves above you in the food chain.

I tried this strategy back at a lawyer who fired the first salvo...needless to say, it didn't go over well.

Craig F said...

One of my hobbies is cooking, and I am not bad at it; so I comment on screwed up recipes and how to make them work.

Nowadays most of those food bloggers want you to sign in to comment. Then they start sending you unsolicited e-mails.

The peeve of it is when they demand that you tell them yes or no about buying their awful recipe books, when it came to you unsolicited.

Steve Forti said...

I'm 100% off topic, (well, "thank you in advance for forgiving me for being off-topic") but felt like sharing. I just hit "The End" on the first draft of my latest book. Feels good. Plenty of holes and notes of craptastic stuff to go back and revise over and over and over again in the coming months. But that met my goal of a complete draft by end of the year. So yay.

Karen McCoy said...

Maybe related, but for me, it's coworkers who constantly ask, "Did you check your email?" Er, no...I have better things to do than constantly check my email, especially during times I don't work.

Funny story--another coworker said that their boss asked, "Did you check your email?" only to find out that the boss had forgot to hit "send." Tee hee.

Karen McCoy said...

@Jennifer--if you dislike that phrase, don't look up what Elon Musk brought to Twitter on his first day, lol.

Katja said...

They might not mean to tell you at all what to do. They might beg you because they have poured everything into their manuscript and query letter, and just wish to be acknowledged even if it's a form rejection. I have sympathy.

John Davis Frain said...

One phrase that usually has me shaking in my shoes is "Welcome to Carkoon," usually followed by maniacal laughter and the distant echo of gnashing teeth.

Please don't respond.

Aside to Steve Forti, Congratulations. That's always a beautiful moment.

Shah Kou said...

It's a fine line we walk when we're communicating with others we don't know personally. I myself struggle with this. I don't want to come off as cold or unfriendly or ungrateful, but also don't want the recipient of my words to think I consider us instant best-buddies (or even colleagues) after one piece of correspondence. I have such a fear of being viewed as a creepy stalker (coz I've seen what those guys look like and they're SCARY) that I've been guilty of trying to explain that I'm not one in E-mails, which um, er, makes me actually seem like one:):):)
On another note, if I were a literary agent I would absolutely hate the phrase "I look forward to hearing from you". Maybe it's just me, and maybe I'm being overly-precious...but this seems so presumptuous and arrogant.

Dena Pawling said...

In my day job [I'm an attorney], I use "please respond" when I'm sending my 347th follow-up email to opposing counsel, usually when attempting to settle a case in the face of crickets with a trial date looming. I use "thank you for your anticipated cooperation" when drafting demand letters, which I address to "Dear Jane Doe" [person's full name] to avoid any potential pronoun problems.

Karen - I intensely dislike when clients send me an email and then immediately call my office to inquire whether I received it.

Congrats Steve Forti!

Shah Kou said...

Here's my damned second post again...gotta stop doing this. But, if I were a literary agent, rather than: "I look forward to hearing from you", I would prefer: "I look forward to your form rejection at your earliest convenience". DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT ADVISING THAT ANYONE SIGN OFF ON THEIR QUERY THIS WAY. I AM NOT A LITERARY AGENT (I AM NOT EVEN A PUBLISHED AUTHOR).

Laura Stegman said...

Someone already got to "at my earliest convenience" before I did, but I have another one that goes like this: Person A emails to ask a question. Person B (that would be me) responds with the answer. Person A replies, "That makes sense." Which I find incredibly annoying and pretentious, since not only did I not ask what they thought, but I also don't CARE. Frankly, I wouldn't need a reply at all.

Speaking of which -- not sure how many others will agree with me on this other one, but with an overflowing in box, I don't need a "You're welcome" reply to every "Thank you."

I could go on.

NLiu said...

Steve Forti ME TOO!!! it's such a wonderful feeling to finish a first draft! I'm trying to contain myself around the normal people but I know all you Reef denizens will understand if I emit an ear-splitting hoorah!

(P.S. I want beta readers! YA Fantasy. Urmina is at magic school hiding from an evil regime. When the regime's spies turn up and start probing, she has to decide if it's riskier to join them or run. Unfortunately, the only person who can help her is the guy she loathes... My email's under my blogger profile.)

A phrase I hate: the Chinese phrase “是这样......” (shì zhè yàng “It's like this..."). Always used to preface bad news: Shì zhè yàng pregnant women aren't allowed in the pool. Shì zhè yàng you need a covid test to go into there. Etc. Also sounds pretentious. (I sense a theme here.)

Donnaeve said...

Wow - these responses were great!

Confession: I am guilty of using, Thanks in advance - when I'm asking for someone to look into a problem. Ooops.

I think part of the annoyance with this might be some of this is old corporate speak. I don't like "think outside the box." My old, now bankrupt and long gone company was notorious for this phrase, and even gave out AWARDS made of gold wire, with a ridiculous little man sitting on something like a seesaw contraption - floating in the air, outside of a gold wire box. (if you can picture it) I had one. Woohoo. No idea where it is now.

Also, your "I don't like to be told what to do," comment to the "please respond," made me immediately think, my TWIN!!!

Lastly, b/c this is really longwinded, that request (demand?) is as obvious and as telling as the sentence of a book you shared out here once - I think you asked for a full from this author, or knew someone who had.

The character had dialed 911 and said, "Hi, how are you?" Remember that??? Very telling.

Hope all the Reefers have a great holiday!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

@Karen I did see that! It did nothing for my disposition towards the phrase! XD

Becca said...

It sounds better in French: "Répondez s'il vous plaît". ak.a. R.S.V.P., which means, of course, "please respond" but sounds (to my USA-ian ears) fancier. I agree, though, even fancied up it is out of place in a query letter since it's more of an invitation-appropriate phrase. Something where one has to know for best planning how many people will be attending.

Other closing phrases that get a knee-jerk snark reaction from me (I am, however, guilty of using all of these at one time or another): "I look forward to hearing from / working with you / your feedback.", "Thank you for your time / consideration / attention in this matter."

Thank you all for your time! ;)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I'm lovin' these responses. The only one I can remember from my former life as a small business owner, "Thank you for your cooperation." Um, I always thought it odd that they were thanking me for something I had not yet decided to cooperate with.
I went through a stage years ago when I thanked agents/plus any other human being I sent work to, "Thank you for reading this." How lame is that?

Congrats Steve, now you can breathe and enjoy the holidays.

May all fellow reef dwellers have wonderful and fruitful holidays.

Lennon Faris said...

Yeah, that sounds like that person has not had much luck so far...

One of the worst phrases is 'let's unpack this.' It sets my teeth on edge just writing those words. Feels like the person is admitting up front they are about to make something way more complicated than it needs to be (and waste my time by dragging me along). Get to the point and let's move on.

Adele said...

If you send me a normal message and I respond, I have done something in a positive, professional way. If you send me a message and add 'please respond' and I respond, I have now done your bidding. You have taken away my good thing and replaced it with subservience. Now I don't want to respond, but my professional ethics require it so I do but I am way less friendly and accommodating than I would have been if you hadn't annoyed me.

french sojourn said...

On one estate jobsite I was running, I worked ( tried constantly to?) with an Architect that would never (in my eyes.) take responsibility for any of his decisions. When a problem arose due to one of his many decisions he would always qualify his reason with...

"It was my understanding..."

Kae Ridwyn said...

Firstly - that ending, Janet! Oh my :)
Secondly - congratulations Steve and NLiu!
And finally - the phrase which makes me want to set my hair on fire is 'moving forward'.

Steve Forti said...

I know nobody is still reading this old thread, but if we're talking about things that grind our gears... From this morning. If I pre-order a book, and then you decide you want to raise the price of the book? Too bad. You already agreed to sell it to me at the lower price. You don't get to cancel my sale unilaterally. You know what? No, I am not re-purchasing it at the new higher price, just out of spite. I will now wait until it is free at the library. (FYI, I would have paid the higher price if that was the original price, I'm just mad at the bait and switch because we already agreed on a lower price and locked it in. Grrr.)

AJ Blythe said...

Steve, I am only reading now (firstly, congratulations!!) and had no idea that happened! I don't think it has happened to me, but I would totally be on the same page as you.