Image of XEditors get hundreds of queries a week. As a freelance writer, you have a few minutes (at best) to capture their attention. Make a great first impression by avoiding these four phrases:

  1. “Dear Editor”

It’ll be hard for an editor to have faith in your ability to track down top-notch experts and find the latest research if you can’t even look up the editor’s name on the magazine’s masthead. If you looked at the masthead and you’re still unclear about who to pitch, pick up the phone, call the magazine and ask. Most editors will send queries addressed “To Whom It May Concern” straight to their trash folder.

2.     “Assign this article or else.”

Yes, this happens. No, it’s not a good idea. Some new writers think that the best way to get an editor is to respond is to offer a threat. I’m not talking about a statement like, “respond to me or kittens will die!” But there are writers who threaten to send their idea to a magazine’s competitor if the editor doesn’t respond by a certain date. Other lines I’ve seen in queries, “If you don’t assign this article, you’ll be sorry” and “You’ll regret not giving me this assignment.” Nobody wants to work with a bully.

3.     “Please, please, please give me this assignment.”

Editors are more inclined to assign stories to pros who pitch great ideas, not writers who beg for work. Including lines like, “I really need the work so if this idea isn’t a fit, I’ll take any assignments you might have,” or “I’ll work for half the regular rate just to get some work on the books,” is equivalent to walking up to a stranger in a bar and asking, “Do you come here often?” In other words, it’s a total turnoff.

4.     “I have no experience but…”

A query is an opportunity to show an editor that you have a brilliant idea and the chops to pull it off. Statements like, “I’ve never been published before but…” or “I don’t know much about the topic but I’m interested in learning” do not belong in a query. Instead, highlight your connection to a topic. When I started freelancing, I pitched articles on making the most of a career fair or acing an interview and let the editor know that I was a former career counselor. Remember, a well written pitch — even for a new writer without clips — is often enough to land the assignment.

You might be thinking, “Seriously, Jodi, no one does this.” I promise you, editors get queries like these All. The. Time. Avoid making the same mistakes and you’ll increase your chances of getting an assignment.