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Lose my respect, Baby.

Something seems a little off...
What’s goin’ on over here?

When I’m reading submissions for a magazine, there are a couple easy ways to lose my respect as a reader:

#1: If you’re writing poetry and the first letter of each line is capitalized, I’m already judging you more harshly.

#2: If you use the wrong form of “there,” “their,” or “they’re,” or other such careless typos, my nose is wrinkling.

I’m not saying, if you do either of the above things, that I won’t read your submission, I’ll just make that face that says, “I don’t know about this guy,” while I’m reading it, which, come on, isn’t gonna help you get your piece accepted.

Submitting to Oranges and Sardines recently, I learned Didi Menendez can’t take poems seriously that are centered on the page.

As readers of slush piles, as I know many of you are, what makes you immediately suspicious of the quality of a piece of work you’re reading?

Maybe if we get them all out in the open, we can all love each other.

12 thoughts on “Lose my respect, Baby.

  1. I’m a fiction editor at Identity Theory and several things make me suspicious. Scanned stories sent in as attachments (makes me think this story has been floating around for years). Cover letters that attempt to explain the story. Excessive typos (each one stings; too many, and I go numb). Excessive exposition. Stories where nothing unusual happens.

    If the piece lags and sags in the beginning, I’m unlikely to get into the piece at all, unlikely to finish. There’s just too many things to read.

  2. I’m not saying you’re wrong to have prejudices, but: #1 is bullshit. Defaulting the other way is no different. It doesn’t indicate a poem is unconsidered and if you assume it does, you’re doing a disservice to the WHOLE UNIVERSE.

    I rarely see centered poems that aren’t laughably bad, but that does not at all hinder me from seeing one that’s good. For isReads I once accepted a poem from Jac Jemc that was centered: http://baltimoreisreads.com/images/target8.html.

  3. OK. But the capitalization at the beginning of the line thing just screams to me, “Microsoft Word capitalized this, and I figured, ‘Whatever! Do whatcha want, Word!'”

    It just means the writer’s really gonna have to work for it with the actual things they’re writing. Like I said, I keep reading. I don’t click the ‘reject’ button right away.

    It’s just preference. I’m the same way when I’m introduced to someone and they seem loud and like they’re talking too fast to actually hear anything I say to them. It doesn’t mean I won’t eventually be friends with that person; it just means my immediate inclination is not to.

    But then, I’m a grumpy old lady at heart, so maybe this post has a little too much of that in it.

    And, Adam, you’re sweet.

  4. as an undergrad i stubbornly wrote poetry with each line capitalized. i grew more stubborn in this practice the more it annoyed my poetry professor. then to really throw him off i started doing all sorts of ridiculous things with punctuation, spelling, capitalization, just to get him mad and off course during workshop days.

    i’m mature.

    but back to the question. things that make me suspicious:

    misspelling the journal to which you’ve submitted.

    listing fifty (literally) publication credits. especially when that’s the entire cover letter.

    if the first line of dialogue sounds like a bad Dickens knock-off I also tend to start worrying.

  5. ryan:

    love the answer man. i do that shit too. everytime a poetry prof told me what he hated or thought was bad, id be sure to include it in my next poem. ahhhh. good times.

    things that make me suspicious:

    bios and coverletters. what are they for really?

    1. thanks barry, this prof was particularly douche-y so i spent a lot of my time devising ways to annoy him… especially after he told me i should give up writing poetry

  6. Regarding Rule #1:

    I am confused by this. I think I know what you’re getting at, but what about “poems” that are written in sentences, where each sentence begins with a capitalized letter?

    Are you talking about people who use line breaks and then allow Word to automatically capitalize letters that shouldn’t be capitalized?

    Are there other exceptions to this statement?

  7. I’m cool with sentences. Yeah – I’m talking lazy Word capitalization.

    Sure there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. There are awesome poems with capitalized-first-letter-lines. I’m just saying I’m a little suspicious of these initially.

    “Lose my respect” was hyperbole.

    1. Yeah, I picked up on the exaggeration. The internet’s being sans tone is a problem for me.

      I think my question about exceptions was supposed to be rhetorical, but it didn’t come off that way.

      Sans tone.

      The capitalization thing gave me lots to think about, so just wanted to let you know.

  8. Henry Fool by Hal Hartley, before his falling off. The scene where he describes the difference between their, there, and they’re. “There are the doughnut people” Hilarious.

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