Worst. Pitch. Ever.

Typos happen. It’s a fact of life, as certain as death, taxes and that the runner-up on American Idol will do better than the winner.

As an editor, you have to develop a tolerance level or risk multiple ulcers over every “Your welcome.” Professional writers, even diligent ones, will commit typo crimes.

But once in a while you get an e-mail so egregious, you want to douse your pile of style guides with gasoline and light a match. Or turn it into a teachable moment.

This e-mail I received the other day is remarkable because in two brief paragraphs the writer manages to butcher the English language, propose a nonsensical idea and forever alienate a potential income source.

Could this be the worst pitch ever?

I polled four colleagues (three editors and a writer) for their thoughts. I got one “OMG,” one “WTF?” and one “I’m weeping.” The fourth couldn’t choke any words out past his laughter.

I reproduce it here exactly as it appeared in my in-box – in all its unpunctuated, ungrammatical glory (name omitted to protect the woefully illiterate).

Note how the all-important subject line – the writer’s chance to make a splashy first impression – is rendered useless because it’s too long and cryptic. It went downhill from there.

From: [name of writer]

Subject: Sometime contributor [name of writer] has a story about vampire effect on condo owners in this year’s civic election

Hi [name of writer] here

I am an occassion contributor to [name of my paper]. Usually I write about travel for the paper. I also write about Condos. Usually for [competitor paper]. Have been in the Florida Keys for 10-days, my wife and I were booked into the world’s only underwater hotel. Not much to do there but dive and write condo stories. No phone or email underwater.

Got back yesterday. Have a story about how this may be the year that Toronto condo owners flex their muscles at the ballot box. Reference to vampires is because wanna be politicians can’t canvas in condos unless they are invited in?

High time sensitive. Would you be interested in taking a look.

Final tally:

• Sentences: 13
• Spelling errors: 4
• Punctuation errors: 7
• Usage errors: 2

I’ve taken out my metaphorical red pencil, so we can examine all the ways this is all kinds of awful.

Spelling

occassion = occasion*
Condos = condos
wanna be = wannabe
canvas = canvass

*But see usage errors below for why this would still be incorrect.

Punctuation

Hi [name of writer] here If, in addition to the header, the subject line and the signature, an introduction is really necessary, this should be: Hi. [Name] here.

Have been in the Florida Keys for 10-days, my wife and I were booked into the world’s only underwater hotel. I suppose I’m meant to be impressed by this gratuitous information about his globe-trotting. I’d be more impressed if he’d made this into two sentences.

Reference to vampires is because wanna be politicians can’t canvas in condos unless they are invited in? Um, are you asking me?

Would you be interested in taking a look. This is a question, right?

time sensitive The hyphen is missing here – but oh, look, it’s hiding, inexplicably, between 10 and days.

Usage

occasional contributor
highly time-sensitive

Then there are the substantive problems.

Putting aside his overly familiar tone with a complete stranger, his primary premise – that “wannabe politicians,” more commonly called candidates, must be invited into condos – is just plain wrong. There is no such law. In fact, section 118 of this province’s Condominium Act states: “No [condo] corporation or employee or agent of a corporation shall restrict reasonable access to the property by candidates, or their authorized representatives, for election to the House of Commons, the Legislative Assembly or an office in a municipal government or school board if access is necessary for the purpose of canvassing or distributing election material.”

His secondary premise (or is this one his primary?; who can tell?) is illogical. If condo owners choose to flout the law and selectively let candidates in or bar them from the building, how does that translate into more power at the ballot box?

Something they may not teach you in writer school, but that should be exceedingly obvious, is that submerged in the Atlantic Ocean is not a prime setting for crafting articles about condos and municipal elections 1,500 miles away. I have a sneaking suspicion his piece is light on sources or … what’s that other thing called? … oh, yeah, research, considering he had “no phone or email.”

This person is a writer the way “The Situation” is a name: simply because it’s what he calls himself. If he makes a living from writing, I say with no hyperbole that this is an affront to writers everywhere.

To this writer I say: Don’t call you; we’ll call us.


About this entry