Do’s, Don’ts, and Editors

Updated: Nov 13th, 2009

Working with editors is easy, right? After all, don’t you just submit something to them and they print it?

With that thought in mind, you will probably never see your name in print. Working with editors can be easy. Remember…they have a job to do and so do you. If you do your job well, they can do theirs. It’s that simple.

Now, how do you do your job well? Follow these simple rules and you will be well on your way to seeing that byline.

FIRST, the “Don’ts”:

Rule # 1: Don’t Screw Up An Editor’s Name.

Naturally, editors also get very grouchy if you misspell their name or you address your cover note to their predecessor of five years ago. This reveals that you’re not up-to-date with the publication. Bingo! That’s one rejection slip in the bag already.

Rule # 2: Don’t Make An Editor Guess How To Contact You.

Ensure your full name and contact details are easy to find.

What ever you do, don’t leave the editor guessing who the heck Babs is with an e-mail

Most editors receive hundreds of articles each week…and they certainly don’t keep a writer’s introductory letter in a scrapbook. Now, leaving out this vital information might not result in obtaining one of those prized rejection slips, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your story will remain unpublished…probably forever.

Rule # 3: Don’t Write Like A Dunce.

Spell check, and then spell check again.

One editor says she immediately rejects a manuscript when seeing the word “accomodation” instead of “accommodation.”

All computers have a spell-check. So make sure you use it. Always. Then check again.

Rule # 4: Don’t Use Clichés!

If you start off your story by describing a place as “a paradise,” “an Eden,” or the most beautiful, or a region’s “best-kept secret”, you are looking for a rejection slip.

The phrase “When we told friends we were going to XXXX, they said we were crazy!” is also likely to see your story heading straight for the trash can.

Using clichés invariably results in automatic rejection. If you’re in search of rejection slips, here’s another thing to note: Most editors also abhor “azure-blue waters,” villages that “nestle” and trade winds that “caress.”

Rule # 5: Don’t Ignore A Publication’s Past Articles.

Pay attention to how recently a publication might have run a story on the same destination you are looking to write. Pitch a query or submit an article on a recently featured destination and here comes the rejection.

Again, it clearly shows that you don’t read the publication. Last month’s cover feature focused on California’s National Parks… and along comes your story on exactly the same theme. Excellent rejection slip material!!

Rule # 6: Don’t Ignore A Publications Guidelines.

Guidelines are for ALL writers. Think you don’t need to get the magazine’s Writer’s Guidelines before submitting that 12-part series of 5000-word articles about your three-month trek across the Gobi Desert?

If you’d read, and followed the guidelines, you’d know the editor doesn’t accept personal journey stories. And that all articles run to 1,200 words, maximum.

Rule # 7: Don’t Be Impatient.

Realize your story might not be acknowledged immediately.

Editors do not appreciate abusive phone calls. In fact, they generally don’t want to be harassed by any phone calls.

It may be six weeks or eight weeks before you hear back about your story on the best fish in New Orleans. So don’t even think about calling at frequent intervals after you sent it.

Rule # 8: Don’t Try To Second-Guess An Editor.

Understand editors know their audience and what it takes to have a successful travel section. They really don’t want to hear how you are the one to improve it.

In fact, the editor undoubtedly does not want to hear why shoestring travelers like you believe the publication’s regular feature on Five Star hotels is a waste of space.

Rule # 9: Don’t Live (or write) In The Past.

Keep your subject and stories up to date.

I’m sure if you submit an article with the title “Berlin Wall Falls”, you haven’t got a prayer of selling this story. It’s not timely to any publication at this date.

Rule # 10: Don’t Write A Long Cover Letter.

It’s better to limit your information in your cover letter.

A blow-by-blow account of everything in your travel article is another sure-fire rejection slip move.

Rule # 11: Don’t Be A Negative Nelly

Positive, not negative writing is what most editors are looking for.

“10 reasons not to go to New York” is a sure-fire loser. “The worst places to stay in San Jose” is right up there, too. Stress how the natives are unfriendly, the food is sickening, and the accommodations are all over priced and bordering on pits. Works every time…rejections are coming in now.

Stay Tuned! Coming Wednesday are the Top 9 “Do’s” for improving your chance of getting published!

About Wendy VanHatten 11 Articles

Wendy VanHatten left the corporate world to become a professional freelance travel writer and author. In addition she is an editor, travel business owner, author of a variety of published books, and photographer.

Currently, Wendy is writing several books on such topics as women and success, positive travel experiences, and recipes combined with destinations.  She continues to write several times a week on her blog Her website,, features sample articles, photos, services and links, and her newest ebook can be found at



  1. Great post. Editors are busy people, it’s best to “pitch” your idea and get to the point!

  2. Gotta love #1. It’s bad enough that there are many people who do not use spellchecker! I can just imagine how many people misspell an editor’s name. Classic…

  3. These are great tips. I think it’s a good idea to read the articles of a publication. It’s best to know what editors are looking for. It will save you headaches in the long run :)

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