Friday, February 16, 2018

Is Snickering at Bad Query Letters Ableist?

I read a newsletter aimed at writers.  Every once and a while, the editor posts snippets of the worst query letters she receives (names redacted).  The sections are generally quite error-laden, and readers seem to like it.

A few months ago, the editor received an email saying the feature was, among other things, highly ableist. The person went on to say people with disabilities don't often type well (through no fault of their own) and poking fun at typos and the like was horrid.  The editor maintains she has no idea who is disabled and who isn't... she's just showing the most outrageous segments.  The person concluded by saying everyone needs to have their voice heard.

First, let me take the last point:  Just because there should be a place for everyone to share their thoughts, doesn't mean an editor should accept everything given to him/them/her.  If that were the case, some of the best literary magazines in the country owe me space in their issues.  Editors reject things for all sorts of reasons.

One of the reasons most editors reject a submission is because it has too many errors.  I don't mean dealing with a misplaced comma or errant homophone, either.  If there are so many errors that fixing a piece would require significant time, people are likely to skip it.  The next submission might be a good fit for the publication and sans typos.

Part of being a writer is having an understanding of grammar and spelling.  Everyone makes mistakes but, when we're submitting to a publication, we are attempting to show we're professionals (or reasonable facsimiles).  Our disabilities do not exempt us from this, though being in our own spaces (like on Twitter, our blogs, etc.) tends to be more relaxed.

Is it ableist for an editor to share (and poke fun at) badly-written query letters?  In my opinion... no.  Is it the best choice she could make?  I probably wouldn't do it, but it isn't my publication.

What do you think?  Is it ableist to post those queries?  Am I wrong to say it isn't?  Should disabled people be held to different standards when submitting?

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