I grew up in California, which means I called my friends’ parents by their first names and no matter where I am and what I’m wearing, I’d rather be wearing jeans. And as you can tell by the way I write the blog, I don’t really worry about formality.
But lately people have been pushing informality in query letters just a tad too far. At the end of the day, while I’m really not a wild and crazy guy, I don’t think of myself as a stickler. Don’t worry about calling me “Mr. Bransford,” even if we’ve never met (“Nathan” is fine). Don’t sweat a typo. And by all means, crack a joke or two.
With your query letter you are proposing that we enter into a business relationship, and breeziness can be taken too far, particularly when it interferes with conveying the tone and spirit of your project. Yes, be funny and cool, but don’t give the impression that you’re taking the query lightly. With me and with other agents, err on the side of formality.
So for instance, do not call me “Nate,” “Nat,” or “Nate Dogg” (and yes, people do this). Don’t use your language casually, unless you’re specifically trying to convey the tone of your project. And if we’ve corresponded before, please don’t assume that I will definitely remember you — include the backup correspondence so I can refresh my memory.
As always, the goal of a query is to give the impression that you are talented and professional. Don’t lose sight of professionalism as you show your talent.
Nate Dogg signing off.