They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Looking back on my life, I realize that I have thus unknowingly become an expert in 3 areas:
- Waffle making/eating
- Puppy snuggling
- Getting rejected
As a writer, I spend a lot of time getting rejected.
As an incredibly self-conscious and shy person, this was a well-thought-out career choice for me. I’m kind of like a sky-diver who’s afraid of heights:
“Whoa, hey! Aren’t we awfully high up? You know what, I’ve decided I’m not going to jump out here. Why don’t you go ahead and land the plane and then I’ll jump. Probably. Depending on how tall your landing gear is.”
But I figure all these rejection letters I get have to be good for something, other than drying my tears. So I thought I would use my expert knowledge to dissect the anatomy of a rejection letter so that you can learn how to write and/or read a heartbreaking rejection letter.
Your average rejection letter consists of 4 parts: the polite intro (for getting hopes up), the actual rejection, the explanation (or “twisting of the knife”), and lastly, the salutation.
I’m going to work backwards and start with the salutation.
When writing a salutation for a rejection letter, you should make it as generic as possible. You want to express through generalization that this person is not worth the six seconds of your time that it would take to type their name.
A good way to open a rejection letter is: “Dear Sir and/or Madam”.
This sort of opening says “I can’t even take the time to discern your gender, let alone your name.” This is a strong opening that knocks the recipient down, thus making them more convenient to kick later.
Next comes the polite intro. Say lots of positive things to make them start to wonder if this really is a rejection.
“Thank you for your submission. It was incredibly well received and we were all so glad that you chose to submit it to us. I mean, it was one of the best submissions we ever had! YOU ARE AMAZING!”
Then you zing them with the actual rejection. This part has to open with “unfortunately” because this makes it seem like the rejection is completely out of your hands.
“Unfortunately, our company was recently taken over by alien overlords who have forbidden us to take your submission. Also, we hate you.”
Of course, you don’t have to include the part about hating them. That is always implied.
Now you offer a half-explanation of why you have decided not to accept the submission.
“Due to things being the way they currently are, your submission is not right for us. We’re not saying it’s bad. We’re saying you’re bad. Please understand that clearly. As for your submission, we’re only saying it MIGHT be bad. Or it might be really good and we might actually be rejecting it because of our vague excuse. You’ll never know! Bua ha ha ha ha!”
How long you want the evil laugh to go on is up to you.
In salutation, let me say “Dear Sir, Madam, or Current Resident”.