Professional Etiquette for Writers


By Nancy Cochran

Over the last year I've heard more and more about how writers need to learn to be more professional. I really think this is important not only to writers, but to other business professionals.

Yes, writing is a business. One of the things to remember, if you are a full time writer you usually spend a lot of time alone and without daily contact some etiquette can go out the window. We are all guilty of this, sometimes we forget we're not talking to a friend in the privacy of our own homes, or with a spouse, or someone who has no clue what we're really talking about but listens anyway.

Here's a little reminder of some of the most common etiquette items:

Improper Cell Phone Use:

  • If you're at a conference turn the cell phone off or to vibrate, there is nothing more annoying for the speaker and the attendee's is to hear someone's cell phone ringing
  • Turn off the cell phone during an appointment with and editor and/or agent. You wouldn't have your cell phone on during an job interview, would you?
  • Be aware of your surroundings when using your cell phone. How many conversations have you overheard because someone is talking loudly on the cell phone in a public place? Remember at conferences, chapter meetings, writer's events, even the smallest comment can be over heard and misinterpreted.

Professional Image:

  • This doesn't mean you have to go all out in the business suit, it means dressing to impress. Business casual is widely accepted in the writing world, remember when talking to an agent or editor you are basically on a job interview
  • Torn jeans, shorts and dirty sneakers are not a good idea
  • Make sure your clothes are clean and presentable

Be on Time:

  • Make sure you arrive early for your editor/agent appointment
  • For a workshop, if you need to leave early, sit toward the back near the door for lesser disruption to the speaker and the other attendees
  • If you're running late, enter the room as quietly as you can
  • At a writers conference, everyone is away that things overlap, agent/editor appointments fall in the middle of workshop you want to attend, you attend one hour of one workshop then run to another. This is fine, be courteous to all those that are already in the room including the speaker
  • If you arrive late and registration or another part of the conference is closed, ask politely if someone can help you. Do not demand or make a scene, nothing turns other people off quicker than making a scene.


  • I'm not taking about dictation; I'm talking about cursing or profanity. Be aware of your surroundings, the use of profanity or cursing may offend someone else. As well as the telling of off-color jokes


  • In a formal setting where you are meeting the person for the first time, offer a firm handshake. This is important when meeting an editor or agent.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

  • You may speak perfectly, say all the right things, but if someone sees you making faces, acting silly because you've had too much to drink, or simply acting out, that could affect how that person views you. Remember that actions are just as critical as words

Listen Attentively

  • When you're in a workshop, keep the whispering to your neighbor to a minimum
  • If you need to urgently speak with someone, take it outside the room
  • Don't interrupt when someone is speaking

I'm sure there are more than what I've listed here, but these are the most common. At a writer's conference you are around large diverse groups of people and not everyone views the world the way you do.

Past articles

The Writer's Support Group
I Just Want to Write the Book
Are Writing Goals Important?

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