Learn How to be a Columnist

Maureen Dowd. William Safire. Ed Anger. Columnists all. You Can Write A Column by Monica McCabe Cardoza offers straightforward advice for the novice or the pro: from deciding what type of column you”d like to write to staying sharp as a working columnist to collecting your printed columns into book form.

Here are some exercises for you to use whether you already write a column or aspire to do so.

1. Next time you”re reading a magazine unrelated to your column”s subject, skim the article for words related to your area of expertise. For example, if you write a column on woodworking, train your eyes to find words related to that subject. You just might see a profile of U.S. senator in the political magazine George that mentions his love of woodworking. Consider using an interview with the senator as a topic for your column.

2. Generate three column topics based on article in a magazine unrelated to your column”s subject.

3. Try writing a controversial column. You won”t necessarily submit it to an editor, but it will give you a feel for whether you have a knack for handling this area of writing. Consider your audience and whether it would be put off by your writing or entertained by it. If you”d rather not write a controversial column or feel your audience wouldn”t tolerate it, try writing a column about a controversial topic. Approach it as a neutral observer and offer both sides of the controversy.

4. Read two or three of your columns and judge whether they sound the way you sound when you”re speaking in a comfortable setting. Oftentimes, a writerespecially one working under a tight deadline-will come off as stiff and authoritative rather than relaxed and confident.

Learn more about You Can Write A Column ($12.99).

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