Columbia, MO – As a columnist and copywriter, I am often asked how I got into this job. The truth be told, I wrote letters, lots of letters, to the editor. Over two years, both of the Columbia Missouri dailies printed every entry with two exceptions. (Both were supporting issues in local elections and did not make deadline.)
This is a follow-up to an earlier blog titled “So You Want More Attention” https://inkandvoice.wordpress.com/2010/02/04/so-you-want-more-attention/
Allow me a moment to share with you. Here are “10 Rosman Rules for Commentary and Editorial Writing.”
- Rule # 1 – Read other commentaries and learn from the best. Get or read the N.Y. Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer. Do not rule out USAToday, weekly news magazines, and e-papers like The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast and other legitimate blog sites. What makes them legit? They have editors who conduct fact checks and fix the “spelink” mistakes.
- Rule # 2 – Join the newspaper groups and writing groups on LinkedIn and other social networking sites. Ask for their critiques of your work. Connect with those who show interest, positive or negative.
- Rule # 3 – Opinion columns (and good story writing) are different from news columns, however require the same research and digging. My editors at the Columbia Missourian, the flagship for the University of Missouri, School of Journalism, are taught the three rules of editing: Fact check, fact check, fact check.
- Rule # 4 – Edit, edit, edit. I am very pleased to say that my work for the NY Journal of Books have been put up without corrections (other than an occasional spelik error – I have dyslexia and do not see the errors all the time). Even my emails are written in Word and edited before posting.
- Rule # 5 – “First, Break All of the Rules.” I loved this book. Do not worry about fragmented sentences or passive voice if you are trying to make a point. I use two and three word statements as an emphasis and have never been gigged for that practice.
- Rule # 6 – Do not always attack the other side. Critical thinking and listening is most important for the columnist or commentator. Though I am a dyed in the wool liberal, the conservatives do have something positive to say occasionally. Not often, but…
- Rule # 7 – Do not take criticism personally. The people who are “mad at you” are really angry about the topic, stance or position you have chosen. Unless they attack you personally (which has happened), laugh. If they do attack you personally, just ignore. Respond to most of the emails you receive.
- Rule # 8 – SW, SW, SW, N. This is an old business pithy – “Some will, some won’t, so what, next.” I have enough rejection slips to wallpaper a small bathroom. I also have copies of the checks received for my first two paid commentaries. Focus on the positive.
- Rule # 9 – Use the AP Style Manual. This is the base for all papers and legitimate web news sites. If you get a regular gig, then get the style manual specific to that outlet.
- Rule # 10 – Never think outside of the box – There is nothing there. Think in different boxes. Look at your target subject from another vantage point. If you get stuck, ask a five-year old. They know everything. No one has ever told them “no, you cannot think that way.” Teenagers think they know everything, but do not. When you have gray hair you know you know nothing and are learning less every day.
There are a lot more “Rosman Rules,” but this will do for now. The biggest rule I do observe and the “mother of all Rosman Rules” is this:
Nothing is as hard as it seems; but everything is harder than it looks.”
David Rosman is professional speaker, an award winning editor and writer, and a college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and The New York Journal of Books.