How to Write an Advice Column
How to Write an Advice Column
Benjamin Franklin once said,"Wise men don't need advice. Fools won't take it." That may be true, but most of us love to give advice. It is one of those commodities rarely in short supply. Like political speeches.
Do you ever read the Advice Column in your local newspaper? I do. Since I have spent much of my professional career giving advice, in one form or another, I believe I am eminently qualified to write an advice column. So I recently embarked on a new career as an Advice Columnist. I have tons of knowledge to share since I am older than soil – that came before dirt, you know.
Clock wise from top to bottom: Ann Landers (Eppie Lederer)
Pauline Phillips (Abigail Van Buren - Dear Abby)
Jeanne Phillips (current Dear Abby - Pauline's daughter)
Do you see a resemblance between Ann and Abby? They were twins.
Although we love to give advice, we are not always receptive to receiving it. For that reason, there are two rules you might want to use when you give advice:
Rule Number One - Do not tell others what to do. Instead, suggest! For example, do not use these phrases:- you must ... you have to ... you should ... do it this way.
Instead, use phrases like: Have you considered ... Would you like to try ... You might want to ... or Here is something that works for me ...
Rule Number Two - Do not use words like stupid, idiot, moron, dope, dummy, &$#%!! or cretin (although cretin could work if the reader thinks it's a good thing).
Advice Column Questions and Answers
Since giving advice is not quite rocket science, instead of lengthy case studies, I will share with you some examples of weighty problems that I have encountered to date.
This first letter soliciting my advice came from a famous Hollywood actress. Because of confidentiality issues, I cannot reveal her name. This is what she wrote:
Dear Advice Person:
I am a very beautiful, attractive, glamorous, intelligent, feminine movie star with a lovely face and a sexy body. I love to cook when I have a man in my house to cook for. But I can’t seem to sustain a relationship for more than a few months with any man I am with. My boyfriends have always liked to be seen with me when we go out. But I also do not mind occasionally staying in. What do you think my problem may be about?
me – It’s very simple, Jennifer. Oops! Men do not want to be with a woman who constantly ends all her sentences with a proposition, er … I mean, preposition.
To the Advice Person,
My mother is always bugging me to get up and go to school on time. I’m sick and tired of school. The kids don’t like me, the teachers hate me. The administrators ignore me. Even the maintenance people avoid me. What should I do? Signed: Myron
me – Stop whining, Myron. I know who you are. You have to get up, get dressed, eat your breakfast, and you must get to school on time. You are 42 years old and you are the Principal.
Dear Ms. Advice Person:
I have finally found the person of my dreams but she is a gorilla! Really! She is a real live genuine gorilla. Signed: Anxious
me – So, what’s the problem, Anxious? Nobody’s perfect!
Speaking of gorillas, let me share my favorite gorilla joke.
The local zoo had acquired a very rare female gorilla. Within a short time, she became very obstreperous and difficult to handle. The zoo veterinarian determined she was in heat. What could they do? There was no male of this species available.
The zoo director had noticed that the gorilla seemed to become more calm and placid, even coy, whenever Chuck was near. He was the employee who brought her food each day. It was rumored that Chuck possessed ample ability to satisfy any female since he had the physique of a Tarzan but he wasn't very bright. So maybe there was a solution. Perhaps they could entice him to satisfy the female gorilla.
The director offered him a proposition – would he be willing to mate with the gorilla for $500. Chuck said that he was interested but would have to think the matter over.
The following day, he announced that he would accept the offer, but only under two conditions:
"First," he said, "I don't want to kiss her,"
The director quickly agreed. What was the second condition?
"Well," said Chuck, "You gotta give me another week to come up with the five hundred bucks."
Dear Advice Person:
Please tell me how much do you charge to give advice?
me – $100 for 2 questions.
What is your second question?
Dear Advice Giver:
Why is it that only women seem to write Advice Columns?
me – Let me give you an example. I asked my male executive assistant to write my column when I was ill one day. Here is the question and his answer:
Dear Advice Person:
I need your advice. One day last week I drove off to work leaving my husband at home watching television as usual. I drove about three blocks when the engine stalled and the car would not start again. I walked home to get my husband to help me.
He didn’t hear me come in the door and when I walked into our bedroom I got the shock of my life. There was my husband with the 22-year old daughter of our next door neighbor. We are both in our 40s and have been married for ten years.
When I confronted him he admitted they had been having an affair for the past six months. I told him I would leave him if he didn’t stop seeing her. He lost his job a year ago and has been feeling very depressed.
I love my husband but he has become very distant and will not go to counseling. Can you please help me? Signed: Desperate
When a car stalls after being driven a short distance, take these steps. First, check that there is nothing clogging the fuel line. If it is clear, check the vacuum pipes and hoses on the intake manifold. Check all grounding wires. If the problem still exists, it could be that the fuel pump itself is faulty. I hope this helps.
Very truly yours,
I rest my case.
Can You Answer These?
Some questions are more difficult to answer than others – here are a few that stumped me:
• Two women moved into the apartment across the hall from me. One appears to be in her twenties and the other in her thirties. They go everywhere together and I have never seen a man go in or out of their apartment. Do you think they could be Lebanese?
• What can I do about all the sex, nudity, coarse language and violence on my VCR?
• We call gulls that fly over the sea seagulls. If they flew over the bay could we call them bagels?
• I suspected that my husband had been fooling around, and when I confronted him with the evidence he denied everything and said it would never happen again. Should I believe him?
• Our son writes that he is taking Judo. Why would a boy who was raised in a good Christian home turn against his faith?
• If we are not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?
• My mother is angry and short-tempered. Do you think she is going through her mental pause?
• You told some woman whose husband had lost all interest in making love to send him to a psychologist. Well, my husband lost all interest years ago and he IS a psychologist. What should I do?
That’s all the advice for today, folks. If you have any questions for the Advice Column columnist, please post them in the Comments section below.
“A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice.” – Bill Cosby
© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. 2012. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So"
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