How not to make your readers cry

rajwal Ciryam

I’ve seen nearly 50 columnists in my time at Northwestern. And if their columns didn’t leave me beating myself senseless with my orgo book, then they were in the better half. So I’m not shooting to be good. I just don’t want to make you cry. I don’t believe columnists want to be boring, pointless or glib, but that they fall for a few classic mistakes. I’ve noted them here so that they can be avoided, instead of wasting your time this quarter.

And past columnists, don’t worry! I’m not naming any names, but if you feel like I’m talking about you, then I probably am.

The “Not-Quite Seinfeld.” Some columnists think they’re Jerry Seinfeld. Whether it’s a plane trip gone wrong or a drunken Saturday night, these columnists see a hilarity to their lives unapparent to anyone else. The Soup Nazi was funny; your adventures with soup at Elder – eh, not so much. Generally, you can tell you’ve been Not-Quite Seinfelded when you stare blankly at the page after reading the column, asking, “And your point is…?”

The “Kanye.” You probably remember Kanye’s incisive political commentary that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Say what you will about Mr. West’s insight (I personally think his beats was so sick he should have got a medic) or Mr. Bush’s approach to race relations (I think he is short-sighted and opportunistic, with a viewpoint clouded by a privileged upbringing), but Kanye’s statement is a vast oversimplification. Some columnists do the same thing, spewing party lines and shoestring arguments like a 12-year old with a BB gun and a chemical imbalance. I’d let it slide if they could drop bombs like my man Kanyeezie, but armchair politics is all these columnists have.

The “Donald Trump.” Donald Trump is rich and powerful. He has buildings, airplanes, a hit TV show, and a supermodel wife. And even he’s annoying when he brags. That’s why I don’t understand those Daily columnists who try to show off in their columns. No matter what your therapist says, you’re not The Donald. And if you’re not The Donald, you don’t get to brag. Whether you subtly sneak in a resume line or center the entire column around your greatness, it’s not allowed. And if you try to trump, then all I can say is, “You’re fi-yed.”

The “Dennis Miller.” It’s like Stephen Segall guest-starring on the OC karate-chopping Oprah’s book club list like Ayn Rand on Regis. A few clever topical references are great, but if you overdo it, you’ll end up like Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football talking about playing Zander Kelly on Joe Dirt. See? Not funny.

The very worst columnists find ways to unite all of these into one heapin’ hunk of horrible. This quarter, I will make a pledge to you: I will not Seinfeld, Kanye, Trump or Miller you. And if I do suck, I’ll find a fresh new way to do it.

Prajwal Ciryam is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at [email protected]