Andrew Coyne’s Tips for Writing a Column

… a core concept in Communication Skills and Atlas 109


Click for Coyne’s bio on Wikipedia

Concept description

Andrew Coyne, the renowned Canadian journalist and Fellow at the School of Public Policy and Governance, met with the editorial team of the Public Policy and Governance Review in November 2016 to discuss the craft of writing columns.

His advice included:

  1. Be humble in front of the reader – no one has to spend two minutes reading your column
  2. Get to the point
  3. Have a point
  4. Have a point worth making
  5. Think hard about what you are bringing to the table
  6. Try to persuade people, which requires empathy to understand why they can reasonably have come to different conclusions from you
  7. One technique is to credibly articulate one position and then show why your position is better
  8. Establish an agreeable relationship with your reader so he or she would want to spend time with you (much as one would with a friend) – not being consistently angry, or predictable, or cynical
  9. It’s not about you – keep your yourself out of the frame and avoid the temptation to show off
  10. Write what is true – all bad writing is false in some respect
  11. Editing is crucial – avoid clichés, bombast, and sentimentality and find the exactly right word
  12. Cut from the top – writers often spend a paragraph or two clearing their throats
  13. A good self-editing technique is to read your column aloud and remove the parts that you cannot read without smirking

Session notes by taken by Ian Clark and Caleb Holden.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last updated 19 November 2016.

Image: School of Public Policy and Governance website at, accessed 19 November 2016.