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The Instructor's Desk

In my Opinion, I Already Know it’s Your Opinion

You only have readers for a short period of time, don’t waste it by telling them something they already know.

Patrick Foster



Instructor’s Desk is a recurring CMN feature providing insights from our instructors on every aspect of online education. You can browse all of the Instructor’s Desk columns here.

This gets to the heart of communication as we near the end of the second decade of the 2000s: We are constantly bombarded with information as we go through our days — even when we sleep it’s piling up for us to check on as soon as we wake up, phone in hand — it’s important to remember that you should approach the age-old skill of writing in the same way you deal with those relatively new platforms for our thoughts: Twitter, Insta and Snapchat. Yeah, even TikTok.

There are lots of variations on the theme: “Me, personally,” “In my view,” “But speaking just for myself,” the list goes on.

CMN Instructor Patrick Foster (Photo: Joe Drennan)

During my work with students in CMN’s Music Journalism Course, I find myself reminding aspiring critics that there is no need for them to tell readers that something in their work comes from “personal opinion.”

Meaning when you write a review, offer a hot take or compile a ranking of your favorite versions of “Old Town Road,” remember that the reader assumes it’s your opinion and you are solely responsible for the content. Just like a post on your Instagram, I understand it’s what you think, not anyone else.

So don’t waste your precious word count telling your readers it’s you that’s doing the thinking. When they see your name on the byline, they know that.

And personally, in my opinion anyway — and these are just my own views here — when I take the time to read something you wrote, I already know where you’re coming from.

The bottom line? You only have readers attention for a short period of time, don’t waste it by telling them something they already know.

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Patrick Foster is the Executive Editor of College Media Network. He's has been a journalist for over 20 years, working for wide variety of publications, including The Washington Post, Time Out and SPIN. He is the co-host of the music podcast Rockin' the Suburbs.

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