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Do Writing Credentials Really Matter?


Well? Do they? In reading different op-eds from local newspapers to national magazines and news programs, the op-ed writers are invariably well-educated and in most cases national figures. Will writing a great op-ed get yours published? I think it depends on how an editor defines “great writing”. Editors agree on what constitutes great writing but the different elements seem to defy a rock solid description. For instance, we all agree that the lede in an article has to grab the reader, hold his attention and draw him further into the article but what syntax performs this arduous chore? Some pundits proclaim the question format is the best. Others want to see statistics or a quote. The web is full of great lede examples but that they have already been written means any lede following that example is likely to be an ersatz one. The same holds true for the other parts of a piece, i.e., the overview or nut graf, the body and the summary.

Author bios of magazine articles also provide a window into the necessity of credentials to get publication, especially offers and assignments. It seems that in many, if not most cases, magazine article writers are indeed educated and experienced. This does not mean that inexperienced writers or writers lacking advanced formal education or degrees cannot get published even in national magazines. They can. But the chances of that happening are remote. Most writers and even editors will loudly proclaim that the writing quality is what will get the editor’s attention and the author a contract and this is no doubt true. But the facts of the matter are that without an education whether formal or not, an author is not likely to produce that kind of writing.

Even if a particular piece is less than brilliant in theme, structure or syntax if the author has impressive credentials he is more likely to be able to get it published. Bottom line? I think credentials open more doors to publication than great writing alone will accomplish. So, for those of us unfortunate enough to lack credentials at all (like me) a lifelong pursuit of credentials is in order. Whether they be a four-year degree, one or more certificates or extensive work experience, credentials matter. They are an essential part of being a successful writer. Without them, we may succeed but the road ahead will certainly be long and strewn with difficulties and obstacles.

Tell me what you think. Have credentials contributed to your success? Have you reached your writing and publishing goals without appreciable credentials? If so, how? Are you still struggling to succeed at this profession without any credentials or are you in the process of gaining credentials? I look forward to hearing from each of you. Thanks for your time in reading this and for your responses!

Best Regards,
Jerry

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