Graduate advice

I had a letter from a graduate that was just so appalling – they invariably are – that I started to write to tell him. My wife said the criticism might be enough to push him over the edge so I stopped myself.

She’s probably right. But how is he ever to know that he is getting it so wrong? As his errors were similar to errors I see in these sorts of begging letters all the time I wondered if I should share the lessons. Of course I am an arrogant know-it-all, but this is what I would have sent:

You sent me a letter. I offer this constructive criticism. Please take it that way.


One of the biggest parts of journalism is research. Some research would have told you that. It would have told you that studying creative writing was not going to help you get a job as a journalist. It would have also told you that my firm is a small family company that was unlikely to be able to provide you with work. Research would also have given you a named person to whom you could have addressed your anonymous letter.

You begin “I am writing to you”. I can see that. It was in writing, in a letter, in the post. You don’t need to state the obvious. And journalism is usually about using as few words as possible. Those words were unnecessary.

You then used the words “enquire as to whether you have opportunities for me to gain employment”. That’s waffle. You mean can I offer you a job? In the next sentence, English takes the capital but creative in creative writing doesn’t. Copywriting is one word.  In the third sentence you missed out the “to” saying that you “would be an asset your organisation”.

That’s the first 64 words dealt with.

Short words, short sentences

I do not have time to go through the rest but you get the gist. There are too many long words and long sentences, far too much waffle and too many mistakes.

You have a three-page CV and you have done nothing yet – you list no employment. I have edited three magazines, supplements in the Guardian and several websites. My CV is half the length of yours and mine includes basic CV-style information missing from yours.

I’d suggest you rethink your approach and start again.

Good luck.

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