In fact, the advice column as an integral component of newspaper journalism dates back some 300 years to the beginning of what one today would recognize as a newspaper.
In the late 17th century, a bookseller named John Dunton inaugurated The Athenian Mercury, a journal strictly for answering the reading public's questions.
Much in the manner of Dear Abby today, Dunton answered questions on a variety of topics, seeking advice himself in areas outside his specialty. Samuel Wesley for religious and literature questions and Richard Sault for mathematical and science questions (Hendley, 1977).
Around 1716, a few years after Defoe's death, a column coined The British Apollo added a new twist, bringing sarcasm and wit to a more affluent readership (Hendley, 1977).
The influence of these early columns can be recognized, if not acknowledged, in today's versions.
Whereas Dunton foreshadowed the modern day advice columnists by seeking expert advice in certain areas, Defoe was the first to answer confidentially.
Ellen Kanervo Austin Peay State University Clarksville, TN 37044 Ted Jones University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-6010 Jeff White Austin Peay State University Clarksville, TN 37044 SUMMARY This paper compared the style and content of the advice columns written by two of the Twentieth Century's most popular columnists: Dorothy Dix and Abigail van Buren.
It found that, stylistically, Miss Dix's columns were about three times longer and used sentences about 25% longer than Miss van Buren's columns.
Miss Dix's columns were written on an eighth to tenth grade level while Miss van Buren's were written on a sixth to seventh grade level.Neither columnists's style changed much over the span of their careers.In content, both columnists advised against liaisons with married partners and against marrying when the couple have difficulties while dating.They appeared to disagree over marriages between people with different backgrounds.Other differences between the two columns are (1) Miss Dix appears more authoritative and less likely to have her advice challenged by readers; (2) Miss Dix's column had as its central function offering advice to readers about their relationships with others--romantic, familial, collegial and platonic; (3) Miss van Buren's column offers such advice but appears more often to serve as a clearing house for information, a forum for reader opinions and sometimes even a place to publish poems and reminiscences; (4) Miss Dix's correspondents tended to be teenagers, young adults and middle-aged people seeking advice about relationships, while Miss van Buren's correspondents tended to be older adults offering their own advice to readers.One Hundred Years of Advice: An Analysis of the Style and Content of Dear Abby and Dorothy Dix Newspaper advice columns may not have the glamour of investigative reporting or the prestige of political opinion writing, but they are a staple of American newspapers and of American culture.