Dear Abby | Advice has come a long way

Writing a letter

Sometimes, asking a complete stranger, such as Dear Abby for advice can be the best thing to do. Image from Flickr.

In 1956, when Pauline Phillips started the Dear Abby column, she answered questions on etiquette, manners, money and tough situations with a combination of common sense and gentle humor. Dear Abby quickly became a nationally known column, and Pauline Phillips was syndicated for newspapers across the country. While she was writing Dear Abby, Pauline had twin daughters – Jeanne Phillips and Eppie Lederer. Jeanne eventually took over Dear Abby, while Eppie started her own advice column, Ask Ann Landers. These two are no longer the only names in the advice column business, however. Now you can get advice specific to just about anything from relationships to credit counseling. So who are five advice columnists you may want to check out, other than Dear Abby?

1- Dear Prudence

Written by Emily Yoffe, Dear Prudence takes the idea of an advice column and gives it a bit of a real-world update. Prudence, like Dear Abby, is known for not putting up with a lot of “nonsense,” and every once in a while gets quite worked up over tough situations – up to and including family secrets and bad toupees.

Dear Prudence, much like Dear Abby, does tend to come down on the side of settling family differences and seems to be of the “fake it ’till you make it” camp. With her combination of humor and real-world examples, Dear Prudence is a good every-once-in-a-while read.

2- Miss Manners

Miss Manners is one of those columns that has been around forever. Perhaps it’s a bit old-fashioned, but reading Miss Manners is like chatting with Dear Abby’s grandmother. Always a fan of thank-you notes and proper etiquette she has the kind of sly wit that leaves you wondering if you were really just schooled that badly by a grandmother. Miss Manners will unfailingly teach you how to have the best etiquette, but sometimes she can be a bit short on real-world common sense.

3- Amy Alkon / Advice Goddess

A favorite of weekly alternative newspapers across the country, Amy Alkon is just about the opposite of Dear Abby. She is unfailingly down-to-earth and sometimes even a bit harsh. One of her recent columns included telling a woman that “while men like curves, they don’t like folds.” It’s sometimes tough to read, but Amy Alkon just says the things that advice columnists like Dear Abby tend to dance around.

4- Savage Love

One of the few guys to make it in the advice-column world, Dan Savage, author of Savage Love, answers questions that advice columnists like Dear Abby would round-file before they got halfway through. Not always safe for work, and sure to make you blush at some point, this sex-and-relationships column got its start in Seattle’s Stranger newspaper, and it lives up to that rough-around-the-edges history. Beyond the shock factor, though, Savage Love usually offers advice as good as loans — telling people to get out of bad relationships, stay true to themselves and generally be good people.

5- The Green Lantern

While it’s not a traditional advice column, The Green Lantern is one of those columns that unfailingly comes up when someone needs advice about environmental matters. Like Dear Abby, this column makes it a point to cover everything from child rearing to relationships — plus several topics Dear Abby wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. Solidly based in both science and common sense, The Green Lantern can give you a guiding star on remaining friendly to others around you and the environment at the same time.

Building on Dear Abby’s example

Dear Abby definitely started the modern advice-column movement, and reading her words of wisdom can still be helpful when you’re in a tough situation. Dear Abby isn’t the only advice column on the block anymore, though, and checking out a few other advice columnists can give a good counterpoint to Dear Abby’s long-appreciated work.

Other recent posts by bryanh

Still in love with credit cards

Credit-card debt in the United States dropped significantly last year, but the bulk of the decrease resulted from lender charge-offs...