Rob Collins

Rob Collins, editor of The Norman Transcript.

I can say more with less.

My fifth-grade teacher said so. Eva McClanahan, who once witnessed the Dust Bowl on a northwest Oklahoma farm, told my parents I could say a lot with a few words.

It’s true. 

Inspired by Kurt Vonnegut as a high school student, I wrote poetry and stream-of-consciousness stuff in a journal. One classmate teased me for wanting to be “a philosopher.”

I had a bumpy beginning writing at the University of Oklahoma. Going over a bad paper grade, my freshman English teacher at OU told me I wrote like Franz Kafka, author of “The Metamorphosis.” Being half-Czech, I took that as a compliment.

My economical word usage wasn’t good for filling blue books, but it sure helped with journalism. I found my groove writing at the OU Daily and never looked back.

Honestly, the profound impact of this profession can be a humbling thing. Young reporters with fire in the belly want to effect change like a sledgehammer. The slightest word can cause a ripple effect to shine light like a beacon in the darkness.

In our polarized country, the vocal opposition is at each other’s throats. Documenting the day-to-day culture war on the frontlines, we sometimes get hit by friendly fire. 

Having seen “A Bug’s Life,” I already knew the first rule of leadership: “Everything is your fault.”

After years of reporting, I became an editor. I learned to dial down my internal monologue to become a better leader.

As a manager, I admit I use a controversial technique to steer my staff clear of pitfalls. 

It’s a device despised by some editors, deemed as a pariah to the profession. This causes some writers to fear using them.

I’m talking about acronyms. I like to use the abbreviated first letters of a term to signify greater meaning. 

I use an acronym as a mnemonic device to remember tricks of the trade. After all, I have limited hard drive space.

Here are some of my favorites:

• CLM: My first daily reporting job in the real world was at The Norman Transcript in the 1990s. Then-Editor Andy Rieger introduced me to CLM, which means “Career Limiting Move.” A CLM is a really bad thing an employee does that limits opportunities for professional advancement. I can’t think of any specific CLMs during my first stint with The Transcript, but I do remember being called a YUPPIE, or “Young Upwardly Mobile Professional.” GAC (“Guilty as Charged.”)

• DYJ: This one is refreshingly simple. It stands for “Do Your Job.” My wife often heard this sage advice from a former boss. It is akin to MYOB (“Mind Your Own Business”) and SIYL (“Stay in Your Lane”), which can be followed by the optional “bro.”

• A2B: I’m not sure if this is even an acronym, but it means to go directly to the source of a problem. If you have an issue with someone, go directly to that person. Don’t go to their boss. Don’t go to their friend. Don’t go to their enemy. Go A to B, not A to C.

Now that you are full of alphabet soup, I will get back to dialing down my internal monologue to avoid a potential CLM. Here endeth the lessen.

Collins is editor of The Norman Transcript.

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