Writing is a human activity that often has to do with subjects that are controversial. While some writers may strictly offer information only, others add their opinion or interpretation to it. We live in a time and space where people are sensitive about a whole lot of issues, from religion and ideologies, to the movies and music they like. So when a writer puts his views out, there is a fair chance that a good number of people will not agree with it. Knowing how to write about topics that are controversial without offending people or getting into trouble is an essential skill for the contemporary writer. Here are some helpful tips.
1. Be sure of what you say
The weakest aspect of writing on controversial subjects is poor research. Make sure that anything that you are mentioning in your writing is based on fact. This will help keep you out of trouble in case anyone chooses to contest what you have said. In addition, it will lend credibility to your opinions and your writing.
Wherever possible, quote your sources or leave a reference note so that readers can validate what you are saying on their own. A great temptation that writers have to face is to twist facts in order to make their writing more exciting. While it may give you short term popularity, in the long run, you will be branded as a sensationalist.
2. Stay objective
Controversial topics are the perfect ground for a writer to lose perspective. This happens very naturally since typically these are subjects that the writer has strong personal opinions about. It is made worse when there have been personal life conflicts surrounding those topics. Keep your writing as objective as possible. It is a mark of professionalism to be able to present conflicting views on a subject without giving away your personal battles. Do not use your writing to settle personal grudges.
3. Use tact
Even the bitterest of medicine can be helped to go down with a spoonful of sugar. Be sensitive to the reader’s point of view. Remember that you do not get to choose your reader, but your reader can choose whether to continue reading your writing. Avoid hurtful or inflammatory statements. While humor is an excellent way to put across truths that may be unpleasant, be aware of the thin line between humor and ridicule or contempt.
4. Hold your horses
If you are writing about a controversial topic, learn to give enough time to yourself to thoroughly weigh the pros and cons of what you have written. Words once uttered are hard to take back. The written word is even more dangerous than the spoken word, since once it is out there, there is no way you can even hope that people will forget about it.
Once you finish working on a piece of controversial writing, let it stand, and give yourself a break. It is possible that after you have slept over it for a while; you will want to tone down what you wrote.
5. Write from the heart
There can be two reasons for choosing a controversial topic to write about. If you have chosen it in order to create sensation and give a boost to your popularity by virtue of the topic you have chosen, play by the above rules and you should be fine. However, there are many writers who write about controversial topics because it is close to their heart, and they feel very strongly about it.
If the purpose of your writing is to create awareness and educate people about aspects of life that are controversial, you may find it difficult to be nice and diplomatic. In such cases you will want to weigh the cost of being forthright and blunt against the risk of losing the opportunity of carrying your message to a larger audience. Keep in mind that those who will not mind your vitriol possibly already agree with your point of view and it is the rest of the people who you need to target in your mission to create awareness. Being polite, prudent and proper will only help you reach out to a larger and broader readership.
It is not at all difficult to write about topics that are controversial. What is difficult though is to retain your readers and to attract new readers while you are at it. Using the tips outlined here will help you temper you writing with the right balance of forthrightness and diplomacy. Once you have practiced and mastered writing the way it has been suggested here, you will be able to handle controversial topics in a safe, effective and professional manner. Go ahead. Give it a try right now.
This post was written by Alia Haley, a blogger by profession who loves writing on technology and autos.