This is the first in a three-part series devoted to helping your voice be heard in a public online setting such as a blog or forum.
Part 1: The Soapbox (Posting Your Opinion)
I have noticed that posting even a fairly mild opinion online can set you up for some rude or even vicious feedback. Not that I’m a big-shot expert or anything, but today I want to suggest a few pointers for getting your point across without starting World War III.
First, think about your purpose for writing. What do you want to accomplish? If you post an opinion just to vent or to start controversy, you will probably come across as arrogant, and you should not be surprised if you get slammed in return. But what if you genuinely want to persuade people toward your point of view? Here are my suggestions for earning a hearing.
1. Think through your topic, do some research, verify any facts you are using. Show that you understand the issue and are not just passing along hearsay. (You know, like “The government wants to start taxing email messages! Forward this to everyone you know!!”)
2. Organize your points so your readers can follow your line of thinking. If you use logic, beware of “logical fallacies” such as “circular reasoning,” where you assume what you are proving, in order to prove what you are proving. You can find a thorough explanation of many of these at http://www.logicalfallacies.info/
3. BUT note that one can rarely support a position purely with logic. Especially if your topic addresses matters of faith or morality, logic cannot prove you right. But on the bright side, neither can it prove you wrong. For instance, I read some story about a college professor who claimed that because no one can see God, then God does not exist. Whether or not the story is true, the logical fallacy it presents is obvious: Those who believe in the Biblical God believe him to be invisible, so our inability to see him neither proves nor disproves his existence. Which brings me to…
4. If you write about matters of faith or morality, acknowledge the limitations of your argument. You can use logic to show that your position is reasonable, that is, consistent with known evidence, but avoid claiming that logical evidence proves your opinion to be true. For example, if you relate a personal faith experience, make it clear that you are speaking for yourself. Do not assume that everyone can or will have that exact same experience.
5. Acknowledge those who may disagree, without passing judgment on their motives. Assume that people who disagree with you are as sincere in their beliefs as you are in yours.
6. Proofread for grammar and spelling so you don’t sound illiterate.
All of these ideas show respect for your readers, which should help you avoid looking arrogant. In my own experience, a “know-it-all” attitude can turn me against a writer even if I agree with the opinion he or she expresses.
Thanks for reading!
Next: The Snappy Comeback (Disagreeing with an opinion post)