How to Strengthen Your Writing With Strong Opinions

    strengthen your writing - writing in book

    Have you ever heard the story of the one-armed economist? President Harry Truman famously requested such a person, because he was tired of all his economic advisors immediately following their opinions with the qualification, “Well, on the other hand…”

    When writing for a broad audience, it can be tempting to follow the example of Truman’s advisors, always giving pros and cons on sensitive topics without ever really taking a stand. But when we give in to that temptation, our writing becomes limp and boring, filled with platitudes and qualifications that fail to help anyone. To avoid this mistake, add a dash of personality and courage, and don’t be afraid to take a tough stand.

    Readers Want Your Real Opinions

    Conventional wisdom holds that readers are not interested in your opinions that are unrelated to the topic of your blog or platform. Nothing could be further from the truth! Your readers follow you because they learn from you. Sometimes they agree, sometimes they disagree, but they were originally attracted by an element of inspiration and education. Don’t give them the “on the other hand” treatment all the time.

    Once in a while, if not frequently, readers want to know what you think about something controversial. Sure, readers are attracted to you because of your great writing, but they are also attracted to your personality. Many of them want to know more about who you are, and that includes your opinions on politics, religion, and other sensitive topics.

    Be Bold, Not Rude

    The goal in taking a tough stand is to clearly present your views and challenge readers — without being a jerk. Devote more positive language to describe your opinions and less negative language that denigrates another view. In other words, lift up as much as possible without bringing someone else down.

    I apply this standard: if I read a different opinion on someone else’s blog that I regularly visit, am I going to be offended? Answer: probably not, unless they beat me over the head with their views or make me feel insignificant for believing someone different. Instead, I’m just going to think, oh, that’s interesting – and move on. I’ll return next week or next post because I identify with the writer in other ways.

    For example, on the night of the recent U.S. election, I had a post on Lifestyle Design and Your Ideal World all queued up for Wednesday morning. That post had nothing to do with the election, a decision that I originally thought was good since everyone else would be talking about politics the next day and I wanted to do something different. Besides, I thought, I’m not really a political blogger, and I attract readers of various backgrounds… so better to stay out of that fray, right?

    At 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, though, I knew I had to scratch the previous plan. There was no way I could let this moment pass. I told people how I felt watching the concession and acceptance speeches, acknowledging other perspectives but also clearly presenting my own.

    Yes, a few people unsubscribed from my newsletter, including two who wrote hostile comments in the unsubscribe notice. But far more people said they appreciated hearing my stance. “This was too important to pass up,” one said. “I’m really glad you wrote this,” said another.

    Strengthen Your Writing By Filtering

    When you share a real opinion instead of a watered-down one, you’re naturally taking a risk. Some readers will leave your site or put down the page. This is OK. This is normal. In fact, this is what you want. When you decide on a target market for your writing, remember that there is no everyone.

    Assuming you’re not an extremist who pulverizes people for disagreeing with you (see above), then the people who decide to stop reading after they learn of your tough stance weren’t the best fit for your audience anyway.

    Let them go. Wish them well. Then, focus on the readers who do stay with you. Give them what they want. Tell them how you really feel about something without aiming for the middle ground. Take a stand!

    Editor’s Note: Don’t hit “Publish” yet!

    ​​Your book is more than a book—it’s an ambassador for your brand and your  career. If you find this post helpful, you’ll be interested in Mike’s branding course for authors. Click here for details and 50% off exclusively for WritetoDone readers.

    About the author

      Chris Guillebeau

      Welcome to The Art Of Non Conformity (AONC), a home for unconventional people doing remarkable things. I’m Chris Guillebeau (pronounced Gil-a-beau). I write books and travel. Over the past ten years I visited every country in the world—but my next quest is just beginning.

    • Vic says:

      Hi Chris,
      I agree with your points because for me honesty is always the best policy, unless you want to add some mystery. When it comes to writing, we must first acquire the knowledge, then choose the best knowledge. Finally we must stand for that knowledge.

    • Bambo says:

      I disagree with every point made in this post — and every single subsequent comment. You are all wrong.

    • YES! I’ve been thinking about this… it seems like most bloggers sound off to the same tune and march to the same money making beat, what a joke. =)

      I agree, readers want to know your real opinions on the various issues. If you sound like everyone else, why would people listen when they can just tune into the so called expert or guru! I sick of all these self proclaimed gurus, guess what you shouldn’t have to call yourself one!

    • Great article. Great advice.

      Some readers will leave and others will leave comments and start a debate, which is also good.

    • Nate says:

      Nice post. Good food for thought.


    • Matt Gio says:

      The more I follow this line of thinking with my blog the more I think it is starting to pay off. BTW new reader, I love it!

    • Patrick says:

      Awesome. I went to see a big-time writer give a reading. A tricky discussion ensued about the man wanting to write something different than his audience expected. A woman then asked him if the book he’d just written was really his favorite of anything he’d ever done (which was also different). He said yes. She asked him if he expected it to sell as much as the others. He said definitely not. “But this last one was your favorite to write?” she asked. “Well, I don’t understand your problem.” He smiled, stood straight up and realized this woman had called him out and publicly called him out. Then he asked her name so he could put it in his acknowledgments if he did end up writing it, which I expect he will.

      full post here:

    • Ron says:

      Great post. I feel the same way about technical documentation. Who says it has to be dry and humorless? Perhaps if technical and instructional material is interesting and fun to read, people might actually read it.

      If you put yourself in your writing, there’s a better chance your readers can identify with you and your message.


    • Good point!

    • “He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.” – Raymond Hull

    • Pace says:


      A related point that comes up for me in writing is the tradeoff between rhetoric force and precision. For example, if I write “You can do anything you put your mind to!” my inner pedant replies, “Except ski through a revolving door, except grow a third arm, except jump to the moon,” etc. I often feel torn between writing precisely and writing powerfully. It doesn’t help that I’m a “communication expert”, and that makes me more of a target.

      I usually choose power over precision. My goal is to get my message across to people, and I think that writing more powerfully is more likely to achieve that.

    • Rowell says:

      You bring up a very good point Chris. I’ve posted pro’s and con’s and just never thought about taking my real stance.

      I agree that you have to be very wise and choose words carefully but this is the internet where your views are just your own.

      I think once in a while you need to come out with your own views just to be a little more personable.

    • Very interesting, Chris!

      I think it depends on what kind of article it I’m writing. If I’m writing an opinion piece, I’ll take a tough stand. But if I’m sharing some interesting research and looking at how it might enhance our life (as I often do on Goodlife Zen), then I’m at pains to present an objective overview including links to articles that rubbish the research.

    • Excellent post Chris, it’s really making me think on the direction I should take. Thanks for always being so inspirational and hope you can keep them coming here on WTD!

    • Ben Hoare says:

      Thanks for this post, Chris. I definitely agree that “on the other hand” can weaken your writing! It’s still possible to be sensitive, subtle and analytical while making a bold point.

      People generally appreciate reading a well expressed but controversial piece, because it gives them something to think about, comment on and explore.

      In fact, I’d suggest the same is true for the writer – we don’t always have fixed opinions, even on subjects we know a lot about, and expressing a bold opinion can provide a great opportunity to explore a topic.

      Sometimes I express opinions I don’t fully agree with myself, just to put the idea out there, get the ball rolling and get people (including myself) thinking.

      I hope this would not be considered dishonest. What do you think?

    • joylene says:

      I’m an old dog learning new tricks. Well, in this case they’re advise worth paying attention to.

      Great site. Sure glad I stumbled upon it.

    • Trevor says:

      Awesome post.

      This is the exact mindset I have when I post new articles on my site.

      Sure people might not like it but there’s nothing you can do about it. If they don’t appreciate it then it’s their loss.

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