Your opinion counts — write with empathy to soothe your reader

Melissa Wardell | April 4, 2019

Information is so readily available in our modern world that we’re easily exposed to public opinion and debate. The more public a debate becomes, the more polarising it can be. People who already have an opinion may feel they have to express absolute certainty on the issue, and in doing so dismiss the concerns and values of people on the other side. This approach may discourage other more moderate voices from joining the debate. They may see themselves as not having anything to offer, or they may disengage from the issue altogether.

In these days of increasingly polarised public conversations, it’s more important than ever to take care to craft your words carefully. You want to ensure that the purpose of your communication is clear and not lost through misinterpretation.

Image, Prickly cactus.

People can get a bit prickly when it comes to polarising public debates. Image by Anne Spratt / Unsplash License

How the right tone helps get your message across

A writer’s tone is very important. It conveys a particular message from you as the writer. Tone also affects the reader in a particular way, and can influence how they receive the message you’re communicating. Get the tone right and your message will be effective. But get it wrong and you could achieve the opposite of what you want. This is especially the case when an issue is polarising — where emotions run high, so does the opportunity for misinterpretation.

So what exactly is tone? It’s best described as how a writer makes a reader feel about a subject. Write with good tone and your reader will sense that you’ve thought about them.

When you’re writing about a potentially polarising topic, write in a tone that says to your reader that their opinion is important and that you respect them. When a reader feels comfortable in this way, they’ll know (and feel) that you’re communicating with their best interests at heart.

Ask yourself a few questions before you start writing

A great way to create good tone is to put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Think about how they might feel about a topic and what they’d like to hear. Ask yourself:

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