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Polish Up Your Soapbox: How to Rant Without Being a Big Stupid Jerk

We all need to let off steam sometimes, and what better place than the internet? We certainly advocate for thoughtful, reflective…

We all need to let off steam sometimes, and what better place than the internet? We certainly advocate for thoughtful, reflective posts, but the odd rant can be a lot of fun to write — and to read.

Can you rant without sounding like a big stupid jerk? You can, with these eight tips:

1. Don’t rant while angry.

It seems counterintuitive: rants, by definition, are rooted in anger. What gives?

There’s a big difference between writing about something that makes you angry, and writing while in the throes of rage. In one, you’re laying out a troubling issue and picking it apart, hopefully en route to offering a solution. In the other, you’re complaining and insulting. You may get a response from the choir you’re preaching to, but you’re not clarifying anything or solving a problem.

Don’t publish in the heat of the moment. You can write in the moment, but give your rant a time-out between writing and publishing. Let it sit, go take a bubble bath, return to it, and see if it really communicates what you’re trying to say or if it’s just vitriol.

2. Check your facts.

Nothing undermines a rant faster than misinformation. When one of the pillars of your rant is faulty, the whole structure suffers — a single misrepresentation throws everything else you say under suspicion.

If you’re going to poke holes in someone else’s boat, make sure your own vessel is seaworthy. Know the facts behind your position, and be honest about them; picking and choosing only the convenient facts is as damaging to an argument as a lie or error.

It also helps to have some panache while ranting. Everything sounds more serious when you say it while wearing a three-piece suit.

It also helps to have some panache while ranting. Everything sounds more serious when you say it while wearing a three-piece suit.

3. Nothing is absolute.

There are at least two sides to every story, and frequently many more. You don’t have to agree with every other position, but you should anticipate, acknowledge, and address them when you can. It makes your own position stronger, and shows that you’re approaching the issue from a thoughtful, helpful place. You’re trying to move the needle, not just naysay.

4. Talk about ideas and actions, not people.

The best way to rant without being a big stupid jerk? Don’t be a big stupid jerk. You can disagree with an idea or a behavior without insulting specific people.

Personal insults give the impression that you’re more interested in tearing someone down than finding the solution to a problem. Plus, name-calling and ad hominem attacks do little more than drive away people who might be on the fence — the very people you hope your rant will influence. Take the high road in your public blog posts, and save the invective for coffee with your best friend.

5. Offer a solution, too.

It’s easy to point out the flaws in something, but harder to offer useful solutions for addressing them. Any argument is made stronger when it presents workable solutions, and rants seem less rant-y when they include helpful suggestions. Pointing out a problem is a great first step; pointing out a solution is an even better second one.

6. Lighten the load with a laugh.

As the good governess once sang, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. A little levity is nearly always welcome in a blog post, particularly when you’re dealing with a tough subject or difficult truths. Laughter also endears people to you and helps you guide them into your corner, so pave the way to consensus with a few yuks.

7. Double-proofread.

As a general rule, citizens of the internet love to discount arguments by pointing out insubstantial but incorrect details. “You can’t tell the difference between their and they’re, and I’m supposed to listen to your policy recommendations!? Give me a break.” Don’t give readers an opening to dismiss a good argument because of an ill-placed apostrophe.

If you can, have someone else read before publishing, too. Not only will they be more likely to catch the tiny typo your eyes skip, but they provide a welcome sanity check on your arguments and tone.

8. Finish strong.

You’re impassioned enough about something that you’re writing a strongly-worded post about it, so don’t tone it down at the end.

When we want people to respond positively (or at least, not to yell at us), we equivocate: “This is just what I think; how would you handle this?” It seems like an open ending will prop the door open for conversation, but it waters down your argument. If you’ve clearly articulated your thoughts, people will respond — they don’t need an invitation that softens your position and passion.

*****

None of this is meant to say that all your posts have to be polite and balanced. You can and should have strong opinions, you can and should blog about them, and if you want to let the occasional f-bomb fly, so be it. So make sure you have your factual ducks in a row, try not to lob your f-bomb directly at someone’s head, and rant away.

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  1. Great advice! It is always a good idea to share your opinions and start thoughtful conversations. It’s an even better idea to post with passion but not with intent to tear a specific person apart. An argument really falls apart when it looks like an effort to tear into someone.

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  2. You’re right rants are a good way to let off steam, but they should be in moderation. I tend to hold meyself back when my call to action rant turns into a conspiracy theory lol. Great tips and helpful advice from the fab Daily Post! :)

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  3. This title! haha <3 I love it. These are some very good tips. When someone feels passionately about a topic it is very easy for them to let their rants get out of hand and instead of helping their point, they are actually hurting it. I have a poem that addresses this exact notion http://louisebleger.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/reasoning-radicals/ "…Be your cause wrong/Or be your cause right/It's quite hard to see/When you blind them with light…"

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  4. Totally agree with #1. “Don’t rant while angry.” This could apply to a lot more in life than just writing. Don’t do ANYTHING while angry! “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Buddha
    Nice piece. Thank you!

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    1. I think there’s a difference between red hot anger and white hot ie. dry ice anger. I used to work for criminal lawyers as a paralegal and I witnessed many skilled presentations of white hot anger in courtrooms that smouldered like dry ice.

      Red hot anger is usually and immediate emotional response that doesn’t produce a good rant. White hot anger is how you feel after you have cooled down examined the issues and are ready to compose a rant that convincingly and clinically refutes point by point what another has said.

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      1. I understand what you’re saying but I still don’t think any form of anger is beneficial to the person feeling it or the people hearing it. I would not believe anger from an attorney. Do I really think he is angry? Why would he be angry, no one hurt him and I wouldn’t appreciate someone trying to make me angry to help his case. That is not looking at the situation without bias. But he may be passionate. He may be passionate about his cause to help someone else. I’d rather hear the passion in his case, not the anger. That is more believable and less of a turn-off.

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    2. I understand and accept that fact that no LOA acolyte could see any benefit arising from any form of anger but I beg to differ withe that POV. I have lot of life experience and I recognize that white hot anger has been a motivator for cultural and social change for millenniums. When it comes to ranting I leave that to bloggers, who are ego driven by the need to persuade others to see their POV. I prefer to read just the facts – the cold hard facts because at this stage in my life, I’m slaying my ego rather than feeding it.

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      1. When working as a lawyer I used occasionally to be extremely angry at what had happened to my client…and the anger was such as to make me double, triple check every element to make that anger count.
        I wasn’t working with juries….but it could be interesting to see the effect on a boss or high grade management bod when faced with a cool examination of the conflicting arguments followed by roar of anger.
        They don’t see it in their working lives thanks to the work hierarchy….it unsettles them mightily…..and it has an effect on the assessors.
        There’s a healthy place for red hot anger…well mastered.

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  5. I do my rants through music. I can’t resist taking a hit at the world condition. One of my songs is “For the People Blues” and another is “Sold Out” from Osaka Time by swo8 Blues Jazz. I just want to inspire people to think.
    Leslie

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  6. great article! i wish this was a Terms and Agreement on ..Facebook Although i suppose i could write a rant article about how it’s not … :)

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  7. Well said! I’ve always reminded myself to step back from the situation to take a breather and then go back. Just like you never go to the grocery store hungry because you will regret it.

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  8. This is great! I am ready to rant now! In truth though, these are fantastic tips to use in most, if not all our writing. I will keep them in mind next time I rant and include a link to this terrific post. Thanks!

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  9. How fortuitous! I’ve needed to let go on a rant now for weeks! I’ve just been trying to calm down enough to write it.

    You’re correct, though. The longer I wait the clearer my words have been. I may just finish that post today. Thanks for the inspiration :)

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