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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 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. Well said, I have done it, we probably all have at one time or another. And you’re right know the facts. There’s nothing worse than going on a rant and then someone says no that’s not what I was saying, lol.. Your quick response at that point is just a NEVER MIND, haha.. Great post..

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  2. Reblogged this on Miss Sword Media and commented:
    I just thought this was something worth reading for our class. In case you ever feel like ranting on your blog, these are some good things to keep in mind. 🙂 Happy Blogging !

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  3. I will definitely be using these tips in my forthcoming rants! Particularly agree with number 3. Very few people ever consider the other side of an issue.

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  4. Great tips! I do a lot of ranting, just trying to keep it down on my blog. 😉
    I know at least one person who stopped following me because he didn’t like my ranting. Too bad, but like I told him, it’s MY blog. My place to say what I want.

    So far I have been pretty good about following tip #1, I don’t post it til later when I’ve had a chance to re-read what I’ve written (calmly).

    What I’m no good at is #5, offering a solution. Since most of my rants come down to politics, I really don’t KNOW of any solution. I’m kind-of trying to get people to comment to see if they have any ideas for solutions.

    I think I know things that would work, or at least help a lot, but the issue is how in the world to get people to go along with it? I have no ideas at all on that. To me, it all seems self-evident, but it looks like there’s some kind of blockage.

    Most people live their lives in agreement with what I say, but when I say it should be the same in politics (government, laws, etc), then they totally shut down. Like they think anyone who’s been put in charge is right, no matter what. I rant about this all the time but so far I have no solutions nor does anybody else (other than just to submit which I will not do and certainly don’t think is any kind of reasonable solution to the problem)

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  5. Admittedly,all of these are things I could do better and I will try my best to do so in the future. I think ranting, complaining and whining are different than personal, vicious attacks. What you’ve outlined is more in keeping with academic standards than blogging (but really what do I know, I’m a newbie). I will say, if one cannot relate in a visceral or free spirited manner, even if they’re complaining, then what’s the point? Not to dismiss your good advice; maybe you could reflect on the role privilege has over mindset. It may be easier to come from a harmonious place after the basics are provided for.

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  6. Reblogged this on Tinfinity and Beyond and commented:
    “4. TALK ABOUT IDEAS AND ACTIONS, NOT PEOPLE.”

    I think this is one thing to keep in mind in our daily lives, not just blogging. But if I’m in the mood to rant, I might want to revisit this post so that I don’t sound toxic. I hate toxic. Haha. 🙂

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  7. I think it depends on the what the person is anger about. Some situations cannot insert humour. You just can’t : rape, suicide, early death, abuse, slavery, sexual harassment, etc.

    Can racism have humour?….it requires real skill ….and depends who is making the joke…what happens if it’s the victim/racism target that makes the joke? Inevitably there’s going to be someone who won’t be able to see the joke /satire at all.

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  8. Reblogged this on Sextivism in the City and commented:
    Due to the fact that my blog is about activism (centered around issues dealing with sexuality, sexual health, sexism etc.) in DC I found that this post might benefit the activists who pour their hearts and souls into their activism and sometimes feel the need to rant!

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  9. On insulting specific people, “Kochsuckers” for certain legislators is brilliant- so, insult away if it is witty. Great putdowns are entertaining, and I want to convince and entertain.

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  10. I agree with #6… It won’t kill you to proof read… Better read it twice than sound stupid or “post stupid”.. If there is such a thing.. Better yet a post that makes you look stupid..

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  11. Love the concluding paragraph. Sums it up rather nicely. Also, thank you for “permission” to be unequivocal. I think that’s my biggest weakness. I have a lot of strong opinions, but I didn’t realized I might be watering them down by seeming too open, when I don’t really feel that way.

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  12. Oh how true this is! I ranted about my job once and when I went back to it after feeling better I realized that I didn’t want to publish it and I am pretty glad I didn’t.

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