How to Write Controversial Content Without Driving Readers Away

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Boxing gloves mid-punch

Though common sense may tell you that publishing controversial content on your business blog may be something to avoid at all costs, the truth is that controversy sells.

Everyone loves a good debate — in fact, we thrive on it. (I mean, look at the insane firestorm that surrounded that stupid dress last year!)

And being able to insert yourself (and your business) into a heated conversation is one of the best ways to bring fresh traffic to your blog, spark more discussion in your comments section, and make your posts more shareable.

However, tackling any controversial topic requires walking a fine line between initiating a dialogue and sparking a battle you’ll never win. If you’ve been wondering how to write about controversial topics, without driving readers away, here are three key points to keep in mind as you write.

Use Your Best Judgment About Controversy

Writing about controversial topics should always be approached with caution and more importantly, taste. Your business blog is not a platform for you to rant about your political leanings or to discuss sensitive subjects simply for the sake of arousing controversy. The truth is that some issues are extremely polarizing and a blog post that takes a stand one way or the other is bound to offend.

Look for controversial topics that are little more benign: “why this new app isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” “ways this popular product is actually hurting the environment,” “why this new law is bad for businesses.” Find controversy that is interesting, timely, and relevant to your industry, without being argumentative or offensive.

If you insult or anger your readers with your blog post, you run the risk of driving readers away, damaging your reputation, and even losing business.

Keep Your Facts Clear

Any time you’re writing about a contentious topic, you want to be absolutely certain that you’ve got your facts straight. The last thing you want to do is spend a paragraph going on about the benefits of a new weight-loss supplement that’s shaking the market, only to discover that the supplement has well documented side effects that have turned loads of people against it. Your facts might not be that out there, but it’s critical to make sure that you’ve checked—and double checked—any factual information included in your post.

It’s also important to be sure that you’ve separated factual information from emotional information. While you can certainly go on in emotional response to the way a situation is being handled or a new development in the story, your emotions are not the same as facts. Don’t treat them as such.

Be Bold (But Leave the Back Door Open)

You can spend a lot of meaningless words dancing around the controversial topic you’re trying to cover and bogging down your blog post in the process. But if you’re going to bother writing about heated topic, be bold! Keep it short and sweet, and say what you intend to say, without wasting space on apologies. You can present both sides, without devaluing the argument you’re trying to make.

As you’re being bold, leave yourself a back door to keep from unintentionally offending readers. You can, for example, point out that your opinion is just one view on the topic or state that you’re simply playing devil’s advocate to get people thinking and to initiate a conversation. You can also offer a brief rebuttal to your own statements, but be careful! That can backfire, making your point seem less valid.

Be Humorous (But Not Too Sarcastic)

Sometimes, the best way to manage a controversial topic in a way that won’t upset your readers is to take a humorous slant on the issue. In some cases, this takes the form of inventing controversy to give your readers something to argue about. In the case of genuine controversy, however, humor takes some of the sting out of what you’re saying. Satire can even help you paint a clearer picture of the real issue. Just tread carefully! It doesn’t take much to push your readers over the edge, and someone is sure to take humorous comments a little too seriously.

You might, for example, choose to satirize the so-called dangers of the latest app or piece of technology that all teens must have. Is it really going to be the end of life as we know it? Probably not. Acknowledging that the app has the potential to create some serious changes, however, will help your readers start to see your point. Appropriate humor spread throughout your controversial piece will add levity to the post and maybe even put a smile on the faces of your readers—even those who disagree with you. Who knows? It might even create an emotional response that will help bring them to your side.

Controversy sells. Newsmen know it; magazine writers know it; bloggers know it. The question shouldn’t be whether or not you’ll ever write about anything controversial.

The question should be how you’ll handle it when you do.

Verblio

We eat our own dog food. It's true. We use Verblio's service for our own blog. The same writers that write for our clients write many of our blog posts—like this one. Any posts with an author named "Verblio" were written by a writer from our talent pool of 3,000+ U.S.-based writers. We sure couldn't do it without them.

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