300 Days of Better Writing

March 19, 2013

Use big, positive conceptual terms to spin controversial ideas.


Words like freedom, honesty, truth, and support are great. They invoke positive feelings in readers. They are “big” terms, meaning they express many ideas.

Different readers may interpret them differently. For example, honesty may have different connotations to different readers. Without explanation, they are empty of meaning. This makes them perfect for spinning controversial ideas. Consider this example.

Controversial idea: “We are going to require upper and middle class taxpayers to share an increasing percentage of the cost for health insurance for non-taxpayers.”
Big, positive conceptual term: “healthy”
Spin: “We are going to enact legislation to ensure that all citizens are healthy.”

In this sentence, “healthy” is not defined, but it provokes positive emotions in the readers. With the focus on “healthy,” readers may overlook the essential question: “How?”

Controversial idea: “Our employees are encouraged to keep quiet about any alleged company wrong-doings and face termination without warning if they discredit the company in public.”
Big, positive term: “loyalty”
Spin: “We encourage employee loyalty.”

In this sentence, “loyalty” is not defined, but it provokes positive feelings in the readers. With the focus on “loyalty,” readers may not ask, “How do you encourage loyalty?”


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