3 Strategies to Make Bad Information Sound Good


Sometimes, things are not as good as you expect. Sometimes, the truth hurts. Sometimes, you are not perfect. And you have to write about it. These three strategies will help you write about bad, or embarrassing, information in a way that makes the bad information sound better than it is. You need to tell the truth; that’s a given. But you can tell it in a way that produces a positive, or less, bad reaction from your reader. 

Day 146: Put a positive spin on negative information by writing not + [positive term] + [excuse].

When we talk about spin, spinning, or putting a spin on information, we mean writing information in a manner that leads to a particular interpretation. This is used to make good news seem bad or unimportant. This is also used to make potentially unpleasant information seem more acceptable. Spin is very common in the media and political world, but it is also used in everyday writing and speech. You will have to decide for yourself whether or not this is ethical.

With that said here is one spin strategy for down-playing information or understating the negative characteristics of some fact, idea, or event. To explain this strategy, we will use the following example sentence.

“The client was angry that we missed our deadline.”

Now let’s apply this strategy.

  1. Determine what word can be used to accurately describe the bad fact, idea, or event. The word describing the client’s feeling is “angry.”
  2. Identify a term that is the opposite or conveys the positive version of the negative descriptor. For example, you might identify happy, satisfied, pleased. Then add not, as in not happy.
  3. Write the reason for the negative attitude from a positive perspective and using positive action words. In this case, instead of writing “we missed our deadline,” you could write “the time needed to produce quality work.” The word “missed” is negative; “produce quality” is a positive action. This step is essential. If you write this from a negative perspective (“not happy that we missed our deadline”), you emphasize the degree of negativity, producing the opposite effect.
  4. Put this all together: “The client was not pleased by the time needed to produce quality work.”
  5. If possible, and if appropriate, put the positive terms at the beginning of the sentences and the “not” phrase at the end. This would give us “Quality work is not produced quickly.”

One more example:

Negative: “The new budget is too expensive for American taxpayers.”
Positive spin: “The new budget will not be cheap as it improves American’s health.”
Even better positive spin: “Improved healthcare is not free.”

Day 197: State information positively to put a good spin on it.

You are working on a project, but it is not finished. You saved the company money, but not quite the amount needed. You called customers, but you didn’t reach as many as hoped. The event was well attended, but fewer people came than expected.

You failed. Of course, you don’t want to write that you failed. Instead, put a positive spin on the information. You could write that you failed—or you could write that you nearly succeeded. As an analogy, instead of describing the glass as half empty, describe it as half full.

“The project is nearly complete.” That’s sounds pretty good.
“The company saved nearly the amount desired.” That’s pretty good, too.
“I almost reached the number of customers expected.” Ok, that sounds fine.
“Attendance was almost as high as expected.” No problem there.

As with any form of spin, you will need to decide two things: 1) What impression are you trying to create? 2) Are you ethically comfortable creating that impression.

Unless you are only giving the raw facts, you will create an impression of some sort. If you write you didn’t succeed, you give an impression, a bad one. This tip will help you give a good one. 

Day 227: Focus on success to avoid describing failure.

This is a form of spin that helps you create a more positive impression than the facts merit. Everything you write will create an impression. This technique guides your reader into interpreting the facts in a complimentary manner.

Let me give you an example that paraphrases a radio advertisement I heard recently. A woman said, in paraphrase,

“I lost 25 pounds using the Super Stepper.”

Some listeners will think, “Wow! That’s pretty good.” Because I am an astute consumer, I wondered how long it took to lose those pounds. Maybe the weight loss occurred over a year, in which case I would consider the Super Stepper a failure. However, the advertisement doesn’t give all the facts; it focuses on success, and it has told the truth. Here’s another example.

“Our new economic plan has created 25,000 new jobs.”

That’s sounds pretty good. The plan seems to be successful, right? What is not being said is that during the same time, 50,000 jobs were lost. This means that for every new job, two were lost. This is a failure. However, when someone hears this statement, he or she will think the plan is a success. The statement focuses on success, not failure, and it has told the truth.

Here’s the bottom line. Describe your successes to avoid describing failure.

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