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How do we write something to inspire a person which corrects the mistakes they've made until now, but without making them feel like they're getting mocked from the recipient's perspective?

I was trying to write a text to a person younger to me in order to inspire him. Something just doesn't feel right in this paragraph. It doesn't evoke any positive feeling such as hope or inspiration from it. It appears kinda over-bearing and in part hurtful albeit being true. How can I improve and convey the same thing in an inspiring way?

First and foremost, you should get a life. What I mean is that you should go do something for yourself - Pursue your interest, engage in your hobbies. What I see most of your time is spent chatting with friends. A complete waste of time. Just imagine number of people you talk to, in a single day. How many of them actually care about you? Yes, it feels good to share about your life with friends. I love that too. Everybody does. But I generally do not discuss it with people who don't care about me. You do. Whoever you see in front of you, you'll start sharing all your life information with the guy. I suggest you put effort into studies, extra curriculum and sports. If you have these things, it'd be fun to talk to people instead of just goofing around with them. If you genuinely do not love yourself, you'll never become an interesting person and people would never learn to love or respect you. You still have time. You can still do so much. For starters, you could improve your writing skills. You want to become a writer, right? Start by writing 'Okay' instead of the lousy text 'Ohk'. If someone doesn't care about you, remove that person from your life. Till now you're just exhausting yourself by giving and giving and not getting anything in return. Do you really want such a life? I just wish to see you at your best.

This question is not just about this paragraph. In an attempt to identify and correct my way of writing an inspiring article, I have taken this paragraph as an example which would more or less give you an insight of my writing in general. I suspect I am committing some basic mistakes common in people who have just started writing such articles. In what ways can I improve it? (I do understand the English can be improved, but I'm more interested in having the desired impact on the recipient.)

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"which corrects the mistakes they've made until now"

There's your problem. You're viewing this person as a fix-it project, as a series of mistakes to be corrected. You might want to think about this person as making a series of choices based on priorities.

If you want this person to change his or her actions, find out about his or her priorities. What does s/he value? What does s/he want to accomplish? How is s/he going about those goals? Then you talk about what the goals are and how they can be accomplished, and what might be standing in the way of those goals.

If the person's goal is "be a better writer," talk about how "better writers" have a large vocabulary and use the standard version of the language rather than textspeak. Don't say "you have to stop using textspeak," but rather that the person must also learn how to write correctly so that s/he can choose when to use textspeak and when not to. Talk about how employers and teachers might view textspeak, and what impression s/he wants to give those future employers and teachers.

You aren't being inspiring because you aren't providing anything positive.

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First and foremost, you should get a life. What I mean is that you should go do something for yourself – pursue your interest, engage in your hobbies.

I don't understand the need for the first sentence. "Get a life" is normally regarded as a negative statement, and "first and foremost" is a redundant cliché. Why kick it off with that, when you can turn it into something positive?

Go do something for yourself – pursue an interest, engage in your hobbies.

That's much less negative, and would make a better start.


This pattern – peppering your prose with negative statements – continues as your paragraph goes on:

What I see most of your time is spent chatting with friends. A complete waste of time. Just imagine number of people you talk to, in a single day. How many of them actually care about you?

You say you want to inspire, but you're stuck in the rut of a nitpicking rant.

The solution is simple, and it's the key to any good writing: proofread and revise. In your case, if you're trying to write in an inspiring tone, begin by getting rid of language that sounds inherently negative or overbearing:

First and foremost, you should get a life. What I mean is that you should go do something for yourself - pursue your interest, engage in your hobbies. What I see most of your time is spent chatting with friends. A complete waste of time. Just imagine number of people you talk to, in a single day. How many of them actually care about you? Yes, it feels good to share about your life with friends. I love that too. Everybody does. But I generally do not discuss it with people who don't care about me. You do. Whoever you see in front of you, you'll start sharing all your life information with the guy. I suggest you put effort into studies, extra curriculum and sports. If you have these things, it'd be fun to talk to people instead of just goofing around with them.

You can make further improvements by removing those first person references, which seem more condescending than inspiring:

First and foremost, you should get a life. What I mean is that you should go do something for yourself - pursue your interest, engage in your hobbies. What I see most of your time is spent chatting with friends. A complete waste of time. Just imagine number of people you talk to, in a single day. How many of them actually care about you? Yes, it feels good to share about your life with friends. I love that too. Everybody does. But I generally do not discuss it with people who don't care about me. You do. Whoever you see in front of you, you'll start sharing all your life information with the guy. I suggest you put effort into studies, extra curriculum and sports. If you have these things, it'd be fun to talk to people instead of just goofing around with them.

Let's take a look at what you're left with, after polishing some rough edges, and removing some of the fluff:

You should go do something for yourself – pursue an interest, engage in your hobbies. Don't spend most of your time idly chatting. Sure, it feels good to share with friends what's happening in your life. But try putting more effort into your studies, extracurricular activities, and sports. If you do more of these things, you'll probably become a more interesting person to talk with.

I'm not saying that what we have left will be showing up on BrainyQuote anytime soon. But I think it's more balanced and inspiring than what you originally provided in this question.

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The sample you've provided comes off as the classic parental/big brother lecture. Unless the young person is docile, they are likely to disengage, stop listening, argue, get up, and walk away.

If you want to ratchet down the tension and move toward a meaningful conversation, here are some suggestions:

  • Express your concern for the young person.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of their problems. Articulate the problems using neutral, non-judgemental, language. Acknowledge their feelings, using their terms.
  • Ask them questions to learn more about their condition, thoughts, and feelings. Ask questions that engage their problem-solving skills. Ask questions to confirm that you've understood things correctly.
  • Have a conversation. Give them plenty of time and silence to reflect and respond. Use silence when either of you need time to reflect on new information.
  • Describe the different outcomes that can come from their decisions, good and bad, but leave the choice to them.
  • Acknowledge that you have no control over them. Express hope that they will make good choices, and offer your support if they do. Make it clear that you cannot act against your own conscience and will not support them if the make bad choices. But again, that you have no control, and the choice is theirs.
  • If you speak to them in person, it is important to maintain a relaxed and positive demeanor. Be aware of your tone of voice, facial expression, and body language.

Good luck.

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  • Thank you so much for the answer! However, it would be really great if you could add sample sentences - at-least 1 in each of these points! That would be nice. Even better if you could pick sentences from the paragraph itself which would fit into one of those points. I understand that this is a monolog and not a conversation but which other points exactly did I miss in my paragraph? – Jony Agarwal Jan 5 '16 at 15:17
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    Sorry. But I'd rather let you implement those suggestions using your own voice. I'm here to help you write, not to write for you. I hope you understand. Post your ideas here and I'll be glad to give additional feedback. – rolfedh Jan 5 '16 at 15:21
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    If you've ever had a sympathetic relative who you trusted to go to with problems, imagine them as the lecturer. – rolfedh Jan 5 '16 at 15:23
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    I just realized that my recommendations are based on my internalization of a book I read a very long time ago: Parent Effectiveness Training by T. Gordon. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parent_Effectiveness_Training – rolfedh Jan 5 '16 at 15:29

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