How to Write to Save the World


How to Write to Save the World

Writing is important—perhaps now more than ever in history. With literacy rising the globe over and Google Translate becoming passably useful, functionally anyone can read what you write if you publish on the Internet.

Knowing that your audience could be that enormous makes what you write and how you write it a little bit (*cough*REALLY REALLY*cough*) important. But writing to the world isn’t the most effective way to save the world.

What writing saves the world?

For this article, we’re going to address three ways writing can save the world:

  1. Commissioning others to do something. Aka persuasive writing—you want people to change and make the world better. How do you convince them you’re right, let alone that they can do something about it?
  2. Critiquing society. Aka thoughtful analysis combined with providing solutions so people can see and decide for themselves how they can save the world.
  3. Giving people joy. Aka entertainment, motivation, and feel-good writing. Happy people make the world a better place, so whatever you can do to bring people meaning and joy is worthwhile, world-saving writing.

There are infinite noble and just causes to write about, to write for, to stand behind. And even small things can save the world—for example, the habit of journaling strengthens your immune system in addition to providing mental and emotional release. That article would count as commissioning (persuasive) writing.

Critiquing society is a) the hardest of the three b) the least effective in the short-term and c) the most likely to get you mired in social ire. My recent post on suicide is an example of what a thoughtful, useful piece of writing might look like.

A good example of writing that gives people joy are comics and quotes. Or novels or blogs or pretty much anything that might distract people from what’s going on (or help them get the courage to face it head-on).

Each of these kinds of writings comes in different forms. You can write a persuasive blog post, a joy-giving email, a critiquing essay. Or a critiquing tweet, a joy-giving script, a persuasive infographic.

So as we look at each of these styles of writing to save the world, we’ll show you the overview and important things to note to make it effective, meaningful writing rather than just specifying the technical writing needed.

Convince me to save the world

You can’t save the world by yourself. So you either need to recruit or persuade others to join you in saving it.

In persuasive writing, you want to focus on convincing your reader of these facts:

  • Your credibility. What gives you the right to commission your reader to save the world? Are you an authority? Are you passionate? Are you well-informed? All of the above? Whether it’s in your tone or by giving out these facts, you need to prove to your readers that you a) know what you’re talking about b) have the right to be talking about it this way and c) are a reliable source.
  • The importance of the issue. Why should your readers care about this? Does it impact them personally? Will it impact them—or their children—personally? If not, it’s going to be difficult to persuade them that it is important. You can try to persuade them on moral, religious, or philosophical grounds, but the most compelling strains of persuasion are effective because they directly affect your reader.
  • That your reader can contribute meaningfully. Your readers are inclined to think that saving the world is someone else’s job. Maybe they believe the government should do it; maybe they believe the rich should do it; if you’re trying to persuade them to do something, you have to show them that they can do something to save the world. That something should contribute to saving the world, and be easy for them to do.
  • That your reader needs to contribute meaningfully. You and I know that we can’t save the world by ourselves. Your reader probably thinks that you and I can save the world on our own. So you have to demonstrate that not only can they do something meaningful for the cause, but they have to unless they want to face the consequences.

Net Neutrality is producing out a ton of persuasive writing. You can check out some of the rhetoric here.

Let’s analyze this banner because it shows most of these factors in play.

Rather than writing to produce credibility, the graphic uses design elements to show that it is official and serious. The use of simple (three) colors, one (sans serif) font, and short, poignant phrases tells you that the author knows exactly what they’re talking about and is serious about it.

It addresses the issue (net neutrality) but is too short to fully describe what net neutrality is and why it’s important. However, saying “only Congress can stop it” shows that net neutrality is a high-level issue that affects you.

Though “only Congress” can stop it, the reader is immediately told to “call Congress.” This shows that even though the survival of net neutrality is in Congress’ hands, the reader can do something about it.

Finally, the red color and phone sign on the “call Congress” button shows the urgency of your reader acting. Unless the reader wants net neutrality to pass, they probably feel like maybe they should call Congress. It’s made easy for them because they just need to push the button and call Congress.

Obviously, I’m not cool enough for the button to actually link to a call, so I’ve just linked this petition that you can sign here or go here for more actions that you can (need to) do to try and save the Internet.

Society is wrong and I could fix it

The next way to write to save the world is by writing a critique of society. Now your critique may include the persuasive elements as a means of conclusion (a closing call-to-action, so to say), but your critique itself should focus on different things than commissioning writing.

As in all writing, you do want to pay attention and mold your credibility as the author. No one will take your thoughtfully, carefully written words seriously if they don’t trust you as the author a) to be reliable b) to be saying something important and c) to be right.

In this kind of writing, your credibility as an author is going to be demonstrated. That is, your credibility as an author is as much about who you are as it is about what and how you’re writing. If you choose to write a satire, you want to write it to be consistently harsh, stinging, and funny satire. If you choose to write an editorial, choose a tone and stick to it.

Like we saw with the design elements in the banner above, the way your published piece looks will say something about your credibility. So choose the font, if you can. Choose the format, if you can. Choose the layout, if you can, and mold these elements to fit with the credibility you are trying to create.

The writing itself needs to be polished. You don’t want any typos lest they should detract from the importance of your words. You don’t want too much inconsistency in writing tone so that people know how to understand what you’re saying.

All of these elements contribute to the most important aspect of your critique, which is a clear message. Your message must be clear. It doesn’t have to be simple or concise; just absolutely clear.

Your writing must be clear because you a critique is about real people. You might as well be writing an open letter to someone you know. If you’re sensible about it, you want to engage in a discussion with those real people so that you can create change and thereby save the world.

Be clear. And if you’re not sure if your writing is obvious enough, then clarify.

  • Clarify why you’re writing about this.
  • Clarify what you’re saying about it.
  • Clarify who you are and why you do/don’t matter in it.
  • Clarify the actual problem.
  • Clarify your actual solution.
  • Clarify what you want your readers to think.
  • Clarify why you want your readers to think that.
  • etc.

For example,

I wasn’t going to use Net Neutrality as my main thesis or platform for saving the world… until I realized that it was the perfect, applicable issue on the Internet right now.

Yes, please feel compelled to actually do something about Net Neutrality, and yes, please feel like I took advantage of the content in this post to share my opinion and try to save the world by saving the freedom of the Internet.

As much as I would love to censor porn straight off of the Internet, as much as I would love to make programs like Omegle clean and force Google to only show legitimate writing (truth) on the first page of its search engines, I can’t do that without perpetuating one philosophy and belief.

Benevolent of a dictator as I personally would be in killing Net Neutrality (opinion), the people who are killing it aren’t benevolent (opinion) and the fact of the matter is that humans need diversity in our economy, in our lifestyles, in our relationships, in our diet for Pete’s sake. Net Neutrality would kill the diversity of the Internet. Killing the infinite, unchecked possibility of the Internet kills the usefulness of the Internet.

Humans are people first

The last writing that saves the world is the writing that humanizes.

Maybe that’s a little hippy-dippy. But to save the world we usually mean save our species, and our species needs the world and each other to continue happily, so bear with me.

Writing is a joy. Reading is fun. And if you disagree then maybe you need to dump out some of the 18 years of social brainwashing that you’ve picked up. (Pardon the editorial… haha)

Any writing that reminds your reader that they are an individual personality is writing that saves the world—because it saves a person. Any writing that motivates your reader to do something individually because they want to (for a greater cause or not) saves the world—because it saves a person.

In this article, our world is worth saving because people are worth saving. What’s worth saving in people is personality, individuality, creativity, longevity, happiness, and safety. And while your persuasive writing against sex trafficking will save girls and boys from being kidnapped, while your critique of society will cause people to reconsider why they view people as objects, your joy-giving-writing gives people the strength to believe in themselves so they can do something.

The best way to write this kind of world-saving writing is simply by writing whatever brings joy to you. That may be comics, that may be fanfiction, that may be 20-page manifestos of what you believe and why and that may be 140 characters of smiley faces… or poop emojis.

I’m not here to tell you what is and isn’t appropriate joy because you’ve got your own brain to determine that for you. I just want you to believe that writing is a good, important thing that can change (save) the world.

Let’s go save the world now, shall we?

In what way are you going to save the world? What issues are you concerned about—how can you (will you) write about them? Where can you publish your writings about them?

For once, please comment. The world may depend on it.

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