Need advice, please.

United States
January 15, 2008 11:47am CST
I have been working on improving my writing skills, and I have a question. Some feedback I got from another writer said that readers don't like 'commanding' statements. I have been trying to avoid using them as much, but when I am writing an instructional article, such as one titled 'Teaching A Toddler To Read' it is difficult not to use 'command' type of statements. Do you think it is better to avoid them altogether, or to use them in this context?
1 person likes this
10 responses
@thinkerm (29)
• United States
15 Jan 08
Definitely consider the context when using commands. Perhaps your friend was suggesting that your commands seem "commanding" because they are obvious or they seem to talk down to an adult. That's always something to be careful of. I'm sure you don't have to avoid all commands in your writing. May I ask, where are you improving your writing skills and writing articles? That's what I do too and I love it! It's well-paying, as far as on-line jobs go!
• United States
15 Jan 08
I write on Helium.com. The link is in my profile if you care to read anything. Thanks for the tips. I try to be sure not to talk down or sound condescending, but I guess that is kind of subjective. Some people will be bothered by it, some will not.
• United States
15 Jan 08
Yay! That's where I write too! I've really been enjoying the community. My writing has improved quite a bit too, which please me. I'm excited about the potential of Helium. It just seems to be growing and growing! Good luck to you there!
@sharone74 (4839)
• United States
3 May 08
When writing instructional articles the best way in which to couch your topic is with the air of one making a suggestion rather than a command. Offer multiple suggestions to give your reader a little wiggle room for their own personality to come to the fore. People like to be given multiple suggestions on how to do something rather than blanketing statements that leave no room for individal style. Such as do this, do that, and that. That is a sign of intractability and unflexibility and indicates that you may have issues about control in your writing. You want people to follow your instructions to the letter. That negates the audience that you would be writing for, Parents of toddlers for example. They are well aware that there is no one right way to do anything. They also know what things may and may not work on their child, so if your commanding statements don't jibe with what they think about how something is done, they stop reading the article or worse even than that they stop reading any of your articles because they get the opinion that you may not know what you are talking about. When writing for the masses try to be flexible, fluid, and thorough. Offer multiple suggestions for each topic that you address in your writing. Make it clear that you are not suggesting that there is only one way, your way, to do something, but that it is the way in which you have done something or know how to do from personal experince and you are just passing the information. This is the best tack to take when writing articles for mainstream audiences. Are you a member of either Helium or Associated contents online writers communities?
• United States
3 May 08
I understand the need for flexibility, especially in parenting articles. I try to make sure that I stress that 'these are some suggestions' instead of 'this is the way you must do it.' I write on both Helium and AC. My links are in my profile. I am always open to feedback. If you would like to read a couple of articles and let me know if you think my statements sound too commanding or suggestive, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts.
• United States
23 Jan 08
Using a call to action statement is OK - not sure what type of commanding statements you use. Can you give an example?
• United States
23 Jan 08
This is an example, taken from an article I have written titled 'Teaching a toddler to read.' 'Trips in the car or a walk through your neighborhood offer an abundance of reading opportunities. Street signs, signs for stores, even signs with pictures and no words are necessary to get you where you need to go. Talk with your child about the signs and how they are helpful. Point to the signs and talk about their meanings.'
• United States
16 Jan 08
I believe it has to do with the way you give your statements. It's a matter of using the right words at the right time. It would probably help if you involve yourself in your writing. Say, use 'we' instead of 'you'. This way the readers will feel that you are guiding them instead of just telling them what to do. You could also use more subtle words like 'need' instead of 'have'.
23 Jan 08
One way of making commands sound less dictatorial is to explain why they need to 'do this', especially if you can put the reason ahead of the command. Some people are resistant to being told what to do, even though they think they want to learn. Experiments show that just using the word 'because', coupled with almost any reason, will persuade the majority of people to follow a simple command. Another way is write the 'how to' book as a story, so the parent is reading and learning with the child. As in, 'Daddy pointed to the tomato and showed her the letter T', although I'm sure you can do better than that! Roy
@healer (1783)
• India
16 Jan 08
Writing skills are also inborn talents and different writers have different styles of writing the same incident. When we read articles or books we come across different views of different authors regarding the same quotes, so its not that we have to copy other talents its what we see by ourselves. Commanding statements also depends on what kind of statement you are commanding to. I am not a writer but a very regular reader so, sorry i cannot help you much in this case. Good luck in your writings.
@maxsee212 (799)
• United States
16 Jan 08
probably not, do not avoid them altogether because sometimes you have to you commanding statements when trying to say something that you feel it would be better to be said in a commanding statement form kind of way. but in my opinion, the reason why some people don't like commanding statements is because they don't want to be told what to do. you can ask yourself, "do i want to be told what to do?" try experimenting on how to wright in a different way without being a commander. there's always better ways out there on how to be a better writer. if you're still having a hard time, go to the libraby and borrow or read books.
@newfette (340)
• Canada
16 Jan 08
If you are writing an instructional article such as "teaching a toddler to read" I would suggest you don't make it geared toward what the adult should do...rather, gear the book towards the child, so they are interested in the book. And yes I agree with the others that it's good to try and say to yourself, make a suggestion, not a command. sounds like a great writing idea :) myself I am working on compiling research to write a book for parents, while they are pregnant, during the birth process, and for one year afterwards...including what to feed, when, how why, etc etc. I have read multiple guides for parents but they always tend to leave things out, or they aren't organized probably in an order that would be most beneficial to the parent. Anyhow, in my case my audience is the adults, still no commands, just info, but still you see my point? you may think your audience is the adult, to teach them how to teach their child, when in reality your audience is the child and catching their attention in order to expand their minds with your creativity! hope that helps. good luck with your writing!
• United States
16 Jan 08
I agree with what the others have said. Suggestions are better than commands. Commands will frustrate the reader and maybe even make them stop reading if they can't get it down right. Suggesting is much better.
@LouRhi (1502)
• Australia
15 Jan 08
I would have to agree with what the other have said. Suggestions rather than commands are better. The reader does not want to be left feeling inferior or that they had no prior knowledge. You need them to leave feeling inspired and enlightened not like they have just been told off by mum because.
@suspenseful (40316)
• Canada
15 Jan 08
I think it is the way that you put them. For instance, 'Why not get a book showing your toddler's favorite cartoon characters? Would it not she rather see the Tramp say the letter T?" would sound much better than. "In order to get a child to read, you must get books with she favorite cartoon characters. Now look how interested she is when she sees Snowhite say the letter S." What I am saying is instead of wording the sentences as commands, word them as suggestons so it is not 'do as I say or else!" but "why not try this method."