Why does addressing counterarguments make a nonfiction book more compelling?

by | 20 Apr 2022

The reader of your book thinks you are wrong and you should agree with them …

… for a while.

It is tempting to set out your argument and leave it at that. You’ve spent a lot of time getting experience, gathering evidence, crafting the flow, and clarifying your argument. Your reader will accept everything you say, won’t they? There is one more thing you have to do.

If you want to increase the chances that your reader will go along with your argument, you must address the reasons why they reject it. And they WILL reject it. Why will they reject it? Because you are presenting something new and perhaps counterintuitive. So what to do?

This rejection is easy to address. Simply understand and face up to all the counterarguments that readers may harbour as they step through your book. Then write about those queries.

But you must not dismiss them.

AVOID: “Many people think this doesn’t work when such and such, but I have great success even in those situations.”

BETTER: “Many people think this doesn’t work when such and such, which is understandable because it may seem…”

Honest counterarguments build trust.

By addressing a reader’s doubts then you let them know that your book is fully researched and thought about. Also that you are not just throwing these ideas into the world but that they have been examined and tested – you should say how.

Also, there well may be limits to what you are writing about. Your theory is only applicable when x, or you method doesn’t work for y. Tell the reader that. They will trust you all the more for your honesty and it will make the book all the more useful.

How do you find these counterarguments, doubts and objections?

• If you are presenting a practical method then think back to all the problems you had and the objections that were raised.

• More theoretical topics may have had peer review. Use that feedback. • You can send advance copies to people with explicit instructions to raise any objections.

• Preview your writing in blogs, posts and tweets and see what comments you get. Someone is surely going to poke holes in what you say. (That’s what the internet was invented for!) • If you have a community of practice or similar group, then they are often happy to help.

Get feedback

In short, get feedback however you can to get those objections flowing in to address them in your book. Counterarguments build trust and make for a more compelling argument and book. Don’t forget them.

Are the ideas in this blog wrong? Reply and let me know. 😉

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