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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a diatribe is defined as a forceful and bitter verbal attack against someone or something. I had previously understood it to mean something more along the lines of drawn out, longer than it needs to be, impassioned persuasion.

For example, in a friendly letter, My [diatribe] begins here.

Any alternatives?

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To clarify, are you looking for an alternative (but less harsh) way of saying "forceful and bitter verbal attack"? Or an alternative way of saying "impassioned, too long persuasion"? There are answers for both interpretations, it seems. – Jonik Aug 31 '10 at 18:39
For "(not so harsh) verbal attack", I'd go with critique; and for "lengthy impassioned persuasion" rant is definitely what you want. – Jonik Aug 31 '10 at 18:42

10 Answers 10

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Personally, I would use either "rant" if I am complaining about something but not attacking the recipient, or "rambling" if I'm just taking way too many words to say something. The point of a friendly letter is to be friendly. Ramblings tend to get skimmed over if the reader thinks it is not worth the effort to read so much text. If you are truly writing a friendly letter try to be concise while also being respectful of the reader. There really shouldn't be diatribes, rants, or ramblings in a friendly letter unless you know the other party very well.

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"Litany" or "polemic" would work.

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"Litany" and "polemic" have completely different meanings. – delete Aug 27 '10 at 23:31
@Shinto: The answer doesn't claim that they are synonyms, only that they are both (vaguely) similar in usage to "diatribe", and not as harsh. – ShreevatsaR Aug 30 '10 at 2:10
@ShreevatsaR: try looking these two words up in a dictionary. – delete Aug 30 '10 at 2:13
@Shinto: I did not claim the answer is correct; I was only pointing out that their having different meanings is irrelevant. :-) – ShreevatsaR Aug 30 '10 at 2:31

rant? screed? panegyric?

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Screed is good (as Gordon Gecko almost said). It also has a lovely literal meaning: a long flat bar of wood or metal, used for flattening cement/concrete. – PLL Dec 27 '10 at 14:33

"Harangue" might work.

In Merriam-Webster, "diatribe" is listed as a synonym and "lecture" as a definition, so it seems to be defined pretty broadly. I understand it to be more long-winded and emotional than a lecture, but not as strong as the OED's definition of "diatribe."

I'm not totally sure about the persuasive bit, though. Maybe "pitch" would work?

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A digression can be used if you are off-topic. A lecture if you are very thorough. A speech if it is well-rehearsed and given frequently. If I am passionate, I may get on my soap box.

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I like philippic, from Demosthenes' speeches against Philip the Great.

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What about critique?

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"Pontification" may work in some situations. One of my favorite words, actually ;)

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I was going to suggest Pontificate as well – Nick Harrison Jul 8 '11 at 21:02

How about "rambling speech" or "rambling argument"?

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Perhaps discourse?

From the first Dictionary.com definition:

Communication of thought by words; talk; conversation: earnest and intelligent discourse.

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