How do I write?
1. First of all, make a plan.
I usually recommend that you make a table on contents on day one. What
will your report look like in the end? Obviously, this table of contents
will change over time, but even a very rough outline helps to focus a
project and gives you a target to aim for.
Once you have a table of contents, you can then plan your time. See when
you will write which part. Modify the table of contents if needed, for
example because the time constraints tell you the original table was too
ambitious. (Developing focus is the key ingredient for most projects.)
A good paper as a clear structure. This may not be pleasing from a
literatry point of view, but then papers and policy reports are not supposed
to be high literature. They are devices, machines for efficient and most of
al clear communication.
A structural principle that often works well for policy reports, is that
of problem-evidence-conclusion. A paper starts with the description of the
problem, then proceeds to evidence gathered or arguments developed, to close
with the conclusion and recommendations. This three-fold structure can
return on the level of a chapter, a section, and even on the levelof a
paragraph. In this case, a paper becomes a set of nested loops of
Keep it simple. That does not mean your thoughts and arguments cannot be
profound. On the contrary. In order to explain complicated arguements well,
the medium of language should not obstruct your communication.
So use short sentences. Stick to the active form and avoid passive tense.
Use neutral language: do not insult or get overly emotional ("stupid idiot",
"bull argument",...). Use recipes for writing: experiments in literary form
are interesting, but easily get in the way of clear communication.
Here is an example of a recipe:
One way to write clear paragraphs, is to use five sentences. This
presents information in a format that is natural and easy to read. The
first sentence presents the position, while the second explains it a bit
more. The third and fourth sentence provide details or examples, while the
last concludes. By using this simple rule, you can write clearly even if
you are not a prize-winning novelist.
It is easier to add variation to a recipe, that to find structure in
4. Mind your spelling and grammar
Even for draft texts, clear and correct language helps communication.
Errors and sloppiness distract from the contents. Take a course if you have
trouble, or consult one of the resources listed below.
There are lots of resources to help you with writing good English or
clear papers. Use these resources, buy a handbook on writing, or take
courses in writing and communication if you cannot get it right. Here are