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General writing guidelines

  • See Writing Style Guidelines
  • Make sure language is easy to follow:
    • No jargon terminology – define unknown terms
    • Spell out acronyms
  • The public are not technical experts, so assume you reader knows nothing
    • Writing should be at a 9th grade reading level
    • Use short sentences to break up large thoughts and make the information easier to digest
    • Clearly define your purpose (e.g. when writing a staff report for Council, you want them to take an action – thus, clearly define what that action is)
    • Is English your target populations’ primary language? Do you need translation of materials and at meetings?
  • Other helpful tips:
    • Use active tense, where possible
    • Put dates in the beginning of a sentence (e.g. In 1941, the bridge was built…)
    • Link out to past reports, the project website, etc. (anything that will give your audience a comprehensive understanding)
    • 🚫 Say no to death by PowerPoint 🚫 (see “Public Meetings” section below for helpful tips when drafting a presentation)
  • Hemingway App
    • This a great website for checking to see if your writing is clear and concise. You paste in your writing into this website, and it will highlight lengthy, complex sentences and common errors, and advise you on how to fix them
    • Once you paste in your writing, it also informs you at what school grade level your writing is at. You want to aim for 9th grade.
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