Insight from Ann Hardman, Foreign Officer at U.S. Department of State

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A common challenge for new drafters is shifting from an academic style to the more journalistic style and structure of effective policy writing.  Most academic papers present arguments that lead to a final conclusion, much like a mystery novel with a surprise ending.  Unfortunately, the busy policymaker does not have time to read to the end of your paper to discover whodunit.  To reach the policymaker, clearly state your message—The butler did it!—at the beginning of the paper, group like ideas together, and start each paragraph with a main-idea sentence.  Additionally, adhere to the organization’s standard formatting and ensure there are no grammatical or typographical errors.  These oversights might seem insignificant, but they distract the policymaker from your message and undermine your credibility.  You want your memo to stand out for its brilliant analysis, not its one-of-a-kind spacing.