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Take care of the design and presentation

Design and presentation are important, and influence credibility. Policy briefs need to be clearly written, easy to follow and attractively designed. Dense, disorganised text which is hard to follow will not be read. Good design is important, so make use of headings, subheadings and lists to guide readers to the key points and make the information easy to find and read. Creating an attractive design is also important for building credibility.

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Keep it short, with key messages highlighted
Policy briefs should be no more than 1500 words and some argue that all your key points should be on the first page. For some types of complex information, in might be necessary to disseminate a longer, more technical report. However, this should be provided with a 1 page document with the key messages followed by a summary or policy brief, and finally the full report. This offers readers multiple formats, depending on their time, interest and expertise.

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Avoid jargon; use plain language
Can your brief can be easily understood by an educated person without a technical background in the subject?

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Avoid too much detail
Statistics such as P-values or unnecessary figures are best left out of a policy brief as they can cause confusion and detract from your overall message. One researcher who was sharing findings with policy makers recounted that “during the meeting, I had one of the policy makers next to me ask, what does “n” stand for?”

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Is it in the correct language for the target audience?
In some contexts, people’s knowledge of English, especially at the sub-national level, will be limited. Make sure that documents are accessible to the audience you are trying to reach, so are translated correctly.

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Would your message be clear in an image?
Use simple illustrations that can talk by themselves and convey a message at a glance.