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2017-2021 ARCHIVED CONTENT

You are viewing ARCHIVED CONTENT released online from January 20, 2017 to January 20, 2021.

Content in this archive site is NOT UPDATED, and links may not function.

For current information, go to www.state.gov.

Guide the Reader through the Information

  • Who is my audience?
  • What does my audience already know about the subject?
  • What does my audience need to know?
  • What questions will my audience have?
  • What is the best outcome for my agency? What do I need to say to get this outcome?
  • What is the best outcome for the audience?  What do I need to say to get this outcome?

Active Voice

Use a standard [subject] [verb] [object] sentence

Personal Pronouns

Specifies who you are addressing in the sentence

Concise Sentences and Paragraphs

  • The average sentence length should be approximately 15 to 20 words
  • The average paragraph should have one topic sentence and develop one idea
  • Start with the main idea, then cover exceptions and conditions

Simplify Complex Information

  • Lists make it easier for the reader to identify the order of all items or steps in a process
  • Headings reveal the text’s organization
  • Headings are categorized as question, statement, or topic types
  • Tables/charts visualize data

Transition Words

  • Tells the audience whether the paragraph expands on the preceding paragraph, contrasts it, or takes it in a new direction
  • Transition words are categorized as pointing words, echo links, or explicit connective types

Define Uncommon Terms

  • Define uncommon terms (including acronyms upon first use) and use the same terms consistently
  • Use concrete and familiar verbiage when possible

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future