After reading Making Data Meaningful, Part 1, A guide to writing stories about numbers (a free document from the United Nations), I’m considering making it a prerequisite for all my technical writing classes. Nearly everything it says agrees with what I teach, and there’s even more information than I can cover in class (or in this brief review).
The introduction explains that the guide is intended as a practical tool to help “managers, statisticians and media relations officers use text, tables, graphics and other information to bring statistics to life using effective writing techniques.”
As an overview, here’s what you’ll learn in this marvelous, free resource:
* Tell a story with your statistics; don’t just tell the statistic to your reader.
* Write like a journalist: Tell the reader your point in your lead.
* Start paragraphs with a theme (topic) sentence that contains no numbers.
* Use language appropriate for your reader.
* Write compelling headlines.
* Use clear graphics and analytical headings.
* Communicate more with words than numbers (like journalists do).
Toward the end of the book, you’ll find great makeovers to illustrate all of these points.