Skip to main content

PUBPOL 301: Policy Writing Tips

Political Analysis for Public Policy

Guides to Policy Writing

Writing for the Government
Book in Perkins Library. Includes how to write persuasive policy memos.

Political Science
From Duke's Writing Studio; may be useful for political analysis papers

Policy Memo tips

From Prof. Alma Blount, for the Hart Leadership Program:

...think of public policy as “…an agreement (formal or informal) on how an institution, governing body or community will address shared problems or attain shared goals.”  Makani Themba, Making Policy, Making Change:  How Communities Are Taking Law Into Their Own Hands. 

A policy memo is not:

  • Narrative writing
  • Academic writing

A policy memo is:

  • a carefully written document that begins with the conclusion.  The most important information comes first.
  • A short piece of writing that uses crisp, clear sentences, and is written in a user-friendly format.  Avoid jargon!
  • A concise statement that includes five parts:

1.        Overview—beginning of the memo.  (But you write it at the end of the process.  It is the executive summary of what is most important in the entire memo.) 

2.        Problem statement

3.        Criteria—measurable things that you will examine to see if the problem is resolved.

4.        Options/alternatives for addressing the problem, with a brief analysis of each option.

5.        Recommendation—what needs to happen in order to make progress on the problem you have identified?


Writing for the media

Tips for writing an op-ed article *

Op-Ed Articles: How to Write and Place Them. From Duke Ofc. of News & Communication

How to be Effective with Op-eds. From the National Association of Social Workers:

Op-ed: Definition, questions, and strategies. From Duke Writing Studio

Writing letters to the editor

From the North Carolina Conservation Network:

Writing Studio:

*thanks to Prof. Jennifer Owen, who compiled this list for CCS 264S