Hi there, my name is Amanda Kelley Corbin. I am an evaluation analyst at The Human Development Institute (HDI), Kentucky’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, University of Kentucky. We help to improve lifelong opportunities and services for individuals with disabilities, their families, and the community. Before becoming an evaluator, I received an MFA in fiction writing and I have a background in journalism.
Today I’m sharing how practices from journalism can inform evaluation writing. Rather than the traditional way of presenting study data (introduction, method, results, discussion) let’s consider a different approach.
Journalists often use the Inverted Pyramid technique where the foundation, or the most important information, appears first. Remaining details are then arranged in order of most to least importance.
Traditional evaluation style puts less interesting details like background and methodology first. Applying the inverted pyramid style puts the purpose of the report up front and then provides supporting details after.
Clear and Concise Writing
Journalistic writing is succinct and delivers what the reader wants using clear, concise writing. In addition to being easier to understand, it’s more memorable and builds trust in your audience. (Vague language can seem to obscure the truth and overly wordy writing can appear to compensate for unknowns.)
To make your writing clear and concise, sentence structure should follow the subject-verb-object model most of the time and avoid using extra words when they aren’t needed.
Consider this challenge from Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief of Random House publishers, and go a week without using the following unnecessary words in your writing:
- of course
- in fact
Example of the Inverted Pyramid Technique
Check out this article about a recent research study. Notice how the author includes the most important information—the study’s findings—in the first line:
Supplementation of cocoa powder in the diet of high-fat-fed mice with liver disease markedly reduced the severity of their condition, according to a new study by Penn State researchers, who suggest the results have implications for people.
The beginning also incorporates a summary of the most important details:
Who: Penn State researchers
What: markedly reduced severity of liver disease
Where: Penn State
When: April 13, 2021 (the date appears under the author’s byline.)
How: supplementation of cocoa powder in the diet of high-fat-fed mice with liver disease
Why: the results have implications for people.
When writing, consider what stakeholders are looking for when reading your report. Know your audience and what their needs are, and then give them what they want!
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