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Introduction to Policy Writing for Public Policy Professionals

A Practitioner-led Workshop

Ian Doughty

idoughty@deloitte.com

ian_doughty@uchicago.edu

for Public Policy Professionals A Practitioner-led Workshop Ian Doughty idoughty@deloitte.com ian_doughty@uchicago.edu

Who are you, what is “policy writing”, and why should I care?

“In public policy work, if you can’t write it or say it, you can’t do it.”

Writing as communication; communication as the imperative to action

Background

or say it, you can’t do it.” • Writing as communication; communication as the imperative to

Agenda

Introduction – “What this session is and what it isn’t” The Ten Commandments Political Constraints on the Policy Memo Different Types of Written Products The Logical Fallacies (if we have time) Q&A

on the Policy Memo • Different Types of Written Products • The Logical Fallacies (if we

What this session is:

An introduction to the importance of written communication in public discourse and in public decision-making

An introduction to some tools for producing relevant, useful material in the professional public policy analysis arena

An introduction to some of the various species of written communication that you will be asked to produce on the first day of your jobs

An introduction to the constraints that surround effective communication in the public arena

first day of your jobs • An introduction to the constraints that surround effective communication in

What this session isn’t:

An English composition lesson

A guide to how you should write in an academic environment

A guide to how your PEPP instructor wants you to write your memos

to how you should write in an academic environment • A guide to how your PEPP

Academic vs. Professional Policy Writing

Academic

Academic vs. Professional Policy Writing Academic Policy

Policy

Academic vs. Professional Policy Writing Academic Policy

The Ten Commandments

The three conceptual laws:

1. Thou shall understand the audience for which you are writing

2. Thou shall understand the purpose of the memo

3. Thou shall anticipate the overriding goal that is being advanced

2. Thou shall understand the purpose of the memo 3. Thou shall anticipate the overriding goal

Understand what Audience you are writing the memo for

Easier said than done. Here are some starting points:

Technical vs. non-Technical Decision Maker vs. Advisor Single vs. multiple intended recipients Legislative, Judicial or Executive Internal vs. External

Remember: You may not be writing for professors anymore

• Legislative, Judicial or Executive • Internal vs. External Remember: You may not be writing for

Understand what Purpose the memo is meant to have

Why are you being asked to write this memo?

To inform – a backgrounder, a lit review

To contextualize – a legislative history

To analyze – a post-mortem, a white paper, a business case

To recommend – an option paper

To justify – a crisis response, a political strategy memo

To defend – talking points, media advisories

Remember: Memo writing is not an exercise in telling someone everything that you know about a topic.

media advisories Remember: Memo writing is not an exercise in telling someone everything that you know

Understand what the Meta-Goal of the memo is

In what context is this memo needed?

In response to a crisis outside our control

In response to a self-inflicted crisis

To build support for an initiative

To provide decision-support for an initiative

To provide political cover

To further an agenda

Whose agenda?

Remember: your writings – or those attributed to you – will follow you forever (just ask Glen Poshard or Al Gonzales).

your writings – or those attributed to you – will follow you forever (just ask Glen

The Ten Commandments

The grammatical laws:

4. Thou shall be concise

5. Thou shall proofread

6. Thou shall submit to the editorial process

The grammatical laws: 4. Thou shall be concise 5. Thou shall proofread 6. Thou shall submit

The Ten Commandments

The stylistic laws:

7. Thou shall not use acronyms without definitions

8. Thou shall not use overwrought, clichéd jargon

9. Thou shall not make assertions that are unsupportable

10. Thou shall anticipate counter-arguments

clichéd jargon 9. Thou shall not make assertions that are unsupportable 10. Thou shall anticipate counter-arguments

The Constraints of the Policy Memo in the Political Arena

Social and Hierarchical Roles Co-construction of Meaning Permanence Exogenous Events Strategic and Political Landscape Editorial Process Principals and Agents Value of Time and Information

• Strategic and Political Landscape • Editorial Process • Principals and Agents • Value of Time

On the Impact of Social and Hierarchical Roles

Example: Is the memo coming out Vice President Cheney’s office, or is it coming out of Vice President Quayle’s office?

Where are you in the hierarchy and how does that impact your analysis?

out of Vice President Quayle’s office? • Where are you in the hierarchy and how does

On the Co-Construction of Meaning

Example: How will religious conservatives understand a term, versus how the general public will understand a term.

What language you use is only half the battle – you must understand how your audience will interpret your words.

• What language you use is only half the battle – you must understand how your

On the Permanence of Written Materials

Example: Torture Memos How will what I write be interpreted in the future?

On the Permanence of Written Materials • Example: Torture Memos • How will what I write

On the Impact of Exogenous Events

Example: The “Hurricane Pam” Report on August 15, 2005, vs. the “Hurricane Pam” Report on September 15, 2005. Or, “Osama Bin Laden Determined to Attack in the United States”

External events can change the value, importance, substance and meaning of policy memos virtually in the blink of an eye

External events can change the value, importance, substance and meaning of policy memos virtually in the

On the Relevance of the Strategic and Political Landscape

Example: Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation; “military-industrial complex”.

What the landscape looks like dictates how your memo will be read and understood.

“military-industrial complex”. • What the landscape looks like dictates how your memo will be read and

On the Editorial Process

Example: Pre-war intelligence on WMD, and uranium acquisition in Iraq.

Who writes only has as much power as who edits gives them.

intelligence on WMD, and uranium acquisition in Iraq. • Who writes only has as much power

On Principals and Agents

Example: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and April Glaspie - US Ambassador to Iraq in 1990

Who are you writing for? Are they the principal, or are they an agent? What is the agent’s agenda? Is it the same as yours? As the principal’s? Does the Agent understand YOUR agenda?

What is the agent’s agenda? Is it the same as yours? As the principal’s? Does the

On Bureaucracy

Example: FBI, CIA, NSA non-cooperation

How many layers does your memo have to penetrate? How do institutional dynamics inhibit information flow?

• How many layers does your memo have to penetrate? How do institutional dynamics inhibit information

Several Different Types of Written Products

The Lit Review The Backgrounder The Leg History The White Paper The “One Pager” Talking Points The Op-Ed

• The Backgrounder • The Leg History • The White Paper • The “One Pager” •

The Source Literature Review

Length – 1 or 2 pages

Purpose – familiarize yourself and others with the existing source material

Builds – familiarity with the topic and with the information landscape around it

with the existing source material • Builds – familiarity with the topic and with the information

The Background Paper

Length – no more than 5 pages

Purpose – familiarize an audience with the topic at hand and with the major policy controversy involved

Builds – familiarity with the topic and with the information landscape around it

major policy controversy involved • Builds – familiarity with the topic and with the information landscape

The Legislative History

Length – no more than 5 pages

Purpose – familiarize an audience with the prior legislative activity surrounding the topic at the Federal, State or local level

Builds – familiarity with the topic and with the information landscape around it

the Federal, State or local level • Builds – familiarity with the topic and with the

The White Paper/Option Paper

Length – 2 or 3 pages

Purpose – To present an argument and a series of options to pursue in support of a proposed course of action

Builds – skill in forming arguments and designing strategies

to pursue in support of a proposed course of action • Builds – skill in forming

The One Pager

Length – 1 page

Purpose – to familiarize an executive/decision-maker about your topic in such a way that they can internalize a large body of information and speak about it intelligibly on short notice

Builds – skill in editing and concision

a large body of information and speak about it intelligibly on short notice • Builds –

Media Talking Points

Length – ½ to 1 page

Purpose – to provide an executive/decision-maker with enough information about your topic to survive a media confrontation with their credibility on the topic intact

Builds – concision and strategic thinking skills

a media confrontation with their credibility on the topic intact • Builds – concision and strategic

The Op-Ed Piece

Length – 500 to 1000 words

Purpose – to present an argument on your topic in a way that uses no jargon and that is broadly intelligible to someone with no prior exposure to the information

Builds – strategic editing skills; media methods familiarity

to someone with no prior exposure to the information • Builds – strategic editing skills; media

The Logical Fallacies

Use them Don’t abuse them Recognize their use in your opponent’s work Recognize their power Recognize the futility of falling into a argument about them

use in your opponent’s work • Recognize their power • Recognize the futility of falling into

Fallacies of Relevance

Ad hominem Appeal to Consequences Bandwagon Fallacy of inept argument

Fallacies of Relevance • Ad hominem • Appeal to Consequences • Bandwagon • Fallacy of inept

Fallacies of Presumption

False Dilemma Circularity Post hoc ergo propter hoc “He’s nae a trrrue Scotsman…” Tu Quoque

False Dilemma • Circularity • Post hoc ergo propter hoc • “He’s nae a trrrue Scotsman…”

Fallacies of Ambiguity

Straw Man

Fallacies of Ambiguity Straw Man

Suggested Readings

Bardach, E. (2000). A practical guide for policy analysis : the eightfold path to more effective problem solving. New York, Chatham House Publishers/Seven Bridges Press.

Coplin, William and Michael O’Leary. Public Policy Skills. 3 rd Ed. Croton-on-Hudson, NY: Policy Studies Associates, 1998

Martin, Wanda and Scott P. Sanders. “Ethics, Audience and the Writing Process: Bringing Public Issues into the Classroom”. Technical Communication Quarterly 3 (1994): 147-63

Ramage, John D., and John C. Bean. Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings. 4 th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1998.

Simon, H. A. (1997). Administrative behavior : a study of decision-making processes in administrative organizations. New York, Free Press.

Smith, C. F. (2005). Writing public policy : a practical guide to communicating in the policy-making process. New York, Oxford University Press.

Wilson, J. Q. (1989). Bureaucracy : what government agencies do and why they do it. New York, Basic Books.

Wright, J. R. (1996). Interest groups and Congress : lobbying, contributions, and influence. Boston, Allyn and Bacon.

Wright, J. R. (1996). Interest gr oups and Congress : lob bying, contributions, and influence. Boston,