Guildeline for Writing Good Memoranda

Guildeline for Writing Good Memoranda - CRP 3210...

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Unformatted text preview: CRP 3210 Introduction to Quantitative Methods for the Analysis of Public Policy Guidelines for Writing Good Policy Memoranda Policy memoranda are intended to provide clients, job supervisors, governmental organizations, or elected officials with information relevant to the making of thoughtful and defensible decisions. Such memoranda are most helpful if they follow a format that anticipates a standard logical sequence of questions that arise in most readers’ minds as they progress through the documents. Here are some serviceable guidelines. Always begin a memorandum by stating whom the memorandum is addressed to, who is writing it (or responsible for submitting it), what it concerns, and the date. For instance, To: Governor David Paterson From: Sog E. Fields, Policy Analyst Re: Wetlands Preservation Policy Evaluation Date: September 5, 2008 Next, give the reader some context for what’s to come by using language such as the following: “In response to your request of August 20m, 1 have prepared a study that addresses '3! “This memorandum is intended to provide an analysis of the problem outlined in your memorandum of July 14. 2008 ...” 01' “Following up on our discussion [lunch meeting, telephone conversation] on last Tuesday concerning I. . ...], I have prepared the following analysis for your review." After establishing what the memo concerns, briefly recapitulate the most important details of the problem. This part of the memo is very crucial because a clear problem statement may be lacking up to this point. Also, you may have to assemble a characterization of the problem from several different sources of information that may be at odds with each other. So a fair amount of judgment on your part is entailed at this stage. Following the problem statement—and it may even be in the same paragraph— should come a brief discussion of what counts as a solution or what for purposes of analysis you are taking to count as a solution. In terms of this solution concept. you should then explain briefly to the reader what criteria will be used to evaluate alternative Solutions or competing options. Given a description of a problem and what counts as a solution. it is now appropriate to discus what methodology you are adopting to analyze the problem and why it is appropriate (or the most appropriate among those that are avail able). Relevant considerations certainly include the time frame in which a response is sought, the information available, the cost of the analysis, and the possible fact that situations such as the one under consideration lend themselves readily to the methodology you have selected. All of the above can usually be accomplished in a few tightly written paragraphs that enable you to proceed to the heart of the matter. Here you present your analysis. Be sure to state your working assumptions and define important terms, but put the really technical stuff in appendices to which the reader may be referred. It is often useful to sump the major points of your analysis in charts or tables. (Formulas or symbols may be defined in keys.) In the last section of your memo you should draw the conclusions or implications of your analysis and identify the limitations or extenuating circumstances that would invalidate your findings. You should without fail offer a recommendation to the reader (client, buss, etc.)—after all, this is probably why you were put on this problem in the first place. The decision-maker gets paid to take the heat of making a difficult decision; you get paid to cover his or her flank by offering timely advice with some perspective. Finally, you should inform the reader briefly about how the analysis might be taken further, were additional funds—say, for research or data collection—become available. The above is intended to provide a general outline for a typical policy memorandum. In certain cases some of what has been suggested will be unnecessary or inappropriate and in other cases additional sections may be needed. As you get a feel for the requirements of the tasks with which you are charged, the changes that are appropriate will seem more and more obvious. In composing memoranda, several rules of thumb of good writing practice should still be observed. Use the active voice, except where tact dictates otherwise—cg, “It has been suggested that the Secretary of State has overdrawn his discretionary account by two hundred percent-” Avoid overly technical terminology where possible and eschew jargon and slang—even if they dominate language used in the office. Finally, spelling and grammar count a lot towards your oven all credibility. So use that Spell—Check feature on your word processor religiously and proofread carefully everything that has your name on it. ...
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