How to write like an intelligence analyst?

The purpose of writing is to better report on issues. In today's information age, where people are overwhelmed by numerous messages, it becomes especially important for an article to give readers access to high-value information in a short period of time, so keep in mind that the goal of writing is to be clear and concise.

The prerequisite for writing is to identify the audience, grasp the key issues that the audience struggles to solve, and sort out the solutions and plausible storyline provided by the writer.

Know your AIMS

Audience: What is the primary audience for the article?

Issues: What is the key issue that the article addresses?

Message: What is the key message of the article?

Storyline: How can you better construct a storyline?

AIMS is an easy way to conceptualize the structural building blocks of an analytical paper. Ideally, you can even complete (or get close enough to) the first three parts before you start writing the final product.

Only after you have identified your audience, narrowed down the key issues they are grappling with, and know the bottom-line message you need to convey to them, can you begin writing.

Answer the golden questions

You may be familiar with the 5Ws - who, what, when, where and why. Analytical writing compresses some of these and expands on others. The approach I learned uses five "golden questions" that reflect the way we find and absorb information. Answering these questions will enable you to isolate the message and build a storyline.

Context: What is going on? What is the event or development you are writing about? This question is often difficult to answer because it is usually wrapped up in context - but then, you are an analyst.

Cause: What are the key forces or drivers of how things are going?

Development: Analytical writing is forward-looking, not just descriptive and reportable. How will things unfold, and can you assess likely outcomes or future developments?

Impact: What is the benefit of your writing to the reader? Or what can your article help the reader?

Use: How will we use it? The intelligence community struggles with this, focusing rightly on the perception of policy prescriptions. But good opportunity analysis is not prescriptive at all; it simply highlights the options available to policymakers.

How to write articles clearly

1. Express the point of your article in layman's terms and with clarity. As an analytical writer, your job is to help readers understand, accept and remember key judgments that are often difficult to make.

2. Your essay needs to reflect key paragraphs, statements, and main ideas.

3. After writing your essay, you need to do redundancy elimination.

· Cut redundant language: repeat the same ideas in different words.

· Cut unnecessary nonsense: usually amounts to throat clearing.

· Cut unnecessary details: such as irrelevant and precise numbers, names of individuals who have been mentioned but are not relevant to the larger story, statements that lack analytical meaning, etc.

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