Blogging and online communications workshop
Howard Hudson, UNU-MERIT, March 2014
Problem or Opportunity?
Survey of 230+ senior US policymakers
Language: “Policymakers find much
current scholarly work… inaccessible.
[They] want scholars to write in… plain
Medium: “A scholar’s broader visibility…
enhances influence among policymakers
more than his or her academic standing.”
Resources and recommendations
1.Blogs gaining ground: Huffington Post has more
writers than the New York Times
“When we go online, each of us is our own
editor, our own gatekeeper.” Nicholas Kristof
2.Online articles are mainly read while doing
other things, like mailing, shopping, etc.
More rushed: mainly scanning.
Quickly hooked or quickly dropped
Despite distractions, Web 2.0 big
•You remember 10 per cent of what you
read, 50 per cent of what you read and
hear, and 90 per cent of what you do.
Key to interactivity: blogs, infographics,
videos = food for Facebook (1.2b+)
YouTube (1b+) and Twitter (240m+)
Commenting, sharing, liking =
many small acts that can “go viral”
Examples? IMF Direct / Poverty Report
- Online diary for sharing ideas, insights
and observations: What did you learn at
a big event? What MOVED you and why?
- Write as you speak: use abbreviations
and the I/we form to be ACTIVE
- Invite and respond to comments:
treat it as a very informal peer review
- Also good practice for writing
op/eds or even policy briefs
Where to start? Some examples…
- Political determinants of sustainable transport
in Latin American cities (paper)
- Urban Mobility: What Can Latin America Learn from
East Asia? (blog)
- The Mythical City of Curitiba: Still a Model of
- Path-breaking directions of nanotechnology-based
chemotherapy and molecular cancer therapy (paper)
- Can Nanotechnology Help Cure Cancer? (video)
Simpler message = more accessible
Question headlines = basic interactivity
Where to start? More examples…
- Understanding Small-Island Developing States:
Fragility and External Shocks (book)
- Bombs and Business: How can Entrepreneurs in
Fragile States Manage the Risks of Violent Conflict?
- Provocative but substantial, sharing evidence
- Explains complex ideas in everyday language
- Opens the door for journalists and non-specialists
who want to know more about his research
Where to start? Getting
- “Flesch Reading Ease Scale” part of MS Office.
- MS Word 2010: File > Options > Proofing >
Show readability statistics (Tick box).
•100: Very easy to read. Average sentence
<12 words. Max. 2 syllables per word.
•65: Plain English. Average sentence
15-20 words. Average 2 syllables.
•30: A little hard to read. Sentences mostly
25 words. Usually 2 syllables.
•0: Very hard to read. Average sentence
37 words. Average >2 syllables.
High-quality learning environments
are a necessary precondition for
facilitation and enhancement of
the ongoing learning process.
Children need good schools if they are to
If there are any points on which you
require explanation or further
particulars we shall be glad to furnish
such additional details as may be
required by telephone.
If you have any questions, please phone.
1.BE ACTIVE: Use the active voice rather than
the passive voice: shows who is responsible
2.BE DIRECT: State facts and ideas directly: use
concrete rather than abstract words
3.BE DYNAMIC: Use verbs instead of nouns where
possible. Verbs are dynamic and action-oriented
4.BE DIGESTIBLE: Favour short words and
sentences. Present one idea per paragraph
5.BE SELECTIVE: Use appropriate language,
adapted to your audience and purpose
“The extremists are afraid of books and
pens. The power of education frightens
them.” Malala Yousafzai
“The Concise Oxford English Dictionary,
edition, is the current authority for
spelling in the United Nations.”
A quick summary of common usage:
- one to nine, 10...
- per cent (not %, unless in tables or links)
Headlines and blockquotes
•Use a simple and vivid title (3-5 words)
with an explanatory subtitle (10-15 words)
•Use blockquotes to highlight
major / controversial ideas
Structure = inverted
•Front-load articles: begin with the main
problem or position, add key info, then
essential context. Aka “Inverted Pyramid”
•Present one idea per paragraph
•Add chapter headings for chunks of text:
be concrete rather than abstract, especially
for international audiences
texts into everyday English
-Take the example provided or
one of your own working papers
-Change the title into a journalistic
headline, then convert the abstract /
conclusion into a blog of 500 words
-Start with a bigger problem, e.g. one
of human survival, development or
welfare to tap into a wider audience
-Add your own insights and observations
-Share with the group!