You have got less than 5 minutes to get your key policy messages across. It’s about the same time it takes from Montgomery to Arts-Loi on STIB metro line 1 which is where your readers are skimming your briefing on their mobiles.

Time is our most precious asset, being concise but focussed in communication, especially within policy writing is a significant challenge for policy officers. The ability to distill complex information into its most essential form without diluting the message is not just art. There are some techniques we can all use to write impactful policy papers. Here are some ways on achieving brevity and how to apply these strategies to policy writing.

Look out for wordy phrases

Wordiness means using more words than you need. This habit obscures your main points, makes it harder for the reader to capture your message and generally is a pain in the neck. Common culprits include redundant pairs, passive constructions, and excessive qualifiers. Instead of saying “in my opinion, I think,” simply state “I believe.” Watch out for phrases that can be said in a word or two—these are the first to trim in the pursuit of conciseness.

Exercise your verbs

Verbs drive your sentence. Use verbs with meaning that convey the action directly and avoid nominalizations—verbs converted into nouns. For example, “The project teams will make an application for further funding” would be better as “The project teams will apply for funding.” The second version is more direct and engaging. So write with verbs – get it?

Adverb and adjective control

Adverbs and adjectives should add value rather than bulk up your writing. They can quickly become crutches that prop up weak nouns and verbs. Remove adverbs that state the obvious and adjectives that do not contribute new information. Instead of “completely eliminate,” simply use “eliminate”—which, by definition, means to completely remove.

Here’s a policy statement (this is real!)

Consider the transformation of this policy statement:


“The European Green Deal, European Union’s new growth strategy, has set the EU on a course to become a sustainable climate neutral and circular economy by 2050. It has also set a goal to protect better human health and the environment as part of an ambitious approach to tackle pollution from all sources and move towards a toxic-free environment.”


“The EU’s new Green Deal growth strategy aims to move Europe towards a sustainable economy and tackle pollution to make our continent toxic-free by 2050.”

I have reduced the text by more than half its length without sacrificing content. I’ve eliminated redundancy, tightened up the verbs, and ditched superfluous adverbs and adjectives. Horray

So, what are you going to do with this?

Mastering this skill ensures that key messages resonate with stakeholders and drive necessary action. By stripping away the excess and focusing on impactful words, we can elevate our writing to be as efficient and powerful as possible. Take the challenge: scrutinize your next piece of writing, cut the bloat, and refine your message to its most compelling core. After all, in the world of policy and business, clarity isn’t just persuasive—it’s policy.

Training? Go on – treat yourself and your staff

Give your readers insight and the benefit of concise writing which conveys ley policy messages.

At Formative Communications we help staff to be able to identify these critical ideas from their meetings and train teams on how to express these in clear, crisp writing. These are vital skills for your staff, your organisation, your industry.

Contact us at for details of our in-person and online training programmes.