How to Write a Briefing Paper

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Originally designed to keep government ministers informed of what was happening, briefing papers are now used in business as an effective way to keep those who "need to know" in the loop. Briefing papers are, by definition, compact and concise and can take the form of a note, letter or memo.

  • State your purpose and outline who you are writing the briefing paper for in one or two sentences. Divide your briefing paper into short paragraphs to cover the topics you want to raise, and start a new paragraph each time you begin discussing a new idea.

  • Explain the background information pertinent to the briefing paper by giving the reader an idea of the reason the project was started and who is responsible for supervising it. Without going into too much detail, make sure you establish a clear understanding of the the elements of the issue.

  • Provide a current status report on the issue at hand in easy-to-understand language. Stay on topic and condense the material into a few sentences.

  • Target key considerations by using bullet points to create a short, sharp delivery strategy that will get the reader's attention. Using this format also allows for easy reference if people want to review your briefing paper at some point in the future.

  • Suggest the next step to take regarding the issue of the briefing by telling your audience what you think should happen and supporting your ideas with reasoning and evidence. Make clear to your reader that, based on the background, the current status report and key considerations, what you are proposing is logical and rational.

  • Invite comments and suggestions on your briefing paper by letting your readers know that you are interested in their feedback and are open to further ideas. Give them a deadline for submitting information.

  • Leave your briefing paper for an hour or so while you work on other projects and then edit it for clarity, spelling and grammar. Read the briefing paper aloud and assess it for tone to calculate how it will be received by your audience.

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