Writing for the United Nations

 
 
 
 

I. Introduction

 
 
 
 

 

Writing for the United Nations has many purposes, but the main purpose is to provide information. It is therefore factual in nature. That calls for brevity, clarity, simplicity of language and logical organization of material. Those qualities are all the more important because the readers of United Nations reports speak many different languages and come from different backgrounds and cultures. Some readers will be delegates from Member States; others might be university students trying to learn more about the world we live in; yet others might be working for a non-governmental organization. Internal reports will be read by your colleagues, and English might not be their mother tongue.

United Nations reports sometimes fail to achieve the ideals of accuracy, clarity, conciseness and consistency. A report might suffer from any of the following problems:

 
(a)
Unclear purpose and illogical structure;
 
(b)
Lack of awareness of audience;
 
(c)
Excessive length from unnecessary padding and repetition;
 
(d)
Distracting or irrelevant graphics;
 
(e)
Problems with style and tone;
 
(f)
Problems with consistency and coherence;
 
(g)
Mistakes of spelling and grammar;
 
(h)
Lack of action-oriented conclusions and recommendations.
 

All of these problems will be addressed in this online writing course.
 

Throughout the course, you will see links marked [TIP], which will take you to a separate section giving advice and pointers about the marked word or phrase. These tips relate to style, grammar and usage of specific words.


The course is organized into chapters, each with practical exercises. Links to move to the next chapter and to the exercises and answers are given throughout the course.

It is not necessary to try to finish the course in one sitting. You can print out the individual exercises and work on them at your convenience.

The basic aim of this online course is to help you to produce writing that is accurate, action-oriented, clear, concise, simple and well organized. To achieve this, the course will teach you how to do the following: [TIP]

  (a) Become more aware of the intended reader and purpose;
  (b)

Use one or more pre-writing techniques to get started and to produce an outline of a report;

  (c) Follow standard formats for different kinds of United Nations documents;
  (d) Write well-organized, coherent sentences and paragraphs;
  (e) Avoid common errors of spelling, grammar and style;
  (f) Draft an accurate and concise summary;
  (g) Draw and present conclusions and recommendations.
     
In chapter II you will learn how to focus on your reader and purpose.
 

 
     
 
 
  | I. Introduction | II. Reader and purpose | III. Pre-writing techniques | IV. Standard report formats | V. Sentence and paragraph development | VI. Clarity in writing | VII. Writing a summary | VIII. Writing conclusions and recommendations | IX. Some last tips |  
 
 
 

Writing for the United Nations © 2007-2014 (New York). Prepared and maintained for the United Nations under the authority of the Chief of the Editorial, Terminology and Reference Service, Department for General Assembly and Conference Management. For technical or editorial enquiries, write "Webmaster" in the subject line of your message and send it to editorialcontrol@un.org. Site created 31 October 2007.