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What is a fact sheet?

A fact sheet is
• one sheet of paper written on one side or two.
• a simple but logical and rigorous explanation or description of a process or topic.
• self contained, although it may be part of a series.
• written in clear, plain English for a non-expert readership.

Why have them?

• They one way to manage popular or frequent questions.
• They are useful when you need to explain a process or procedure to a wide audience.
• They are often used when we are changing the way we work – or are asking the public to do something new.

How do I write one?
Step1 Read as many fact sheets from other agencies as you can.
This will give you ideas about layout and so on but most importantly you will get the sound of a simple straightforward message in your head.

Step 2 Divide up your whole topic into units or steps.
This may take a bit of time. Be flexible. Sometimes the complexity of something doesn’t emerge until you begin to write about it. Be prepared to carve out chunks into new fact sheets rather than making any one fact sheet too labour intensive.

Step 3 Decide
• who your readers are and
• what they will use the fact sheet for.

Step 4 Chose only information that will help them do what the fact sheet is helping them do. Nothing more. No extra detail. No more facts. (Unlike this).

Step 5 Write your draft and edit, as usual. Use dot points, headings, white space and good layout rules to make your text readable.

Step 6 Add visuals or one simple clear diagram per fact sheet that reinforces the message. Do not add them for the sake of it.

Step 7 Give it to a non-expert for a reality check on its readability.

Where can I get help on this?

• Google is full of tips and examples.
• A good graphic designer.
• A good editor.

You can do all that!

When is next Thursday?

Last Tuesday I agreed to a meeting at 9am with some clients next Thursday.

The clients sent a confirmatory email with the date but by then I was in the bush and out of easy internet access.

On Thursday morning about 9.30am I got a call asking where I was.

The client thought I was late.

I thought they were a week early.

The question is: When is next Thursday?

For some people next Thursday is the next Thursday to occur.

For others (like me) the date is next Thursday as opposed to this Thursday.
Next Thursday it is not this Thursday (the next one to occur) but the one after that.

Of course they had done the right thing and put a date on the meeting, which I had ignored, hence the problem.

So, don’t assume that everyone uses next the same way you do.

Put a date to the event or elaborate a little, so you mean not this Thursday but the one after that… if you are talking. That way you will avoid the embarrassment of missing a date.

Pick the best option

Here’s a quick quiz for you to try.

1a. The rangers have been accused of carelessness by the media.
1b. The rangers have been accused by the media of carelessness.
1c. The media have accused rangers of carelessness.

2a. If Jane Jones were Minister she would introduce this policy.
2b. If Jane Jones becomes the Minister she will introduce this policy.
2c. If Jane Jones becomes Minister she would introduce this policy.

3a. A half-yearly profit has been announced by the Australian steel maker BHP.
3b. The Australian steel maker, BHP, have announced a half yearly profit.
3c. BHP, an Australian steel maker, has announced a half-yearly profit.


Congratulations to those of you who helped raise money for Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia or beyondblue during MOVEMBER.

Movember is a great example of a portmanteau word. These are two words combined to make a new meaning.

Many every day words began as two words squished together – email, intercom, hi-tech.

But of these portmanteau words have been around for centuries:

Goodbye God + be (with) + ye from the 16th century

Lewis Carroll is credited with having coined the term portmanteau word (in Through the Looking Glass 1872) based on the idea that a portmanteau is a bag the opens in two equal halves.

Although calling a suitcase a portmanteau is now almost completely archaic the process continues.

1889 electrocute electricity + execute

1896 brunch breakfast+ lunch

1925 motel motor + hotel

1936 guestimate guess + estimate

These are more recent portmanteau inventions:

Smash smack + mash

Hazmat hazardous + materials

Glitz glamour + ritz 

Pixcel picture + cell

Sci-fi science + fiction

Webinar web + seminar

Smog smoke + fog

Sitcom situation + comedy

The newest addition to the list I have seen is CARGUMENT Car + argument. How clever!

Best Option Quiz Answers:

1c. We have an action (accused) and someone doing the action (the media).
It is always best to start with the actor rather than wait until the end of the sentence.

2a. “If” statements are followed by “were” verbs.

3c. See answer 1 (which cuts out option 3a) and because BHP is a company and therefore one legal entity 2b is wrong.