Communication: Online Advice about Writing for Planners

Ann Forsyth's picture

What do planners do? Last month I highlighted the findingsof several surveys of planners aiming to identify core skills for theworkplace. They highlight the importance of skills in communication,information analysis and synthesis, political savvy, and basic workplacecompetencies and attitudes. In all these surveys, however, the ability to writewell is at or near the top.

Writing memos and producing reports is part of the curriculum in every planningschool and can be learned on the job with good mentoring from seniorplanners. However, several online sources of information are also available forhoning the skills of planners. Most are focused on academic writing but have relevance for professional work.While professional writing texts exist, few are free.

·       (2010 update--these pages are no longer available)  John Forester at Cornell Universityprovides advice for writing at the masters level, dealing with issues ofwriting practice, structure and mechanics, and reader expectations: 2007 document is a valuable checklist. A longer paper, from 1984, reflectson the craft of academic writing:

·       At Michigan,Scott Campbell also provides advice for academic writers:

·       Martin Krieger from USC has been posting "This Week'sFinds in Planning" for over a decade. This is a terrific resource. Aimed at doctoral students and facultymembers it also provides some useful advice for others. This short blog is one of hisbest (and while I have not always followed it, I have regretted those times):

·       Ann Markusen's writing course syllabus at the University of Minnesota provides a number of usefulreferences:

·       My own planetizen blogs provide advice aboutwriting including finishing a project writing a proposal provide longer advice for my own students at to the last couple of for a checklist and the last page for references). A more academic piece, my 1999 article ‘On Writing and Tenure," is available on Randy Crane's useful blog:

My Septemberblog, one day late! (Small edits made in January 2009.)


Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.


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