Writing is an essential skill in any organisation. The ability to write reports, draft project proposals, prepare substantive papers and communicate effectively with colleagues and partners is a crucial skill for any UN staff.

This five-week interactive course is designed to enhance the ability of staff to effectively draft a wide variety of documents through increased sensitivity to language, structure and content. Also, participants will be exposed to a variety of techniques for drafting documents that are adapted to the audience and have impact. 

The course introduces an innovative learning approach. All participants will follow two synchronized classes, during which effective document drafting skills and techniques applicable to any type of documents will be explained. After these initial two weeks, upon which participants will have a clearer vision of their weaknesses and learning priorities,  they will have two options for the remaining three weeks. They can either decide to follow a “general writing skills” path, mostly focusing on drafting, reviewing and managing daily communications, such as emails. Or they can decide to follow the “report writing skills” path. Participants CANNOT follow both paths, but have to obligatorily follow one.

The course is designed and delivered in collaboration with Mr. Brett Shapiro, a professional writer and journalist. For the past 23 years, he has written and edited technical, policy, strategy, advocacy and general audience publications for more than a dozen United Nations agencies, including “Nourishing the Land, Nourishing the People: The Upper Mandrare Basin Development Project in Madagascar”  and "From Food Crisis to Food Security: One Programme in Madagascar makes a difference”. 

The synchronized online sessions will take place from 2:30 – 4:30 Rome Time, (8:30 am – 10:30 am New York Time), on MONDAYs or on TUESDAYs, if you decide to follow the report writing skills path after week 2.



Upon successful completion of this course, participants will:

  • Identify the purpose, reader and context of the draft, and prepare it accordingly, by thoroughly organizing and developing ideas and concepts.
  • Recognize and avoid drafting, grammar and linguistic mistakes as well as circumlocutions and unnecessary words.
  • Reproduce techniques and apply skills for drafting a reader-friendly and incisive piece, without compromising style and professionalism.
  • Gain an effective methodology, and accompanying techniques, for reviewing work in order to make documents sound, structurally coherent, linguistically concise, grammatically accurate and visually appealing.
  • Write more effective email texts and subject lines, as well as distinguish and use different key language and tones or levels of formality to different types of emails.

Course Methodology

Course Methodology: 

This course is delivered entirely online. It combines live webinar sessions, led by subject expert, with self-paced activities and interactive group discussions.

The weekly instructor-led webinars are conducted in the WebEx online platform. Participants need a computer (or mobile device), a reliable internet connection and either headset with microphone to connect to the audio through the computer, or a telephone. We recommend accessing audio through the computer. No special software is required; but participants must be able to access WebEx. We will send instructions for WebEx access to registered participants and recommend that you download the application and test your access in advance.

The self-paced components and discussion forum for each week of the course are designed and structured on UNKampus, UNSSC’s Learning Platform.

Course Contents

Course Contents: 
  • Week 1 (for all participants) – Effective document drafting I: process and getting started. This session will provide participants with the pre-writing strategies and considerations required to be able to begin writing a first draft with a clear sense of direction, message and voice. Basic linguistic considerations (e.g. circumlocutions, unnecessary words) will also be introduced.
  • Week 2 (for all participants) – Effective document drafting II: the linguistic jungle. This session will provide participants with some approaches, techniques and skills to express a simple or complex idea with maximum clarity. More linguistic issues (e.g. nominalizations, passive voice) will be addressed. Emphasis is always on reader-friendliness, but not at the expense of professionalism. The goal is to be able to draft text that a reader needs to read only once, and can understand fully and easily.
  • Week 3:
    • For general writing skills participants – A focus on emails. This session will cover the nuts and bolts of email composition. Topics will include: formulating the appropriate subject line, opening and closing; internal versus external communication; determining the appropriate tone/degree of formality; the human touch above all.
    • For report writing skills participants – Dense, denser, densest. This session will address some of the most common linguistic constructions that make a reader or longer documents shut down. They include: too many ideas in a sentence; misleading headings and topic sentences; lack of parallelism in lists; and “buzz words” devoid of substance.
  • Week 4:
    • For general writing skills participants – Getting it right. This session will cover how to best organize complex information in an email, how to draft emails that contain negative messages, the indispensable art of diplomacy, and “me” versus “you” correspondence.
    • For report writing skills participants – Beyond text: structure, format and graphics. This session will highlight the importance of a reader-friendly structure and format, and the underuse, use – and abuse – of charts, graphs, tables, text boxes and photographs. The thorny issue of acronyms will also be addressed.
  • Week 5:
    • For general writing skills participants – Reviewing your work and basic email etiquette. This session will provide participants with a systematic way to review their work to ensure structural coherence, linguistic clarity, and compelling messages. The session will close with a recap and a checklist of email etiquette.
    • For report writing skills participants – Revising and refining your work. This session will provide participants with a systematic, three-tiered methodology for reviewing their work to ensure structural integrity and attractiveness, linguistic clarity, compelling messages, and the like. Proofreading techniques will also be addressed to ensure that documents are as error-free as possible.

Target Audience

Target Audience: 

All UN personnel (P and GS staff) at headquarters and field locations.

Cost of participation

Cost of participation: 

The course fee of USD 1,250 covers full participation in the online course.

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