Writing a brief
The Oxford online dictionary defines brief as being
“concise in expression;using few words”
(http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/brief). I interpret this, in relation to writing briefs, as meaning that the brief should contain the relevant information for a project, or writing assignment and not much else. So why is it that writer’s brief are often pages long?
– I don’t have an answer to this, I’m just curious, especially as I’ve recently been tasked with writing briefs for various jobs. Having never written writer’s briefs before, I wasn’t too sure where to start. I began by looking at the briefs I’ve had (for some odd reason I always keep them), and soon got quite bored: don’t get me wrong, they’re all interesting projects, but there was a lot of information, some of which wasn’t always pertinent to the job in hand. My first thought then was that perhaps the brief should indeed be brief (the clue is in the title after all!).
Help! How do I go about this?
By some lucky coincidence, as I started out on the Verity Cole, author of CreatEd, wrote a post called ‘Brief encounters’ (http://elteditor.co.uk/brief-encounters/). I found it a very enlightening read and was able to glean quite a bit of useful information:
In short (haha!)briefs should be –
- a ‘walk-through’ of the project (or task)
- not overwhelming for the writer
- include all the relevant information and be specific
- accessible to all (not use language that may exclude writers or editors)
- as up to date as possible
- be open to questions (at least invite them)
This has led me to ask
‘What can we assume the writer knows?’
‘What can be included without sounding patronising?’
In writing the briefs I need to ensure that all the writer’s have the relevant information, but how can I know how much each of them knows? Can I assume I can use EFL terminology or should I steer clear of it? If I use it, how much should I use?
Without trying to completely confuse myself, I’ve decided to avoid EFL terminology for the more complex concepts (even though this may mean I’m less brief in places, I should be clear).
So for my writer’s brief for writing module specifications this is what I’ve gone for:
Basic general background information (the project outline and aims, a student and teacher profile (this is known as the materials are for a specific organisation)
Key definitions – for example the difference between module aims, module objective and indicative content for the given context (a minefield in itself) and how they relate to each other
Tips – on writing aims, objectives and indicative content
Samples – of all three to show how they link and sample language
Writing and editing – information on the process, so they know what to expect (some writers are newbies)
Admin – Information on how to label the files
Expectations – information on the time expected to complete the task and time allowed for the reviewing and development process
I’m pleased to say that I managed to fit this onto three pages. Hopefully it’s brief, but not too brief. The proof, as they say, will be in the eating!
With any luck, it’ll be short and sweet!