505's Rules on Writing

We believe in the importance of clear writing and communication

Why we believe in clear writing

We believe in the importance of clear and concise language. This doesn’t mean that we reduce the complexity of our analyses. Instead, it means we explain complex topics in simple words. It’s our responsibility to reduce friction for clients – to reduce the barriers to understanding our work.

It’s easy to hide behind jargon and technical language. It can minimise exposure to criticism. But if clients want our advice and our analysis, it’s our responsibility to articulate our findings as clearly as possible. Most clients don’t have the time to decipher dense and complex language.

Unlike traditional consultancies, one of our aims at 505 Economics is to make ourselves redundant. We believe in educating clients and automating as much as possible so that there’s no dependency on us. And we can’t reduce clients’ dependency on us if we’re using complex and impenetrable language in our analyses.

How we write clearly

We love George Orwell’s Six Rules for Writing. It guides how we think about writing clearly.

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Bad writing: Despite significant investment, the government commissioned numerous infrastructure projects that are cathedrals in the desert.
Better writing: The government built infrastructure in places where they cannot be used.


Bad writing:
It is proposed that ongoing citizen consultation be conducted by governments.
Better writing: We propose that governments conduct more consultation with citizens.

Bad writing: We argue that the ‘Asian speed’ of development was enabled in specific historical and geographical conjunctures, which entailed the appropriation of individual and collective aspirations through the invention of a certain kind of futurity and, in so doing, consolidated local politico-economic structures that displace both the present and the future.
Better writing: We argue that Asian countries developed quickly because of certain local circumstances, such as the invention of new plans for the future.

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