Analytic writing

IN AN ERA saturated with textual content claiming to make sense of the world’s complexity, we must face the reality: an enormous amount of wealth pours into writing that is very hard to read. A great deal of mainstream analysis is short but shallow, while much more is so long and meandering as to ultimately…

The opinion piece

A LEGITIMATE AMBITION of any aspiring analyst is to get his or her name in the paper, as a byline to an “opinion editorial” or op-ed, voicing strong personal views to the world. Established pundits will all have kept in a drawer, somewhere, that first paper edition bearing their patronym, as a trophy marking a significant…

Modern-day Socrates

A PARADOXICAL JOURNALIST AND RESEARCHER, Mongi Abdennabi articulates inspiring analysis that he never shares, other than through oral exchanges. A Tunisian intellectual who lived much of his adult life in Syria before moving to Egypt, he has traveled to and has friends in most Arab countries. Although he hardly writes himself, he has a keen…

Prepping for media engagements

THERE IS ONE CORE RULE to giving interviews to journalists: the interaction is fundamentally transactional. Correspondents, columnists and broadcasters want something from you; you must want something in return, and make sure it’s a win-win deal. What exactly may journalists seek? That varies as much as personality and professionalism among them. At one end of…

Going deep

ON MOST SUBJECT MATTER, there is no shortage of information and analysis. What’s missing, by and large, is reliability and depth. Facts must be checked, theories tested and stories well-researched, no doubt. Beyond that, however, is a quest for greater perceptiveness and more humanity—a profundity that is hard to define and harder to attain, but…

Performing in public

SOONER OR LATER, if you’re doing work of interest to others, you’ll be asked to get up on the stage and perform for an audience. Whether you’re giving a conference, moderating a panel, pushing your ideas in front of a distinguished assembly of colleagues or board members, fulfilling a mundane obligation by making a toast, or…

Giving a title

A TEXT WITHOUT A TITLE is like a building without a door. To enter it, you walk around, you break in through the window, and you definitely don’t feel welcome. Reading, let alone editing, such a text feels like trespassing on the author’s intimacy: if he/she didn’t put a title, it’s presumably because it’s still…

Framing your subject

ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT TASKS involved in turning extensive research into a digestible product is framing the topic. Sound fieldwork invariably reveals and unravels the complexity of the issue we are working on, to the point where bringing it down to something simple is perplexing. “What’s the angle?” journalists would say. An end-user of…

The art of editing

A GREAT PIECE OF WRITING is always a collaborative product. We seek inspiration from others and generally borrow more ideas than we are aware of. We improve our writing skills through critical feedback we take into account, iteratively. And a good text will always gain from a good editor. But that is a rare bird: many…

What writing is worth our while?

WRITING IS A NERVE-WRACKING and enthralling endeavor. We put a great deal of ourselves into it. Sometimes we torture ourselves, or hope to liberate and comfort ourselves. But what about those whom we expect to read our writing? Writing is both an extremely personal experience and one that connects us to untold others. That connection…

Drafting a briefing based on your fieldwork

YOUR NOTES taken in the field are ultimately designed to inspire, structure and support work that goes down on paper. You must go through the process of translating a mass of oral conversations, visual and other observations, and abstract thoughts into a readable text. That is one of the most challenging aspects of our work. But…

Taking the floor

WHEN ATTENDING A MEETING or a roundtable, you generally don’t have the luxury to stay mute – unless you want to establish yourself as a note-taker no one should pay any further attention to. Taking the floor is almost always awkward and intimidating. If it’s not, that probably means you’ve become one of these people…