How to write about your planning project, part 1

We’re seeing some great project websites created on OpenPlans.org. Starting this week, we will share tips and tricks to getting the most out of your page. Drop us a line anytime with questions, or head over to our community pages to share ideas and projects with other OpenPlans users.

Getting an OpenPlans page up and running is as simple as going to OpenPlans.org, and creating an account. You’ll be walked through some questions, then presented with an editable view of your project page. From there, you’re one click away from publishing your page.

So, publishing is easy, but what should you be thinking about when crafting a project description?

Two essential topic areas to cover are the purpose of the project, and why people should get involved. I’ll cover getting involved in a later blog post. Here are our tips for for writing about your project scope.

Use these tips to set up your short calls to action, and when writing longer paragraphs. This won’t be the first time you write about your project, of course – but hopefully this helps you think through your project scope in simple, engaging terms.

planners up on the internet

What is the problem here? 

a.k.a. why is this project needed? Maybe you don’t think there’s a “problem” problem, but you have a reason for the project taking place. Get straight to it – if you’re embarking on a master plan for downtown, explain some of the key issues facing downtown that the project will address. If you’re doing an infrastructure project, describe the need for this work in your first sentence.

Are you writing for planners or people?

Here are some planner-speak errors to avoid:

  • Don’t talk about this project’s relationship to other previous projects — “in 2002, the City Planner’s Office prepared a comprehensive master plan as required by City Charter. As mandated in the 1978 revision to the charter, these plans must be revised every 10 years….” That’s boring. Don’t lead with it, unless you’re trying to attract planning nerds only.
  • Don’t copy from the RFP or any other previously-prepared technical description of the project. It’s probably also boring.
  • Avoid tautologies. We planners love them, I’m not sure why. “A public engagement process to engage the public”, that sort of thing.

“Will this project do anything?”

Unfortunately, that’s in many people’s minds when reading about a project. Tackle this right away. Once you’ve identified the need, challenge or problem, talk about the impact of the project. The effort involved in the project is worthwhile because it will have a positive impact (because you’re working on it, and you are great!). Spell that out, briefly.

Hope this was useful. In the next blog post, I’ll cover some tips for explaining and selling public involvement.