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Definitions and examples: Define jargon and complex terms for your audience, and stick to the same definition throughout. Also make the abstract concrete through the use of examples.

Unproven generalisations: Understand the meaning and the differences between terms such as ‘most’, ‘many’, ‘some’, or ‘few’. Differentiate them appropriately. Be very careful with the distinction between ‘most’ and ‘many’, and even more careful about saying ‘all’ or ‘none’. Is something ‘the reason’ or ‘one of the reasons’? Is it ‘always’ or ‘often’? Make the general specific by citing concrete instances, and quoting named individuals.

Supporting arguments: Carefully support all statements and with concrete details. Do not attack a person when you ought to be criticising an idea. Stick to discussing facts and arguments. Let readers make up their minds whether favours have motivated action or inaction. Sometimes you have to show and tell to be crystal clear about your message (and to avoid defamatory interpretations). Conclude the story with a summarising sentence.

Quoting authorities as proof: List pros and cons, and treat them in a balanced way. It is also important to focus on the reasons behind authorities’ actions. Why did someone say something? Talk to a range of relevant sources, not just one, to help with background research and quotes.

Prejudice, stereotypes or emotions: Avoid stereotypes, positive or negative, and keep your language neutral and treat all sources and subjects with the same healthy scepticism. Cite evidence for what you say. It is possible to write an accurate and convincing investigative story based on the weight of evidence, rather than single, clinching proof. However, proof is better – if you can find it. But solidly assembled evidence can do much the same job. When you have a great deal of evidence, make them tight and explicit, perhaps by returning to your sources and having them explain issues in greater detail. You may also need to establish a better context. This will provide your audience with information about the environment in which actions and consequences took place. It adds information about whether those involved had means, motive and opportunity to do the things you allege.