Eight tips for writing research reports that both humans and AI algorithms can understand
In 2022, machine learning has made significant inroads into enterprise applications, including knowledge management systems for market and competitive intelligence. Given this technology reality, the content indexed and stored in such systems needs to be “machine learning friendly.” Machine learning-generated document summaries can actually increase both understanding and readership of research reports by the people who most need the information contained in them; data from Northern Light portals shows that users end up downloading and reading more documents when the truly important passages from all of the best documents are presented to them. That’s why documents now need to be written in such a way that an algorithm as well as a human can read and digest them.
Here are several characteristics of a writing style that works for both “audiences”:
- Write in simple declarative sentences that have noun subjects and predicate verbs that express whole ideas within each sentence. Declarative sentences always end with a period as the terminator, never a question mark or exclamation mark.
- Avoid questions whenever possible since usually the answer follows the question in another sentence or in tables or lists. We don’t usually care about the questions, it is the answers we want. Put the answers into context with a simple declarative sentence ending in a period.
- Avoid putting the important ideas in lists, or at least only in lists. If you need a list or just want one for readability issues, repeat the findings in a sentence in notes, a sidebar, appendix, etc. using the principles of simple declarative sentences ending with periods.
- Avoid pronouns (he, she, they, it) and pronoun-like words (company, firm) whenever possible.
- Restrain the urge to write with creative expressions and idioms, and be sure to use standard vocabulary words and common abbreviations that other writers are likely to use.
- Don’t write with social media conventions like hashtags, especially hashtags as subjects or objects in noun phrases.
- If you use bullet points, make them complete sentences with noun subjects a period as the terminator.
- When using PowerPoint, put any essential oral commentary and the interpretation of graphical elements into the notes field on each slide using simple declarative sentences ending with periods.
These tips may feel initially somewhat limiting to your writing creativity, but you will find in time that the straight forward writing style and structure described here will maximize the reach and impact of your research documents.
Read Northern Light’s white paper “Best Practices for Writing Market Intel Reports for Machine Learning” for a more in-depth presentation of the tips contained in this post.