Briefing Notes and Briefing Books:  Guidance and Templates
Briefing Notes Workshops

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 Table of Contents:  Briefing Notes and Briefing Books
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For Quick Guidance on Briefing Notes is a large site, with over 390 pages of guidance and 274 templates for briefing notes and briefing books. For quick reference, you may want to visit:

Classic Format of a Briefing Note

Welcome to Our Free Site on Briefing Notes and Briefing Books


Welcome to This site is a free resource that serves all who prepare briefing notes and briefing books — briefings for anyone from colleagues and supervisors right up to senior executives and cabinet ministers. You will find over 390 pages of guidance here and 274 templates (each in MS Word and WordPerfect) for briefing notes, briefing books, memos and letters.

If you have not already done so, please review the User Agreement. By accessing this site, you agree to comply with it.

As a point of reference, this site often uses Government of Canada memos, letters, briefing notes and briefing books prepared for ministers and deputy ministers. However, it takes only minor changes to adapt the material to diverse governments and other organizations worldwide. It is equally easy to adapt the material to briefings prepared for a supervisor or a colleague.

You will also discover that the guidance found here provides insight into virtually any other type of writing in an office setting.

For a super-summary to how to write a briefing note, I recommend that you visit Classic Format of a Briefing Note for the Minister.

I hope you have a rewarding visit.

With best wishes,



Our Mission

A briefing note is a powerful tool of access to leaders — to influence their decisions, their actions and their understanding of issues.  In this regard, the writer's job is deliver expert insight and strategic acumen with clarity, brevity, professionalism — all in an organization, format, style and tone that are acceptable to senior management.

Writing for Results Inc.'s mission is to deliver training that provides Government of Canada employees with the tools, techniques and knowledge needed to excel at preparing clear, crisp and compelling briefing notes.




Contact Us

Writing for Results Inc.
420 Gloucester Street, Suite 1610
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1R 7T7

telephone: 613-231-3305
e-mail: Writing for Results Inc.



Writing a briefing note can seem like a bewildering challenge at times.  As Henry Ford said, however, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”  The model below does just that for briefing notes.  It sets out the tasks that we all deal with – consciously or not – in any briefing note.  The model helps us to address those tasks methodically and with sound reasoning.

The step-by-step model is a tool, not a rule.  No two people will use it entirely alike.  In theory, you should first write a frame of reference, then develop the content, then select the medium, and finally prepare the message itself.  In practice, you will probably find yourself jumping back and forth from one stage to another.  Even so, the model provides important insights into what to think about, when to think about it and how to think about it.

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Step-by-Step Model for Briefing Notes and Briefing Books




What is a Briefing Note?

Don't be intimidated by the term "briefing note" if you have been asked to prepare one. You prepare briefing notes all the time, probably without realizing it. At its most basic level, a briefing note could be a handwritten note to your boss, saying: "Mary, could I ask you to sign the attached requisition? I have checked our budget, and we have the funds for everything we need to order."

A briefing note could provide good news, bad news or understanding of an issue. It could advise the reader to make a decision that will guide your actions or those of others. It could advise the reader to take action. Or it could advise the reader to sign a document.

In short, a briefing note is a powerful tool of access to decision-makers – to influence their decisions, their actions and their understanding of issues.  It is vital to use that tool effectively and efficiently.

The formats of briefing notes vary widely. They could be memos, reports, letters or binders. They could be one page long or a hundred. If the user is a cabinet minister or a senior executive, the format might be rigidly defined and limited to one or two pages. If the user is a colleague, the format might be entirely up to you.

Whatever the nature of the briefing note you are preparing, great latitude will exist for you to improve its effectiveness. is designed to help you use that latitude to maximum benefit.



What Writing for Results is All About

Henry Ford said, "Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs." Writing for Results does just that for briefing notes and briefing books.

Writing for Results fills a gap in the bookshelf. It provides guidance you cannot find elsewhere on how to prepare a briefing at any level, whether it be for your immediate supervisor, a colleague, a senior exeuctive or your minister.

Some people write to put their thoughts on paper. Others write to discover what their thoughts are. Most people do both to varying degrees, depending on what they’re writing about. Whatever your approach, Writing for Results provides tools that will streamline the process and enhance its effectiveness.

In many cases, effective writing is much more a thinking process than a writing process. Putting words on paper is a straightforward proposition for most people. Putting the right words on paper in the right way is less so. This is where the thinking process comes in.

Writing for Results shows you how writing can be broken down into a series of manageable tasks in an innovative step-by-step model. Clear writing requires clear thinking, and clear thinking requires directing your mind at the right task at the right time. The step-by-step model provides the tools you need to do this for any type of writing in an office setting.

Addressing writing tasks systematically greatly eases the writing process. Conversely, it can be a frustrating struggle to try to write without being conscious of which task you are dealing with at a given point. The step-by-step model addresses those realities. It also helps to avoid the futility of trying to solve a problem with one approach when in fact the real problem lies elsewhere.

Writing for Results will yield dividends for the rest of your career. It will show you how to:

  • give yourself a frame of reference that will provide you with sound guidance throughout the writing process;
  • develop compelling content for your briefings;
  • select the optimal medium or media for communicating your briefings; and
  • build effective organization structures, design formats with eye appeal, write with a clear and concise style, and apply the final touches needed for successful briefings.




Staff Training

Briefing Notes Workshops

Training in writing skills for briefing notes is an investment that yields dividends for a lifetime. offers scheduled briefing notes workshops in Ottawa. You can learn more about them here.

We do more than just train your staff in format and style. We train your staff in the thinking skills required to write effective briefing material.

Make the most of your training budget. Please do not hesitate to contact us to learn more about the workshops on briefing notes we can offer.



About the Author of Writing for Results

Rob Parkinson -- Briefing Notes Workshops

Rob Parkinson has over 35 years of experience in management communications — gained as a consultant, an instructor, a manager, an editor and a writer in both government and the private sector.

He has specialized in briefings for senior executives for over 18 years, including six years in the Deputy Minister's Office at Natural
Resources Canada. While there, he designed the department's standards for briefing notes — bringing about substantial improvements in the quality of material prepared for the Minister and the Deputy Minister.

Rob began to develop Writing for Results in 1978, while he was teaching business writing courses for employees of Bell Canada, Canada's largest telecommunications corporation. He has been refining and expanding the book ever since.

Rob has a B.A. from Trent University and an M.B.A. from the University of Ottawa.



The Contents of
Writing for Results:
The Art and Science of Successful Briefings


Writing for Results is organized so you can intuitively find the guidance you need at a given time without having to go through the whole book. It provides comprehensive guidance and templates for preparing briefing notes, briefing books, memos and letters for colleagues, your supervisor and senior executives.

Writing for Results comprises four parts, each of which is a stage in the step-by-step model. Each part is divided into chapters that cover tasks in the writing process. The first two parts discuss concepts that are essential in communicating with either oral or written media. The third part provides guidance on selecting the medium or media of communication for a given message. The fourth part, the longest, provides guidance that is unique to written media.

The following gives you an overview of what you will find in the book.


I.  Give Yourself a Frame of Reference. This part discusses the foundation of the briefing note — elements that will affect everything else that follows. It is important that the elements of the frame of reference be mutually compatible. Changing one element often means changing other elements as well.

  • Chapter 1 – Objective. This chapter emphasizes the importance of defining a viable and useful purpose for any writing endeavour, be it a briefing note, a briefing book, a memo, a letter or anything else. A useful objective states something that needs to be achieved, as opposed to simply conveying a message.
  • Chapter 2 – Audience. This chapter points out that there are often options in selecting the optimum audience to achieve an objective — a point missed by most business writing books.
  • Chapter 3 – Authority. Defining the authority needed for a document is the flip side of selecting an audience. If the writer doesn't have the authority to address a given audience, he or she will need to select an audience that he or she does have the authority to address and that will further his or her goals. This, in turn, will likely change the immediate objective of the message.
  • Chapter 4 – Barriers and Competition. This chapter emphasizes the importance of defining what barriers and competition the message needs to overcome in order to achieve its objective. Barriers and competition might also affect the objective, audience, authority and time lines of the message.
  • Chapter 5 – Time Lines. This chapter explains the significance of defining a deadline, a schedule and a personal time budget for the process, particularly for complex messages. Changes in time lines can affect the objective, audience and authority of the message.


II.  Research and Select the Content. This part discusses the bricks and mortar of the message, as opposed to organization, format, style and grammar.

  • Chapter 6 – Relevance to the Frame of Reference. This chapter goes into detail on the factors to consider in deciding what material is relevant to the objective, audience, authority, barriers/competition and time lines of a message. It focuses particularly on audience needs, knowledge and interests.
  • Chapter 7 – Abstract vs. Concrete. This chapter introduces the writer to the nature of language, its benefits and its dangers. It explains that the writer must decide whether to use abstract terms or concrete details, thus affecting both the comprehension of a message and its length.
  • Chapter 10 – Positive vs. Negative. This chapter explains that most ideas can be expressed either positively or negatively, with widely varying impacts on the reader and, possibly, the length of the message.


III.  Select the Medium. This part discusses the merits of different media.

  • Chapter 11 – Oral. This chapter explains the merits of oral media and lists some of the options available.
  • Chapter 12 – Written. This chapter explains the merits of written media and lists some of the options available.


IV.  Prepare the Message. This part provides guidance that is unique to written media. The chapters are sequenced in the order in which tasks should be pursued.

  • Chapter 14 – Organization and First Draft. This chapter provides techniques that ease the tasks of developing an organization structure and writing the first draft. In explaining how to develop an organization structure, it starts with a very simple example and progresses through explanations of how to organize complex messages. It also shows how different organization structures can be used for the same raw material.
  • Chapter 15 – Format. This chapter explains how to make the organization structure visible and easily readable. In separate sections, it shows how to develop formats for: 1) memos; 2) briefing notes and briefing books on issues; 3) briefing books for meetings, events and trips; and 4) letters. The section on briefing notes and briefing books on issues provides extensive examples of how to develop formats that range from the very simple to the very complex while still achieving a document that is highly readable.
  • Chapter 16 – Style. This chapter provides simple techniques that make a document easy to read. It is divided into five sections:  1) short words; 2) how to bring verbs to life; 3) how to fix a sentence; 4) how to use acronyms; and 5) tone.
  • Chapter 17 – Grammar. This chapter explains the need to respect the conventions of grammar that most people follow when they use words to communicate. It makes no attempt to provide a comprehensive grammar guide, as there are many excellent full books on the subject. It does, however, go into detail on three common challenges: 1) capital letters; 2) relative clauses; and 3) misused words.
  • Chapter 18 – Final Touches. This chapter explains the three final stages in writing: 1) cooling off and review; 2) using electronic document tracking systems; and 3) follow-up.





The Contents of

Guidelines and Templates
for Briefing Notes, Briefing Books, Memos and Letters



For the Five-Minute Reader    
For Diverse Users Worldwide
How to Get the Most Out of     
Copyright Notice and Disclaimer

About the Author


Table of Contents     
Detailed Contents
Map of the Manual     
A Word About Acrobat Files


How to Use the Templates

Memos, Letters and Briefing Notes  

Templates for Streamlined Briefing Books

Templates for More Elaborate Briefing Books
Complete Briefing Book: Simple Engagement     
Complete Briefing Book: Complex Engagement     
Complex Engagement     
Public Ceremony     
Speech With a Slide Deck     
Press Conference     
Dinner Engagement
Missions Abroad and Extended Domestic Trips


Scheduled Workshops
In-House Workshops

Useful Links     
Updates to the Site

Help Us Help You
Contact Us

User Agreement     
Privacy Policy



Revised November 18, 2013



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