A fact sheet is a one page document that provides basic information and important facts on a specific topic or issue. The fact sheet is simple and easy to understand. If the subject is complex, and/or there is a lot of information or data, consider creating multiple fact sheets that are self-contained. Fact sheets are particularly useful when disseminating information to an audience with very little time and outside of the discipline.
- Focus on a single topic; limit fact sheet to a particular and specific area of concern.
- Contain to one page (can be front and back).
- Keep font simple and between size 10-14.
- The fact sheet must be self-contained – do not refer to previous documents or assume readers have preexisting knowledge.
- Make sure to include the most up-to-date information; revise fact sheets if they are used from year to year.
Recommendations for Format
Format will vary, but typically follows the structure of journalism's inverted pyramid; begin with the most important information.
- In the first paragraph, identify the issue, why it matters, and what action is needed.
- Use several headers to separate points/issues labeling the main message(s).
- Keep text brief and leave plenty of white space.
- Do not include details of study methods or statistical significance.
- Make comparisons when possible and measure against other things the audience will be more familiar with (similar problems or topics).
- Provide clear explanations for statistics and facts that do not speak for themselves.
- Readers are interested in the facts, not where they came from; sources/citations are a footnote or endnote.
- Provide references for more information and include links in electronic fact sheets.
- Write in active voice, present tense, and in lay terms.
- Avoid the use of percentages within the text.
- Avoid being repetitive.
Graphic Design and Layout
- Employ bulleted lists but follow guidelines: Each bullet expresses complete thought, more than one or two words per bullet, and groupings of 5-7 bullets is ideal.
- Use bolding, text boxes, and graphics to emphasize important points.
- Use tables sparingly and consider if information could be presented as a graph.
- Use graphs and charts that provide information at a glance and do not require further explanation in the narrative.