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Writing and editing Writing effective main points and analysis


Main points are where we tell users the most important and interesting trends from our data. They are the first section in our bulletins and articles and are often the most-read section on the page. Many users read only the main points before leaving the page and so it is important the main points are clear, understandable and engaging.

Analysis sections provide more detail and explanation on the trends described in our main points. They should help to tell the story of the data and may include charts and visuals.

Identifying your main messages

We recommend identifying trends in the data and writing the main points before writing the analysis sections. Write new main points for every edition of the release. Try to avoid templated main points where only the figures change between editions. If this is the case, consider a data-only release

Writing your main points

User research tells us that 80% of users only read the main points in a publication. It is important that these points use plain language and are as informative and clear as can be.

Include up to six bullet points, with one trend or point per bullet, to ensure they are concise. The first bullet point should be the one trend or figure that you want users to focus on or take away from the publication.

Use fewer than 25 words for each bullet, or what you can say in one breath. You can include more detail in the analysis sections.

Write bullets in a logical order, guiding the user through the data. Avoid jumping back and forth between trends. Analysis sections should reflect the order of the main points, where possible.

1. Main points

  • Visits from overseas visitors to the UK in August 2022 are still lower than pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels, down 21% from 4.4 million in August 2019.
  • Overseas residents spent £3.0 billion in the UK in August 2022, and £3.1 billion in the UK in July 2022.
  • UK residents made 9.0 million overseas visits in August 2022, up 31% from the previous month.
  • Overseas visits by UK residents in August 2022 were down 22% from August 2019, when there were 11.6 million overseas visits by UK residents.
  • UK residents spent £8.1 billion while overseas in August 2022, and £6.2 billion on overseas visits in July 2022.

This example is from our Overseas travel and tourism, provisional: July and August 2022 provisional results bulletin (opens in a new tab) 

If you need to state the data period in the release, use a lead-in line to avoid repeating it in each bullet point.

1. Main points

In the UK in 2022:

  • Black, African, Caribbean or Black British employees earned less (£13.53) median gross hourly pay than White employees (£14.35), which has been consistent since 2012.
  • Country of birth had an impact on how much employees earned: UK-born Black, African, Caribbean or Black British employees earned more (£15.18), while non-UK-born Black British employees earned less (£12.95) when compared with UK-born White employees (£14.26).
  • After holding personal and work characteristics constant, to provide an adjusted pay gap based on a like-for-like comparison, we find that UK-born White employees earn more on average than most ethnic minority employees.
  • When adjusting for pay-determining characteristics, we see the pay gap narrow and, in some instances, reverse: for example, UK-born Black, African, Caribbean or Black British employees, move from earning 6.5% more to earning 5.6% less compared with White employees.
  • When looking at the cumulative effect of pay-determining characteristics, the factors that had the greatest impact were occupation, qualifications, geography, age and sex.

This example is from our Ethnicity pay gaps, UK: 2012 to 2022 bulletin (opens in a new tab) 

How to say it

Write using plain language to ensure all our user personas can understand the main points. Do this by:

  • using simple language and consistent terms throughout
  • avoiding technical jargon and acronyms
  • writing in the active voice, for example, “the study shows a trend” not “"a trend is shown by the study"
  • using the most important value; avoid including multiple values and percentages in your bullets

Read more about using plain language when writing

Writing your analysis sections

Analysis should focus on what is most interesting, useful or important to users. You cannot cover or say everything. Avoid overloading text with figures, percentages, and values.

Use charts and data visualisations to help communicate your main trends and create a narrative. Accompanying text should add context and detail to your charts; it should not repeat the trends shown in them. Read more about how to use charts effectively in our data visualisation guidance

If there is no noteworthy change in the data or trend, do not include it. Users can get this information from the datasets

Use a single warning box for any quality caveats or important messages about the data and link directly to quality sections or articles.

Read more about using warning boxes (opens in a new tab) 

Other resources

Read our guidance on bulletins and articles for:

  • more on writing trends and analysis
  • how to structure your release and what section headings to use
  • downloadable templates (Word)