National Park Service
US Department of the Interior
National Park Service
Interpretive Development Program

Interpretive Writing

Benchmark Competency Description

Interpretive writing is a form of interpretation that integrates the best methods of effective writing with the principles and techniques of interpretation. Effective interpretive writing draws from sound scholarship, respects multiple perspectives, and invites readers to discover their own resource meanings and significance by providing them with opportunities for intellectual and emotional connections.

Interpretive writing should be able to stand alone and not depend on illustrations or other graphic elements to express a complete idea, but can be utilized in a variety of media including brochures, site bulletins, exhibit texts, waysides, newspaper articles, websites, and other types of written products.

Competency Standard

All Interpretive Writers:

  • Must be proficient in the basic mechanics of writing
  • Distinguish between the different types of writing (informational, scientific, historical, creative, and interpretive) that may be employed to meet specific park goals
  • Identify when and why to use interpretive writing
  • Use knowledge about park resources, park audiences, and the principles of interpretation to craft opportunities for readers to form their own intellectual and emotional connections to the significance or meaning of the site. These connections are made when readers discover personal relevance and/or gain an understanding of a site’s significance.
  • Select and apply techniques that engage readers, and are appropriate for the venue and the medium
  • Use an intentional organizing strategy to present opportunities for connections in a way that cohesively develops a relevant idea
  • Demonstrate awareness of bias and respect for multiple perspectives
  • Practice professionalism in interpretive writing through critical review, self analysis, and participation in the editing process
  • Possess a basic understanding of libel, copyright, and other legal issues.