Report writing -
An easy guide
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1. Before you start
- Every report needs to add value to the company and you -
otherwise it is not worth the effort of writing!
- A report is a working document that achieves specified
- The report model shows the important factors in writing any
report and these must be considered before you put pen to paper.
- If you forget any of the factors in the model you will end up
taking too long to produce a report that will be inadequate and
ineffective in any case.
2. The first steps - planning
- A first mistake is to assume that you know what the person who
asked for the report wants. Often they do not know what they want
themselves. They will never hesitate to tell you that what you
have written is not what they want!
- Before starting insist on a thorough briefing from the person
who requested the report and identify:
(a) the purpose of the report
(b) the need for the report
(c) who is going to read the report
(d) the scope of the report
- If they cannot, or will not, provide a briefing then do a Mind
Guide 6) for the topic and produce an outline of what you
intend to cover. Get this approved before you write anything!
- Make a Mind Map for the report (see
- Use the Mind Map to identify the information you need, make
notes and collect the information. Select only the facts which are
relevant to the objectives and the reader. Check the facts.
- Use the Mind Map to start to plan the topics AND the links
between the topics.
- Be absolutely clear in your plan what you are going to say and
how you will say it.
- Remember: Logical, truthful, helpful and to the point.
Get the first steps right and the rest is easy!
- Decide what you want the report to achieve. Write to achieve
that and only that.
- Identify your readers, their motivations, needs and concerns.
- Identify what your readers need to do to help you to achieve
- Write your objectives and reader profile on a "Post-It" and
put it where you will see it as you write. "The Economy - Stupid"
was written in huge letters in Bill Clinton's campaign offices!
Knowing what you want is halfway to getting it!
- The reader's needs and concerns.
- The reader's level of knowledge and technical expertise.
- The reader's openness to new ideas.
- Will the readers easily understand what you have written? Have
you used any technical or scientific words unknown to the readers?
Define your audience and write for them, not for yourself!
- The beginnings and endings of reports - these are what busy
people notice most!
- Putting action points near the beginning or at the end.
- Signposting by using meaningful headings. The reader should
know exactly what will happen next. Important points should stand
- Use an "Executive Summary" written in simple language.
- Information will not be read in the order you write it. Place
essential information either at the top or the bottom of the page
with the less important information in the middle paragraphs.
- Have you clearly stated your conclusions and recommendations?
Structure the report for the audience!
6. Style and impact
- Using only straightforward, uncluttered English. Use short
sentences, short words, and simple sentence construction to give
accuracy, brevity and clarity
- Every word must serve a useful purpose and must be spelt
correctly. Read the final copy and get someone else to read the
draft - never trust a spell-checker.
- Using active verbs and concrete nouns to give a positive
"feel" to the report?
- Avoid using vague phrases and jargon, slant and bias and
- Compliance with the company standard?
- Does the report look good and can it be reproduced using the
Style can make the difference!
7. Visual aids and diagrams
- Using enough visual aids to improve understanding.
- Getting visual aids in the right place, clearly labelled and
- Are scales, units, dimensions and magnification consistent and
shown on every visual aid?
- Will the visual aids still be clear when reproduced?
A picture is worth a thousand words!
8. Circulation and distribution
- Is everybody who "needs to know" on the circulation list?
- Is the circulation too wide?
- Have you arranged for spare copies?
Make sure that all the right people get the "fruits of your
Last edited: 11/03/10
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