Reports are formal documents that will be read by others. They must always be accurate and well laid out, finishing with a definite conclusion. If you have been asked to write a report, make sure that it fulfils all the requirement of your original brief.
Researching A Report
If you are reporting on an activity of your own, check every fact to ensure accuracy. If you have been asked to report on a subject-say, a new market for a product – write down what you need to as a series of points. Then note the sources you can tap and match them to the point, making sure everything is covered. Before finalizing, get information supplied by one source confirmed by at least one other reliable authority.
Structuring A Report
Write the purpose of a report and summarize its main conclusions in your opening paragraphs. In the body of the report, support your findings with evidence, set down in a logical sequence, in numbered paragraphs. Use headings, subheadings, and bullet points, all of which are effective structural aids, drawing attention to the key fact. Use underlining and bold type for emphasis. End the report with recommendations for action in summary form.
Reports are not works of literature, but good ones follow the rules of good writing. Avoid ambiguities. If you are unsure about your conclusions, state the alternatives and invite the readers to make up their own minds. Express yourself in short sentences. Above all, put yourself in the readers’ shoe. Will they understand what you mean? If you can, get a friend or colleague to read the report before you distribute it.
If you are concise, you will reinforce the clarity of your report. Never use two words where one will do or three where two are enough. Use short words rather than long ones. Spend time on the report’s main conclusion, and place smaller summaries at the start of each section. When reading through the report, cut where you can. This should improve the sense of the text.
- Be ruthless: cut out all unnecessary words in your report.
- Tailor reports suiting what you know about the recipients.
- Seize opportunities to present your report in person to an audience.
- Avoid making any unsupported assertions or conclusions.